Years from now, if I were to sit back and think of Dead Space 3, the only vivid memory I’d be able to conjure up would be that of the game’s door fetish. I know that’s a very random thing to zone into, but seriously, doors in Dead Space 3 are a more serious threat than the Necromorph invasion since your progress will be stalled by one every few minutes, or in some cases, every few seconds (this is not an exaggeration). Doors in Dead Space 3 come in all shapes and sizes be it alien doors, shuttle doors, cargo bay doors, derelict ship doors or elevator doors. It’s ironic, but I think there’s more door variety than enemy variety in Dead Space 3.
But Dead Space 3 isn’t only about doors; it’s the conclusion to engineer Isaac Clark’s unfortunate tryst with the unholy relic called The Marker. If you’ve played Dead Space 1 and 2, you’ll know the hell this man has gone through ever since he came in contact with it, and this game is no different. His misery is sadly compounded by the stupid whiny characters he’ll have to interact with, the sheer amount of doors he’ll have to open, the mind-numbingly stupid mini-games he’ll be forced to partake in and the incessant back-tracking he’ll be forced to endure in his 10-12 hour conclusion to the Dead Space trilogy. This game is terrifying, but for all the wrong reasons.
Dead Space 3 begins in a rather promising manner and within minutes, you’ll be re-introduced to the Marker and its devastatingly evil capabilities. From then on, you’ll be dropped into what can be best described as “conventional” Dead Space gameplay. This involves exploring derelict spaceships, fighting grotesque monsters by systematically dismembering them in slow motion and exploring gorgeous zero gravity segments. And yes, there are plenty of set-pieces.
9 times out of 10, enemies will rush at you from the very visible vents in the wall, allowing you to be completely ready for any altercation.
However, after three games, you start seeing the cracks in the same formula. After a few levels, you’ll realise (if you haven’t already), that 9 times out of 10, enemies will rush at you from the very visible vents in the wall, allowing you to be completely ready for any altercation. This takes out any form of suspense from the game completely. Also, for some reason, Visceral felt the need to populate nearly every level with a ridiculous amount of enemies, making the game feel a lot more action oriented than before. This isn’t a huge issue per say, but the amount of enemies you face in every encounter can seem a tad overwhelming.
Now Dead Space 2 was also quite action oriented, but it kind of straddled that line between all out action, set-pieces and pure terror. This game trips and falls over that line. The excessive action wouldn’t be a problem if Dead Space 3 had extremely responsive controls, but with a clunky cover system and a protagonist that controls like a tank, you’ll be hard pressed to enjoy enemy encounters.
And if you do, the sheer amount of backtracking throughout the game is sure to turn you off. Once again, I know backtracking and fetch quests are all considered “conventional” Dead Space gameplay, but seriously, this game takes backtracking to the next level. What’s worse is that Visceral has used this backtracking as a way to artificially pad the game’s longevity. Otherwise, what other excuse would you have to make me go all the way from point A to point D, and then back the exact same away again – every single time. It doesn’t make any sense. Making matters even worse is the fact that a lot of the game’s levels look extremely similar, so even if you’re not backtracking technically, you may think you are because of repetitive level design. And even if you really love this franchise, and are willing to put up with everything I mentioned above, what justification can you come up with for annoying mini-games that pop up at regular intervals so abruptly that they completely kill any form of immersion.
The monotony is reduced to a certain extent when you have someone to share your misery with, and that’s where Dead Space 3’s new co-operative gameplay comes in. The co-op implementation in Dead Space 3 is solid and certain levels have been specifically designed keeping two players in mind. But to be very honest, a game like Dead Space 3 loses a large chunk of the dread factor when you’re running and gunning with a buddy. To get the most out of Dead Space 3, I would recommend playing the first half solo, so you can fully soak in the atmosphere and pay attention to the story. Play the second half in co-op so taking on hordes of enemies doesn’t become too much of a chore for you alone.
Besides co-op, Visceral has expanded Dead Space 3 with two new gameplay elements – weapon crafting and side quests. Nearly every chapter in Dead Space 3 features side quests. This sounds cool on paper, but in-game they’re pretty repetitive and don’t really stand out from what you’re doing the rest of the time. The only missions worth checking out are the co-op specific ones that shed some light on your partner, Carver’s past. Still, they all end in a box of bounty which in most cases is really not worth the effort, unless you’re really into crafting weapons.
By accessing weapon benches spread all over the game world, players can now craft their own weapons using spare parts they collect from the game world. At first, this process can seem pretty complicated, but once you really get into it, there’s a healthy amount of weapons you can craft from scratch. Once you craft something you like, you can then upgrade it to max out its capabilities. It’s not really a system that was needed, but considering Isaac’s an engineer, it made sense from a narrative perspective.
To put it very bluntly, Dead Space 3 is a disappointment. It feels Visceral has tried to cram way too much into the game, mucking up the stuff that they had perfected in Dead Space 2. It’s not a total washout though, and the first half of the game is really enjoyable. Plus, the art style, visuals and presentation are solid, so that’s always a plus point. Unfortunately, they still cannot wipe away the game’s shortcomings that could sour this series’ finale for you.