Dead Space 3 follows the trend in survival horror games like Resident Evil 6 and Silent Hill: Downpour, by trading scares for action-packed content
Dead Space 3 is the latest game to continue a disturbing trend in the survival horror genre. Like Resident Evil 6 and, to a lesser degree, Silent Hill: Downpour, Dead Space 3 sees an attempt by developers to widen the appeal of a horror IP by toning down the scares and ramping up the action.
The result is an inarguably well made and engaging affair, but one can’t help but be left with the impression that something rather dark and special about the series has become irrevocably lost.
Dead Space 3: Plot
Dead Space 3 begins with a plot re-cap of the last three games – in case you didn’t know how convoluted the Dead Space universe was – and then a brief scene that occurs 200 years before the plot kicks off.
It doesn’t add a huge amount but it does prepare players for the new action-orientated direction Dead Space 3 has taken. Once that’s over, we join series protagonist Isaac Clarke in a dingy apartment on some lunar station.
He’s contacted by a couple of burly soldiers called Preston and Carver who tell him they need his help to track down his ex-girlfriend, Ellie. She went off in search of something called The Marker – a device that turns humans into blood-thirsty monsters called Necromorphs – and was last contacted above the ice planet Tau Volantis.
Clarke agrees, not least because Unitologists – a cult of Marker worshipping nutcases – want him dead because they believe him to be a heretic. Once Clarke leaves his apartment, it isn’t long before he’s being attacked by Unitologists and Necromorphs. Hilarity ensues.
Dead Space 3: Gameplay
If all of that sounds a little nonsensical, fear not: the action in Dead Space 3 comes so fast and furious that there’s little time to digest the story, let alone pick plotholes in it. In just the opening 20 minutes, players will find themselves blasting through a ship, rapelling down a mountain, waging a gunbattle in some streets, foraging for equipment and then racing along the top of a train, slotting bad guys.
The action continues at a pace and the developers wisely vary the player’s activities. Players won’t feel the slow creeping hand of boredom until – perhaps – in the last two of the game’s 20 hour campaign, when most of the developer’s tactic at keeping them wrong-footed are all played out.
Dead Space 3’s mechanics are geared more towards complimenting a third-person-shooter (TPS) style of play. Clarke moves quicker than he did in earlier iterations, players now have a dodge roll in their move list and they no longer need to decide between which ammo types to keep; Dead Space 3 issues only one ammo clip and it slots into every weapon.
Dead Space 3: Features
The reason for this is that players can now craft their own weapons and it’s likely a different selection of ammo types would have impacted horribly on this feature.
Clarke can use workstations called Benches to create weapon combinations out of the bits of debris – tungsten, transponders, scrap metal – he finds lying about. It’s actually a rather decent feature allowing players to create customised and bizarre firearm combinations.
This feature is, however, marred somewhat by EA sticking micro-transactions in it. Each Bench has a list of weapon blueprints and, if players don’t have the necessary salvage to make one, they’re offered the chance to pay real-world cash for the component parts.
It should be pointed out that one need not do this to finish the game – we cleared Dead Space 3 without cracking open the T3 wallet, after all – but it does leave a rather bitter taste in one’s mouth.
Dead Space 3: Multiplayer
The other large addition to Dead Space 3 is the Co-Op Mode, which, unlike the micro-transactions at the Bench, is a complete winner. Unlike other games that ram Co-Op into the proceedings – such as Resident Evil 6 – players are free to ignore this mode and it won’t impact on their experience at all in single player; unlike Resi 6, there’s no AI drone trailing them around.
If they opt to dive in with a mate, they’ll find the character of Carver becomes a bigger part of the proceedings and a new set of missions become unlocked. Communication is a vital part; it’s worth comparing notes on weapons and sharing resources in order to maximise the damage you and your mate can dish out.
The player controlling Carver will also notice that The Marker begins to eat into his subconscious, delivering some rather spine-chilling scenes. The only drawback, really, is that in Co-Op, Dead Space 3 becomes far less scary an experience.
Dead Space 3: Verdict
Then again, that’s a complaint that can be levelled at the entire game. It’s a pity in a way, because in spite of its silly plot, there’s a lot to admire about Dead Space 3. It’s a slickly fashioned, exquisitely designed shooter packed to the rafters with action set-pieces and fun puzzles to wade through.
But its new action-packed combat comes with a price; it means Dead Space 3 is nowhere near as frightening as its predecessors and anyone who has ever played the first three games in this series will know what a crushing disappointment that is.
If you’re prepared to trade survival horror for action, Dead Space 3 is easily one of the best games you’ll play this month. If you’re after something genuinely terrifying, look elsewhere, because there’s nothing in Dead Space 3 that’ll cause you any heart palpitations.
Dead Space 3 release date: 8 February 2013
Dead Space 3 price: From £29.99 (on PC)