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The original Dead Space is one of the most atmospheric horror games to date and it was the start of the dismemberment-based gunplay the series is known for. Dead Space 2, while not as atmospheric in the first game, at least in my opinion, improved the gameplay on all levels. Then you’ve got Dead Space: Extraction which is a prequel to Dead Space and it’s one of the best rail shooters for consoles. Since I had a blast with all of these games, I was looking forward to Dead Space 3. Developed by Visceral Games and published by EA, Dead Space 3 was released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in February, 2013. For this review, I played the PC version and unlike the previous two games, there’s no serious technical issues that should be addressed before playing. I did play this through the Origin client and did acquire all of the DLC including the Awakened episode which will be covered in this review.
Just like in Dead Space 2, you can watch a recap of the events of previous games and Dead Space 3 is the first game in the series to support online co-op where one player is Isaac and the other is Sergeant John Carver but for this review, I played through it solo. The story is set years after the events of Dead Space 2. Apparently Isaac and Ellie Langford became a couple and broke up due to Isaac’s emotional distance. Isaac is recruited by Captain Robert Norton and Sergeant John Carver of EarthGov to help find Ellie and her missing team. The trio is attacked by Unitologists lead by Jacob Danik who activates a Marker causing another Necromorph outbreak. After finding Ellie and some of her team members, Isaac believes that the ice-covered planet Tau Volantis is the Marker Home World and the group sets out on a quest to go there and find a machine that can stop the Markers and Necromorphs. It turns out, the planet was actually a homeworld to aliens who were consumed by the Markers and its moon is a Necromorph. The group fights their way around the planet fending off Necromorphs and Unitologists in an effort to end the Necromorph nightmare once and for all. The Awakened campaign takes place directly after the events of the main campaign. Isaac and Carver wake up on the surface of Tau Volantis, shocked to be alive and discover that the Marker’s effects are still present and they experience hallucinations frequently. The episode focuses on their quest to escape the planet. While the main campaign is quite long, taking me around twelve hours to beat, Awakened can be beaten in about two hours so it’s quite short. The storyline is alright but I do think it’s the weakest out of the all main games. The voice acting is actually quite good and the best lines in the game are delivered by the scavenger bots. I find them hilarious. Unfortunately, you need the Bot Personality Pack DLC otherwise, they’re silent. It should be noted that Dead Space 3 does focus a lot more on action. The atmosphere can still be creepy but I would describe this as more of an action game than horror game. I don’t really mind it, myself, but if you’re in this for the horror stuff, you may be disappointed. If you thought Dead Space 2 was a step in the wrong direction in terms of atmosphere, then you’ll discover fairly quickly that Dead Space 3 continues in this direction.
The core mechanics of the series are all here and the speed and pacing is basically on par with that of Dead Space 2. You can walk, run, stomp, and punch as expected but now you can roll, crouch, climb, and take cover behind objects. Cover plays a somewhat important role when you’re up against human enemies which, unfortunately, are not as fun to fight as the Necromorphs but you won’t have to fight them too often. There is no HUD but your health and stasis levels are represented on your character’s suit. You can access your RIG to see your inventory, objectives, and a database of logs and you can use your locator to see how to get to your next objective or nearest bench or suit kiosk. You can freely float and boost around zero gravity areas and your character’s suit will provide him oxygen in areas exposed to the vacuum of space. Oxygen can be restored from Oxygen Tanks. Stasis is one of two modules you can use to slow down mechanisms and enemies. It does drain through energy when used but will partially recharge over time unless you restore it fully at a Stasis Recharge Station or from a Stasis Pack. The other module is Kinesis which allows you to grab and throw objects. Late in the game, you’ll come across Amp Pads which amplify these modules as long as your standing on them. Enemies will remain in stasis longer and you can use kinesis to rip the limbs off moving enemies.
Throughout the environments are all kinds of items you can collect. You can find med packs, stasis packs, weapon parts, ammo, blueprints, upgrade circuits, resources, and logs and artifacts which provide backstory. Logs and artifacts can also be considered collectibles. You can find items lying around or in containers and dead bodies will sometimes reveal items after stomping, punching, or shooting them. As you progress through the main campaign, you’ll acquire scavenger bots which can be deployed to find resources. After a certain amount of time, they will return the resources they found to the benches. The biggest change to the gameplay was made to the benches which are scattered around the environments. You no longer have to locate stores to buy and sell things. You can do it all at benches. You can also craft weapons at benches which does become addictive. The blueprints are basically the recipes for weapons and the classic weapons can be built or crafted. But you can always make your own and have your own combination of tools. You can even save your own weapon blueprints which can be shared with other players. Then there’s the Suit Kiosks, which, like benches, are also scattered around the environments. You’ll acquire new suits as you progress through the main campaign and the kiosks are where you can change suits and spend resources on upgrades. You can upgrade your RIG and modules. You can increase your hit points, armor, and air. You can increase the range of your Kinesis and the damage of Kinesis Impalement. And stasis upgrades include increasing the number of shots, increasing the duration, and decreasing the recharge time.
Weapons can support up to two tools which are basically fire modes. You can craft a pulse rifle and flamethrower weapon. Maybe you want to blow away enemies with a shotgun that also doubles as a line gun. Or maybe you want to craft a submachine gun ripper combo. You have these types of options. You can add different attachments that will have different effects like a scope for zooming, stasis coating for briefly slowing enemies down when you shoot them, and acid bath for doing extra damage, among other different types. You can craft new tips for your weapons, new frames, and new upgrade circuits which affect a weapon’s stats. Not only can you craft and find most of these items, you can also dismantle them if you need the parts and resources. The resources can be used to craft items like med packs, stasis packs, ammo, and torque bars which can be used to open doors to rooms that contain goodies. Ammo clips now apply to all weapons, you can only carry two weapons at a time, and your inventory does have limited space but you can store items in your safe which can be accessed at benches.
Dead Space 3 includes four difficulty modes and the higher the difficulty, the less resource you’ll find and the more dangerous the enemies. The game plays out in chapters and each chapter contains numerous objectives to complete. You’ll also get the opportunity to complete optional missions and at least one of them is co-op only. I would recommend you complete these because they reward you with supply caches full of items. Whether it’s a story objective or optional mission, you’re going to be engaging plenty of enemies, many of which were encountered in the previous games. Unfortunately, the encounters during optional missions become very predictable. A lot of these missions have you going from room to room, usually getting locked in each and having to fight off waves of enemies. Thankfully, the encounters outside of these optional missions are more varied, not as predictable, and are just more enjoyable. The environments are just as linear as they were in previous games with rooms and areas off the beaten paths that contain items so there is plenty of reasons to explore. There are some neat set pieces like when you’re boosting through space or when you get to fly a ship and shoot down mines and debris but most of the time you’ll be on foot. You’ll traverse through ships, snowy areas, caves, you’ll float around space, and you’ll get to navigate through an Alien City. You will have to solve puzzles, you’ll have to hack things, move nodes around electrical engineering interfaces, and balance power using fuse boxes. You will come across environmental hazards every so often like mines, electricity, explosives, fire, and laser traps and most of them are easily avoidable. Throughout the environments are objects like explosive and stasis canisters that can be picked up and hurled at enemies using kineses which is a great way to save ammo or you could just shoot these items to blow them up when enemies get near them.
If you’ve played the previous games, you should know how to engage enemies properly. Aim for the limbs and cut them up into pieces. Blowing off their limbs not only does damage but also slows them down. Your stasis module can be very helpful, especially when you get overwhelmed and it’s always a good idea to keep plenty of ammo and a few med packs on you at all times. Dead Space 3 adds human enemies to the roster and they’re just not that fun to fight. They have guns and will shoot at you, they’ll throw grenades, some will charge at you while holding live grenades, some fire rockets, and they run around and take cover. They don’t do anything sophisticated and exhibit very basic behavior. What is cool is when Necromorphs are thrown into the mix and start attacking the human enemies. It’s just cool watching the Necromorphs rip them to shreds. New Necromorphs include Medusa, Fodder, The Swarm, The Regenerators, Feeders, Creepers and Shamblers, and the Alien Necromorphs. Medusa is only encountered is zero-gravity areas. It fires homing projectiles and can easily be avoided. Fodder are more human in their appearance and wield melee weapons. The Swarm are basically the replacement for Swarmers and Infectors from the previous games. They can swarm you and re-animate corpses. The Regenerators are large Necromorphs that can regenerate limbs so you’ll want to run from them, utilize your stasis module, and try not to waste too much ammo shooting at them. Feeders appear in large numbers and can easily overwhelm you. Their behavior is similar to that of The Pack from Dead Space 2 which do actually make an appearance in the Awakened campaign. A creeper is a small Necromorph that re-animates dead bodies, which I guess are the shamblers and they can wield guns. The Alien Necromorphs are large creatures that will charge at you and can eject crawlers. Most enemies will rush you, some can fire projectiles, and if an enemy gets too close, it can grab onto you and drain your health. As you progress through the main campaign, you’ll encounter tougher variants of certain enemies but as long as you upgrade your weapons regularly, they shouldn’t be that difficult to take down. You do want to be aware of your surroundings so you don’t get cornered otherwise, you’ll often be mashing a button to get enemies off you. There are some boss battles which really aren’t that difficult, at least on Normal. I would say they’re just as challenging as the bosses in the first game which means not very.
Visually, Dead Space 3 looks great, at least for it’s time. Some textures are a bit blurry when viewed up close but the character and enemy models look good, the environments are well detailed, and the lighting is excellent. Dead bodies, blood, and objects will be littered all over the environments. Blood and body parts will fly through the air as you decimate enemies, and the gore effects help to make the gunplay feel extremely satisfying. The action is accompanied by some decent tunes that ramp up during encounters and there are a few what I’ll call adventurous-sounding songs that I really did enjoy. The weapons fire sounds powerful and satisfying as do the explosions. Enemies will make disgusting noises and they’ll growl and screech during encounters. Now I did force vsync externally because the setting in-game will cap the frame rate at thirty, but other than that I had no major issues when it comes to the technical aspects. The frame rate was solid throughout and I did not encounter any serious bugs.
I had an excellent time with Dead Space 3. In fact, it might be my favorite game in the series, gameplay-wise. The weapon crafting is fantastic and I think it really drives the experience. Every time I came across a bench, I would spend about five to ten minutes crafting new stuff or messing with new combinations. It can be very addictive. The iconic weapons from previous games are still here but now that you can basically mix and match the different weapon types in addition to new ones added here, there’s a crazy amount of freedom and options when it comes to how you want to obliterate your foes. With that said, Dead Space 3 doesn’t always feel like a Dead Space game. The developers put a much bigger focus on action this time around and while I, personally, enjoy it, what made the original Dead Space so awesome was not just the gameplay, but the fantastic horrific and creepy atmosphere. Even Dead Space 2 was creepier than this. Don’t get me wrong, Dead Space 3 has creepy areas and scenarios but the horror element is noticeably reduced here. Regardless, it’s fun to play and there’s plenty of reasons to return. After you beat the main campaign, you’ll unlock numerous New Game+ modes. These are in addition to the multiple difficulty modes, weapon crafting, and co-op. Dead Space 3 is an action horror game with plenty of content to enjoy. I can’t say the Awakened campaign is all that fantastic. It’s very short and there’s nothing really new here that I would say warrants ten dollars. It’s basically just more of the same and if you’re not interested in the story element then Awakened would be a real waste of money.
I would absolutely recommend Dead Space 3 to fans of action and horror games. The atmosphere doesn’t come anywhere near those of the prior games, especially the first game, but if you enjoyed dismemberment-based combat in those games, you’ll be in for a real treat here. You can play alone or with a buddy and the amount of content on offer will provide you plenty of hours of enjoyment. Definitely check out Dead Space 3.