Visceral Games surprised many gamers back in 2008 when they released their new action/survival-horror IP, Dead Space, for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The blend of its dark, creepy atmosphere combined with terrifying creatures known as Necromorphs and its lack of a sense of “safety” provided it to be a refreshing take on the genre. With its sequel, the game still retained that same feel, adding more action and cinematic elements, while also giving Isaac Clarke a personality. It has been more than 4 years since Dead Space first stormed consoles and now Isaac Clarke returns to finish what was started. Does the final installment to the Dead Space trilogy end triumphantly or does it suffer the fate of those who come in contact with the Marker?
Isaac Clarke isn’t exactly the luckiest person out there. We find him in his apartment angered about leaving Ellie until all of a sudden, he’s attacked by two EarthGov agents, Robert Norton and John Carver. Norton explains to Isaac that he’s in need of a “Marker Expert” for a mission. While Isaac refuses, Norton states that Ellie was the one that referred them to contact him directly. In exchange for helping them, Isaac is looking for redemption to make amends with Ellie again. Unfortunately, things aren’t so black-and-white and we find Isaac once again battling the Unitologists, a cult that feels the marker is a means of rebirth for civilization. Doing everything he can, Isaac soon finds out that the marker homeworld is on the snowy planet of Tau Volantis. What awaits Isaac is a fate that lies in the balance of saving the whole human race…
Dead Space 3’s story is one that’s just as engaging and well-written as its predecessors. Isaac once again proves to be an incredibly likable protagonist, while Carver is a tough-as-nails soldier that has his own issues. When playing through co-op, the dialogue and witty banter that occurs between these two are effective and quite funny at times as well. The story as a whole serves as a finale to the trilogy…and every moment leading up to it gets you pumped for how it all resolves.
Dead Space 3 plays very much like its predecessors, while adding an optional online co-op partner should you want to bring someone along for the journey. The same key elements are in place that make it “feel” like Dead Space. Visual indicators replace an ordinary HUD, with health and stasis being monitored on Isaac’s (or Carver’s) back, and ammunition showing up above your weapon when drawn. The holographic inventory still remains the same as it did in the first two games as well. For fans of the series, you’ll notice that the controls remain exactly the same as it did in predecessors, with only a few button additions. Isaac now has the ability to dodge, which you can simply do by double-tapping the run button while moving in a specific direction. Also, you can now crouch by clicking in the R3/RS button, which was originally the objective location button. However, if you hold R3/RS for over a second, then it will bring up your objective location instead. Aside from this, controls remain exactly the same. Honestly, from the moment the game started and I took control of Isaac again, it provided a nostalgic feeling that was relatable…something very rare nowadays in games that try to change too much to “evolve” them.
Returning also are times where you’ll enter zero gravity, allowing you to fly around. In this installment, you’ll be able to fly around space during the first half of the game which brings about some space exploration. While you could move around in space in the first two games, the third one brings about a more “open-world” feel to it. The reason? There are now optional missions that you can tackle, alongside some co-op exclusive missions that explore Carver’s past. The optional missions will detract from your primary directive but should you complete them, you’ll earn some great loot that you can use to upgrade your weapons and rig. However, it’s Carver’s co-op missions that you should definitely complete when coming across them. Revealing his story not only provides to add more into the plot, but also provides for unique experiences for the person playing as Isaac and the other as Carver. While Isaac may seem to be a bit more sane, Carver clearly has some inner demons that he’ll witness. The interesting element to this is that the player controlling Carver will see things in the environment that the person playing as Isaac can’t see. I won’t say what those “things” are in particular but it can prove to be a bit unsettling.
One of the key elements in Dead Space was to find power nodes to upgrade your weapons and rig. In Dead Space 3, they changed up this whole formula to give players something a little bit more fresh. Seeing as how Isaac is an engineer, he can now craft his own weapons based on the resources you acquire. For example, you can create a Pulse Rifle with a Shotgun attachment underneath it. Or maybe you’d like to have a Plasma Cutter with a Grenade Launcher attached to it. This system takes some time to get used to, but once you do, you’ll be crafting weapons like a pro. You can even share blueprints of your creations to your co-op partner so that they can wield your crafted weapon. However, should you feel like the crafting system is a bit overwhelming, you can collect blueprints that allow you to instantly form a specific weapon, including the more iconic ones from the series. Due to the change in acquiring weapons, upgrading them is entirely different as well. You will collect upgrade circuits that increase the stats in the following areas: Rate of Fire, Reload, Damage and Clip. Early on, the upgrade circuits only increase one stat point per field, but as you get further, the upgrade circuits will provide twice the perks (such as “+2 Damage +2 Reload”). The one thing you need to pay attention to though is where you assign these upgrades. There are two sections to upgrade with a weapon: the upper and lower tools. The upper tool is essentially the main component of the weapon, while the lower is your secondary. If you place a “damage” circuit to the upper tool for example, then it will only apply directly to that, not the secondary fire/lower tool. This may sound a bit complicated but trust me, it really isn’t once you grasp it. You can only carry up to two weapons instead of four in Dead Space 3, mainly due to the fact that each weapon has two functionalities in one. One item that takes up one of the D-Pad slots later in the game is a Scavenger Bot. These little bots will scour the areas for resources that allow you to further upgrade your weapons and rig. There will be specific resource locations that will make for prime areas to drop off a scavenger bot and there’s an audio cue to signal it. Additionally, when you aim these bots, you’ll have a radar that directs you to where to drop one off. You can drop these bots off anywhere you like though, so you’re not restricted to only using them in specific spots.
One of the most gratifying elements to Dead Space lies within the shooting mechanics. They’re still just as perfected as they were in previous installments, making dismembering a blast. The fact that enemies don’t die from headshots, but rather more strategically placed shots makes the combat still feel fresh and exciting. There’s nothing more satisfying than dismembering the enemy’s leg, followed by arms and head, followed by a curb stomp or two to ensure they’re dead. While necromorphs were a terrifying enemy to come across in the original Dead Space, we’ve come to know what these creatures are capable of in the series, thus eliminating a portion of the scare factor. However, these enemies will still do their best to get the drop on you no matter what, featuring some of the most vicious AI in a game. Dead Space 3 is a challenging game, no question. As a matter of fact, I found myself dying more in this than the first two games combined…and I’m a seasoned Dead Space player. New in the game are soldiers that will fire back at you (similar to Chris’s campaign from Resident Evil 6). However, the use of them here is sparse and makes complete sense, while all making it still retain its Dead Space elements. Sometimes you’ll enter a confrontation between the necromorphs and soldiers within the area, and if you’re trying to be conservative with resources, you can try and utilize that as a distraction to advance. Boss battles aren’t abundant throughout but each one is memorable. It’s also worth noting that the final chapter and boss battle is incredibly epic. Unlike Dead Space 2 which had a very straightforward final boss fight, this one feels very climactic and suitable for the trilogy’s finale.
The game’s 19 chapters will take the average player between 10-15 hours to complete, depending on difficulty and whether you tackled the optional and co-op missions. However, the fun doesn’t end there. Aside from the game’s “New Game +” and Dead Space 2’s infamous “Hardcore Mode” returning (where you have to beat the game without dying), you’ll have two more modes to play. The first is “Classic Mode”, which is geared towards hardcore fans of the original Dead Space. The difficulty is dramatically amped up, utilizes classic aiming and is strictly a single-player affair. Also, weapons can only be built from blueprint sheets. The second new mode is called “Pure Survival Mode”, which is all about scavenging and collecting every item you come across. Items become a rarity and enemies don’t drop ammo and health. If you want resources, you’re going to have to depend on your scavenger bot and whatever resources you find within the environment. Overall, Dead Space 3 is a game that’s jam packed with a ton of content and will have you coming back for quite some time.
Dead Space’s visuals were some of the best available on consoles back in 2008, and with each sequel, it’s gotten better. In DS3, the visuals are stunning to say in the least. The phenomenal lighting when out in space, to the rich texture work on both the character models and environments, this game is absolutely beautiful…that is when you’re not getting dismembered of course. When setting foot on the snowy planet of Tau Volantis, the snow effects are very impressive, with snow glistening and detailed footprints leaving a trail of where you’re going. Whether you’re in space or on Tau Volantis, just viewing the backdrops in awe as you rotate the camera is an experience in itself, thanks to fantastic art direction. Animations are superb as well, with Isaac and Carver moving fluidly while necromorphs creepily animate when in sight. One of the most satisfying visuals (out of many) is seeing Isaac’s mask form around his face. This never gets old and always looks just plain badass.
Dead Space has always had some of the best audio effects in the industry with an unsettling score to accompany the atmosphere. In Dead Space 3, the audio effects are just as detailed and powerful. Every weapon sounds like they pack a punch, environmental effects are both creepy and memorable, and the isolation of audio when setting foot into space is always a joy to experience. Voice acting is very well done once again, with Gunner Wright reprising the role of Isaac Clarke, who really fleshes out the character as a believable protagonist. The biggest improvement in this department though is the game’s soundtrack. Jason Graves composed some great tracks in Dead Space 1 and 2, but in the third installment, he is also joined by composer James Hannigan (known for his work on the Command & Conquer series). Dead Space 3’s soundtrack provides to be the most prominent and intense one yet. The tracks truly immerse you deeper into the game, elevating the intensity and perfectly conveying the setting. This is an audio experience that truly deserves to be taken in, so crank up those speakers.
Overall Score: 20/20 = 10 out of 10
Words can’t describe how masterfully crafted Dead Space 3 is. Visceral Games struck gold when they created the first installment and maintains that course all the way through. In a way, the first thing that came to mind for me upon completing Dead Space 3 was how it felt like the video game equivalent to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy”. All three games are spectacular to say in the least and feels like one massive game when played together. Visceral Games should be very proud of the work they’ve achieved with Dead Space 3, as it maintains that high quality they’ve nailed in the first two games. Between the absolutely stunning visuals, brilliant audio design, intense soundtrack, gripping story and perfected gameplay, Dead Space 3 not only stands as a fantastic finale to the trilogy, but a rare masterpiece that should not be missed by any means.
+ Outstanding gameplay
+ Brilliant audio
+ Stunning visuals
+ Immersive story
+ Proper finale to the trilogy
– Weapon crafting takes some getting used to
– Not “scary” but on the other hand, it’s still very tense