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- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Visceral games
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: Action Horror
- Pros: Satisfying shooting; some fantastic spacewalks; co-op is fun; crafting system; solid replay value; fantastic sound
- Cons: Story is beyond ridiculous at this point; predictable enemy encounters; not exactly scary anymore
Dead Space 3 starts off with a brief cinematic to catch you up on the story in the series. Good thing, too, because the story is pretty convoluted and ridiculous at this point. The story in Dead Space 3 begins with Isaac Clarke, the one man capable of destroying the Markers and stopping the necromorph plague, hiding away from society and shirking his responsibilities while a radical religious cult is activating Markers everywhere and doing their darnedest to destroy mankind. Isaac gets recruited to go on a rescue mission to find his missing girlfriend, Ellie, and is quickly whisked off to an icy planet surrounded by a graveyard of wrecked spaceships. This planet holds the key to the Marker phenomenon, and discovering its secrets is vital to man's survival.
The gameplay in Dead Space 3 is largely the same as it has always been. It is an over the shoulder third-person-shooter. Isaac is still slow and clunky. You still have to shoot off enemy limbs to kill them. You still spend a lot of time stomping the crap out of corpses and boxes to find items. There are also some fantastic vacuum and zero-g sequences here and there, as well as some exceptional spacewalks where you're floating around through space junk all on your own. You also have a variety of weapons, but the trusty plasma cutter is still arguably the best gun in the game. Isaac still has his kinetic and stasis powers to help you solve puzzles. And Murphy's Law is still very much in effect with every step you take. It is a Dead Space game, all right.
New to Dead Space 3 is an item crafting system that lets you collect piles and piles of junk and turn it into new weapons, modifications, and upgrades. Basically, it lets you make your plasma cutter even more crazy awesome. It does take quite a while for the crafting system to really make any sense (or for you to actually have any parts that let you do anything) but once you get rolling it is a surprisingly addictive addition to the experience. When you couple this with the optional side missions you can go on that may provide you with some nifty new component to craft with, it kind of changes your focus on playing the game. The dumb story doesn't matter as much anymore compared to killing more aliens and finding more loot. Good times. It also enhances the replay value of Dead Space 3, since taking your accumulated weapons into a New Game+ and upgrading them even more while you shred the enemies apart is an absolute blast.
Like the Resident Evil series before it (with RE5 and RE6), Dead Space is betting its future on co-op. Co-op is seamless drop-in, drop-out-style where a partner can jump into your game at any time. It is Xbox Live only, so no local play, unfortunately. You play through the same story campaign as when you play solo, but with your playing partner filling the role of a soldier named John Carver. Co-op is easier than playing by yourself, as you'd expect, but blasting through enemies without a care in the world is still greatly enjoyable. Puzzles in co-op are tweaked to make both players have to contribute to solve them, which is a great touch. Loot is also handled in such a way that each player has separate loot drops, so everyone gets to pick up everything and you won't fight over who gets what. One downside of co-op is that dialogue between Isaac and Carver tends to occupy the voids that would normally be filled with scary noises when playing solo, which greatly lessens the tense atmosphere Dead Space relies on.
The first couple of hours of the first Dead Space game are the most genuinely frightening of any horror game on the Xbox 360. After that point, however, you start noticing patterns and the scenarios start repeating (I spelled it out fairly accurately in my Dead Space 1 review), and it wasn't all that scary anymore. That pattern carried over to Dead Space 2, and now to Dead Space 3 as well. Necromorphs just aren't scary anymore after we've killed thousands of them in past games, and when you can correctly guess when and where enemies are going to start pouring out of the walls 90+% of the time, the game loses its edge. The atmosphere is still great, and the combat is bloody and satisfying, but it won't exactly scare you anymore. When Dead Space 3 was first announced and the co-op focus was revealed, a lot of gamers were concerned that it would cause the horror elements and scares to be toned down. Well, I've got news for you - Dead Space hasn't been scary for a while now and co-op doesn't really change much.
Graphics & Sound
The presentation in Dead Space 3 is very well done all around. The visuals are very nice, with some fantastic enemy designs, but the environments aren't quite as nice or as varied as they were in Dead Space 2. You'll still see a lot of very pretty sights (vistas on the planet's surface, every outer space shot ever) but the somewhat bland "ice planet" and "military industrial space ship" motifs are a far cry from the more varied areas offered by the colony in DS2.
The sound is the presentational high point here, just like it was in the previous Dead Space games. The sound effects are just absolutely fantastic. It suffers from the horror troupe where literally everything you do produces a loud and scary sound, but darn it, it does it better than any other game out there. The music is fantastic and well suited throughout. And the voice acting is surprisingly good, despite the script only being so-so.