In space nobody can hear you scream. What if you have a partner nearby? Is he able to hear you and vice versa? Dead Space returns to make it's mark on the survival horror genre with the final chapter in it's trilogy series. But, with co-op debuting for it's first time in the series and a heavy focus on action, does Dead Space 3 still feel like Dead Space?
Once again you play as Isaac Clarke, systems engineer and main protagonist of the Dead Space series, as he's thrown into the role of necromorph slayer and protector of the human race. Set a few years after the events that took place in Dead Space 2, Isaac has chosen to try and forget anything related to the Makers and necromorph outbreaks. After hearing a message from his girlfriend, Ellie, Isaac is attacked by two soldiers who require his expertise on the destruction of the Markers and inform him of Ellie's disappearance.
After agreeing to help, you learn from Captain Robert Norton and Sergeant John Carver (the two soldiers requesting aid) that the Earth's Government has been left in complete shambles at the hands of the Unitologist leader Jacob Danik. This villian intends to activate several Markers and create multiple necromorph outbreaks. Suffice it to say the story this time around is just a means for more necromorph dismemberment. The way it starts out feels somewhat cliche: guy loses girl, girl gets lost and guy has to find girl.This is all very similar to the first Dead Space. However, once you get through some of the drama there's some minor redeemable qualities to the story which centers around the necromorph origin.
If you've been following the series you know that Dead Space is known for it's limb-severing mechanic, which of course makes a return. Watching your enemies crawl towards you after severing its legs and then stomping on them for good measure feels as satisfying as it did in previous entries. Of course after a while you might think this would become repetitive, but such is not the case.
At your disposal you have the abilities of stasis and telekinesis, which serve multiple purposes. You can aim your stasis at enemies to put them in a slow-mo state, which is helpful when you're getting overrun or need to reload your weapon. With telekinesis you can rip apart the claws of your defeated foes and spear them at others, as well as picking explosive canisters and random objects to use as projectiles. Aside from being used as weapons, your abilities also come into play during some of the puzzles that present themselves throughout your journey.
There will be times when you come across rooms that need power, which is remedied by finding generators that simply need to be cranked by your telekinesis. Some of the doors also require telekinetic cranking before being opened as well. Your stasis is also helpful for dealing with larger obstacles, such as oncoming traffic or large spinning fans. Whenever games hand you such unique abilities it's always nice when they're put to good use, even if it does become quite obvious which abilities to use when and where.
As you might have guessed by the title the game does take place in space, though the locations shift around. A large portion of the game takes you through a frozen planet with an odd shaped moon. Dead Space excels the most when you're in space exploring eerie ships and ominous space stations, making your way through narrow corridors, and experiencing numerous effective jump scares. My favorite thing about this game would have to be the astonishing space walks where you're moving from ship to ship, looking down at the planet you're determined to reach and taking in the scenery - you'll quickly forget that there are vicious reanimated aliens out to massacre you and the entire human race.
Once you're on the frozen planet, Tau Volaris, the methods used to provide fear quickly shifts. When not inside builders that house traditional vents in which necromorphs pop out of, you'll traverse through thick snow blankets and blinding winds. Of course, it would be too easy if the cold provided you shelter from your enemies. Concealing themselves in the snow or hidden deep in the rocky crevices, they're ready to strike at you at a moments notice and there's nowhere to run. In my opinion, some of the momentum begins to diminish once you reach the planet as some of the later stuff doesn't feel as natural from what you're used to seeing in a Dead Space game. Though still providing a decent amount of mood, it pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you're in space.
The music and sound quality is literally amazing. Hearing scratching noises above and around you and then having unexpected dramatic music play as your foes reveal themselves to you all works together so well. The squishy crunching noises that come from stomping and dismembering necromorphs sounds so realistic and gruesome that it's so satisfying. The voice-acting is really well done, especially the witty banter from Isaac and Carver as they try their best to get alone given the situations presented to them. There are a few really cheesy cliche lines here and there, but they're kept pretty minimal and are easily forgiven.
Enemies come in a number of varieties, from traditional necromorphs to new and returning, as well as the debut of humans, there's plenty of subjects for you to test out your weaponry on. Numerous amount of detail and creativity went into the necromorphs, each as horrifying a the next. There's a few boss encounters here and there, which just push the limits of creativeness. However, the same can not be said for the human enemies that are thrown your way. They end up feeling weird and really out of place for a game that thrives on such intimidating experiences.
In previous entries you were given already crafted weapons which only allowed for basic upgrades to be applied. This time around, Dead Space 3 gives you complete freedom to craft weapons at your leisure and the options are staggering. Before you were limited to carrying 4 weapons with you at one time, but now that has been reduced to 2. This of course makes no difference, as you're now able to combine several weapons together into one. From creating the classic plasma cutter with a razor blade gun attachment to a shotgun with a flamethrower, your imagination is skies the limit. Weapon upgrades come in the form of circuits which you apply to increase everything from damage, reload speed, fire rate or increased ammo capacity. Upgrades become crucial when you're more invested into the game, as some of the more tougher enemies begin to surface, so make sure you're prepared.
Ammo has also been changed this time, each gun had it's own ammo type before and made inventory management crucial. Now all guns use the same ammo type, which I think adds more survival to the game as you must now manage your ammo more carefully. Run out of ammo with one weapon and you're out of ammo with ALL weapons.This alone makes for some interesting scenarios. There are also different attachments that infuse your ammo with electric charges, acid damage or to be covered with stasis that slow enemies on contact.
Ammo and healing items can also be crafted from the games crating bench with resources found throughout the environment. Early in the game you come across scavenger bots which can be deployed in areas to search for resources while you continue your limb-dismemberment journey. Resources also come into factor when upgrading your suit to increase health and armor as well as further increasing your abilities. An option is available to use real money in exchange for more resources. I would advise against throwing away your money, as you'll come across more than enough resources and at times you may feel a little overpowered early into the game.
Cooperative play makes it way to Dead Space for the first time, which many would find odd for a game based around solitary play. You would think that the addition of another person would make the game a less dreadful experience. Thankfully, Dead Space 3 does an amazing job at making sure your partner shares the horrors that await. Player 2 handles Sergeant John Carver, which I found easily to be my favorite character in the game next to Isaac. Together you solve puzzles that require teamwork, such as defending your partner from oncoming waves of enemies while he clears debris,fixes electrical issues or if either of you begins the feel the after effects of exposure to the Markers. While solo play is still playable and just as fun and fearful, it's highly recommended that you find a friend and embark throughout space together because the shared experience is just too good to pass up.
You learn a little more about John Carver's background during some of the game's optional side quests, as you help Carver face his demons. These were easily my favorite optional missions, as the dialogue between Isaac and Carver changes completely, as well as the player handling Carver begins to see hallucinations that Isaac can't. Some of the other optional missions began to feel a little repetitive. You quickly start to recognize buildings you've already visited in previous optional missions, and each one ends pretty much the same. Though the addition to stray off the beaten path and explore other areas is a nice addition, it's a shame that you only really care about them for the first couple of missions.
Let's get this out of the way. I love and hate collectibles and am kind of a glutton for achievements. So of course this game includes collectibles for all fellow completionists. You'll have your hands full trying to find every audio/text log, weapon parts, artifacts and the elusive Peng which Dead Space fans remember. Dead Space 3 handles the search for its collectibles in the best way possible. You can replay old chapters and see which and how many of what collectibles you have already picked up or are missing. Collectibles help add some replay value to the game, as well as the addition of replaying the game again in different and more challenging modes in New Game+.
Being a huge fan of the Dead Space series, it was hard for me to hold back any biased opinions and overlook any flaws that it had going on. In the end, I found that the story might be a little bland and could have done without some of the new changes. But all of that quickly became overpowered with everything I loved from the series, the mood and setting as well as the rich combat just brought me right back. Fans who are already invested in the lore and story behind Isaac Clarke should without a doubt see his journey to the end. Dead Space 3 is far from being perfect, but once you get past all its flaws, it's still a decent experience for a game of its genre, though playing from the beginning is highly recommended.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Dead Space 3.