It has been a rough couple of years for the survival horror genre. We’ve seen Resident Evil cross over into the action genre, Silent Hill become an unappealing mess, and it is difficult to find a AAA title that still stays true to the survival-horror roots. Dead Space changed that with its amazing gameplay mechanics, solid story, original art design, and brilliance of the scare masters over at Visceral Games. The story was made much better in the sequel, and they managed to include a few action set pieces, without taking away from the survival of the game. Unfortunately, Dead Space 3 falls short of its predecessors. While it thrives as an action game with a strong combat, co-op, and a new weapon crafting system, it ultimately falls short as a survival horror game.
The story is focused on Isaac Clarke, the unluckiest engineer in the universe. Having overcome dementia, the loss of his girlfriend, two Necromorph outbreaks, and the destruction of 2 markers, it’s obvious that Isaac’s pretty sick of all this shit – a normal response from a character that’s gone through so much. He is trying to live out the rest of his days in peace, hidden where nobody can discover him to drag him back into the horrors that he has faced. Unfortunately, this ideal fails. His ex-love interest Ellie has gone missing on a planet that stopped a marker uprising dead in its tracks, and she’s sent a militarized group to come get him to help. He reluctantly goes along with them, and starts to unravel the mystery on the planet Tau Volantis, “the marker home world”.
The game’s story isn’t anything enthralling from that point on, feeling pretty forced. Driven from fetch quest to fetch quest, the game’s interesting moments have incredibly long gaps filled with Isaac and Carver looking for 4 parts to a probe, 5 pieces of an experiment, a navigation module, a way to turn on the power, and so on and so forth. The few twists in this game aren’t as rewarding after you’ve gone through all the necessary chores. Aside from the last four chapters, which hold all of the rising action and climax, the game’s story is fairly awful.
The Gameplay is a different story. With the addition of co-op, you can finally blow apart Necromorphs with a friend, and the new weapon crafting system is both entertaining and great use of Isaac’s engineering knowledge. You’re forced to build your weapons and upgrade them with circuits you find throughout the game. While this is a refreshing new take on the weapons system and allows for some inventiveness on the players’ end, it’s not really necessary. I had two guns I used throughout the entire game with the exception of the last few chapters. There, I crafted a chain gun that fires acidic rivets with a rocket-launcher for my secondary fire, and continued to use my carbine/shotgun. This isn’t a knock on the game, but a huge plus. I was able to build my own weapons out of hundreds of possible combinations and play through the game exactly how I wanted.
Going through the game with these weapons was a major plus because the controls, intelligent AI, and new enemies make going through the story seem like less of a chore. The combat is addictive and fluid with the addition of a new cover system and a few new Necromorphs. Adding a friend lets you both blaze your way through the game, upgrading your guns to their limit while maxing out your suit with the various materials you find in the environment. Credits are gone in DS3. Instead, you’ll have to find components to craft your med packs, ammo, weapon parts, and stasis packs. This is one of the few things that kept Dead Space 3 clinging to survival in the survival horror genre.
The difficulties of DS3 are diversified well. Hardcore mode is back for those of you who enjoy throwing your controller at a wall, and co-op adds more powerful Necromorphs in greater numbers. Aside from this, though, the game seems to have pulled away from survival horror. Your overall goal is no longer survival, but wiping out the Necromorphs for good, adding a sense of adventure and action into the game that replaces the fear of the enemies we once held in such high respect. While they are still powerful, the characters don’t treat them as such, taunting them, and using playground retorts like “THAT’S RIGHT, YOU BETTER RUN!” when a monster 6 times their size flees. While the crafting system and difficulties give this game the ability to be survival-horror, the major action set pieces, firefights with Unitologists, and unlimited combinations of overpowered weapons show that survival is no longer the main focus of the series.
Ultimately this feels like a necessary step in the game, considering Isaac is no longer afraid of the Necromorphs and is done running. But for fans of the survival aspect of the series, you may want to be cautious getting into this one.
The last thing that I wanted to quickly touch on was the artistic side of DS3, which was on par with the last few entries. The snowy mountains of Tau Volantis and the destroyed ships floating outside of the planet’s atmosphere are two of the most eerily beautiful settings in the series. The detail on the environments is insane, with bloody messages hidden all throughout the game. [There is even a translation to all of the alien/marker messages written on the walls if you can find the translation!] The depth and detail was taken to extremes here, and it definitely paid off. One of the greatest adjustments that I have to give praise to was the blue glow reflecting off Isaac’s helmet onto the dark walls; a minor tweak that set the mood well for those dark, intense moments.
Overall, Dead Space 3 was a fun shooter, with a few tense scary moments. Its combat and design are as fluid and crisp as ever, but the story is done poorly, and the characters aren’t interesting, either. While it was great to touch base with Isaac again, we hope to see a better survival story if Dead Space ever hits our next-generation consoles.
- Great gunplay and combat
- New weapon/item crafting system is done well
- Visuals are very detailed
- Pulls away from survival horror, but it’s necessary change.
- TOO MANY FETCH QUESTS
- Bad story
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