Dead Space 3 Review (PS3/360): “A Proper Finale to a Masterpiece of a Trilogy”

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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?

Story: 5/5

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.

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Gameplay: 5/5

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.

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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.

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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.

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Graphics: 5/5

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.

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Sound: 5/5

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.

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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.

PROs:

+ Outstanding gameplay

+ Brilliant audio

+ Stunning visuals

+ Immersive story

+ Proper finale to the trilogy

CONs:

– Weapon crafting takes some getting used to

– Not “scary” but on the other hand, it’s still very tense

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Need for Speed: Most Wanted “Visually Superior” on Wii U; By No Means a “Simple Port”

Need for Speed Most Wanted Wii U

As the title insinuates, the upcoming Need for Speed: Most Wanted for the Wii U will not be a “vanilla” version of the game as Alex Ward from Criterion Games stated today. As opposed to simply porting the game, they wanted to make this version stand out a bit more so that it “feels” like it belongs on the Wii U. Thanks to the system’s RAM, Criterion was able to bring over the PC version’s texture work, along with enhanced lighting effects that are truly stunning to see in action. Alex Ward stated that Miiverse and Autolog will be integrated together seamlessly and that it was a natural fit.

In the developer interview he provided to GamesRadar today, he wanted to showoff how the Wii U version was stacking up, how it looks visually and go in-depth with the new “Co-Driver” mode. Check out the video below!

Dead Space 3 DLC Promises to Be “Disturbing”

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Dead Space 3 is looking to be quite a bountiful package. I reported yesterday that executive producer Steve Papoutsis stated in detail the four additional difficulty modes that are unlocked after players beat the game for the first time. Now apparently, it has been confirmed that DLC is already on the way as well. Mr. Papoutsis stated “the team is hard at work on a top-secret additional story that will be coming in a few weeks,” he said. “We’re not saying much, but think ‘disturbing’ to get your imaginations going.”

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One can only imagine the intensely horrifying gameplay that the team at Visceral has created for us. Additionally on day one of its release, if you happen to have a save file for Mass Effect 3 on your PS3 or 360, you will be in for a treat. Upon booting up your game, you will be notified that the Commander Shepard’s N7 armor will be available for use as a bonus outfit for Isaac Clark. Dead Space 3 will be released for the PC, PlayStation 3 , and Xbox 360 on February 5th in North America. For more news on this, be sure to stay tuned to Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”

Dead Space 3 – Full Co-Op Demo Playthrough

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The Dead Space 3 demo released on PSN and XBLA a few days ago and is shaping up to be as engrossing as its predecessors. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check it out, or are just curious to see the whole demo while you’re away from your console, check it out below and enjoy!

NYCC 2012: “Need for Speed: Most Wanted” PS Vita Gameplay Footage (Off-Screen)

During our NYCC 2012 coverage, we were able to test out Need for Speed: Most Wanted for the PS Vita and I provided a hands-on for it yesterday. We were able to capture some off-screen gameplay footage of what you can expect the PS Vita version to look like. Here it is:

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NYCC 2012: “Need for Speed: Most Wanted” PS Vita Hands-On Preview

At the PlayStation booth at NYCC, they had a solid amount of PS Vita titles to try out and one particular game that I’ve been eager to see in action was Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Being a massive fan of Criterion Games, I’ve been looking forward to seeing how the portable version of their upcoming title was turning out. So far, it’s looking like a solid racing game on the go.

It’s clear that Criterion knows what they’re doing when it comes to racing games. They’ve done exceptionally well with the Burnout series and did a fantastic job rebooting Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit back in 2010. Firing up NFS: Most Wanted on the PS Vita, I was able to easily acclimate to the controls. You’ll use the R button to accelerate, L button to brake, Circle button to cut sharper turns with the e-brake and X button to hit the nitrous; basically your standard racing controls. Taking on one of the races, you’ll be treated to an opening cutscene showcasing the environment, followed by yourself driving to the race. Mechanically, the game feels incredibly tight. Car handling isn’t as arcady or loose as Burnout’s, but it’s not as stiff as NFS: Hot Pursuit’s. It falls right in the middle and takes only seconds to get used to. The AI was pretty competent in the race I held and even making a few errors, I was always able to make a comeback but they were able to stay right behind me. This was definitely towards the beginning of the game though and I’m sure the difficulty ramps up later as errors will cause you to barely get a chance at a comeback.

After the race, the game seamlessly transferred to the open-world environment without any loading what-so-ever. This impressed me, especially for a handheld title, and further proved that Criterion has a very talented team. They didn’t try to cut corners on the portable version. From here, you’re able to press Right on the D-Pad and open up your “Easy Drive” menu. The menu gives you access to other races to initiate, starting multiplayer sessions, options, friends, etc., all in real-time. A cool feature they added is the ability to start a race from Easy Drive. You’re not forced to drive to a location to start a race, giving it a much smoother pacing. Again though, this is completely optional and you can take your time to explore the environment while heading to the next event.

Visually, the game looks pretty solid with a nice draw distance of the environments. The textures aren’t ultra-rich like those on the console version but the PS Vita doesn’t replicate exact console graphics, it does close to it. When I crashed the car, it showed dents in the areas that collided and when you reset on the track, the damage remained on the vehicle the whole time. It’s also worth mentioning that the game runs at 30fps (frames per second) like NFS: Hot Pursuit did on PS3/360 and not 60fps like the Burnout series did. In terms of audio, the soundtrack sounded crisp but the sound effects were a bit compressed. They were still solid but definitely stood out as the weaker aspect of my first impressions.

The build I played was definitely the final version, as I even unlocked a trophy during my first race event I did. However, I left there happy to say that the PS Vita version is not getting the short end of the stick and will be a very competent version to consider looking into. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is set for release on October 30th for the PC, PS3, PS Vita and Xbox 360. In the meantime, check out the gameplay footage we captured here!

Are you interested in NFS: Most Wanted? If so, which version(s) are you getting? Sound off in the comments below!

Need for Speed: Most Wanted Now Supports PS Move, PS Move Racing Wheel and Kinect

Criterion Games is prepping up the release for their highly-anticipated reboot of Need for Speed: Most Wanted and it seems the console versions are getting a little extra features. According to the latest box art revealed for the game, the PS3 version will have PS Move support, as well as support from the PS Move Racing Wheel that’s slated to release alongside LittleBigPlanet Karting. The Xbox 360 version appears to have Kinect integration as well. Aside from taking a photo of yourself, not much is known as to how it will affect the gameplay with the Kinect.

Now with PS Move support

Now with Kinect Support

While at NYCC, there was a PS Vita build that we’ll be providing our hands-on for soon so stay tuned for that. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is slated for release on October 30th for the PS3, PS Vita and Xbox 360.

What do you guys think about the support for PS Move and Kinect? Sound off in the comments below!

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Dead Space 3 – 17 Terrifying Minutes of New Footage

We are now only five months away from the release of a top AAA title, Dead Space 3. The anticipation for Visceral’s next action space horror is mounting an impressive accomplishment to the company’s past success. The big buzz lately has been regarding the co-operative aspect of the game. However, Visceral has just released seventeen minutes of footage from Dead Space 3‘s single-player campaign. Thankfully, this looks to be every bit like the survival horror title we’ve all come to fear.

Most of the gameplay on display takes place out in space. Isaac’s ship is falling to pieces, and he’s got to make it to a flotilla to meet up with the rest of his crew. Once there though, Isaac discovers the remnants of the ship are filled with infected humans. Of course, these humans have already been dead for quite a few years and as a result, have mummified. Though these new necromorphs share some traits of those seen in earlier games, these new variants have a few different tricks up their sleeves.

There’s also a lot of great sound design on display, which is another staple of this franchise. The musical score and background ambience adds to the terrifying atmosphere, creating an environment of total fear. The sound of unknown creatures hiding in the shadows really brings you back to the original Dead Space. The developer’s insightful narration is a great addition to the video, providing more inside information into an already highly-anticipated title for 2013. For more news on this or any other topic be sure to keep it locked onto Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”

New Dead Space 3 Screens Give Possible Details on Plot

E3 is now just four days away and with that has come a flurry of information. I am happy to report that there are numerous sites claiming that Dead Space 3 will be making an offical apperance at EA’s conference. Today however, there was some early and much appreciated release of some gorgeous screenshots of gameplay. Each of these screenshots gives off certain details that no doubt reflect the games plot. One screenshot clearly shows Issac and a second unnamed character in a more war-torn armor, possibly due to a fierce battle.

Another shot shows Isaac and the unnamed character aiming down the sights at what appears to be a solider. Two conclusions can be drawn from this image. First off is that there is indeed some sort of  “co-op” implemented in this game. Second, it appears Necromorphs will not be the only enemies anymore.

There is an image of Isaac with his mask off, sporting a graying beard and longer hair which are definite signs of an older, more mature character indicating some time has passed since the second game. For a fan who has been with Dead Space since it was first announced in 2007, it is a treat to see a character age over time, especially having played as him through the years.

Lastly, there’s an image of Isaac holding a new type of fierce looking assault rifle with a large tube-like attachment underneath, possibly a grenade launcher. This would seem that maybe the series is going for a more action and explosive-oriented weaponry as opposed to the first two.

Finally, in multiple screenshots, we see Issac having a ring of fur around his neck on top of the armor with snow sprinkled on it, which reminded me of the suits in Killzone 3. This is most certainly a sign of a completely new snow environment, never seen before in previous Dead Space games.

Well, there you have it guys. Screenshots that offer some thought provoking details and possibilities on where this series can and might go for its highly anticiapted third installment. Sound off on what you all feel about these images! Good, bad or indifferent, we want to hear your voices!

Dead Space 3 has Co-op, New Weapon System and More!

Visceral Games is inevitably working tirelessly on their upcoming Dead Space 3 and based on IGN’s article, it appears the first article I posted about the game’s rumors are becoming true.

For starters, there will be a drop-in/drop-out co-op campaign in which the second player will be a heavily scarred soldier with a red colored visor and RIG. Visceral Games is aware that going the co-op route will affect the overall horror element of the game so they intend to have a work around for this. Playing the game co-op may provide for a solid experience with a friend but if you play it solo, the “second player” will not appear in the game. This will allow for the original scare factor of being alone and not knowing what to expect to take effect.  The downside with the co-op is that certain cinematic elements may not take place unless you play it solo (i.e. Isaac’s hallucinations). Players can heal each other and swap resources but should one player die, it’s game over for the both of you. The co-op will intrigue action fans but true Dead Space fans know that playing it solo is the route to go on your first playthrough.

Dead Space 3 will very well take place on a snowy planet, previously known as Tau Volantis in the previous article I mentioned. Isaac will also become much more agile than in previous installments, with the ability to now dodge. Also new is the ability to take cover against objects. The main reason for this is because Isaac will have to fend off against actual soldiers at times so cover will be essential here. However, necromorphs are still the game’s main enemies so don’t feel as if Visceral Games is abandoning their fans with all these changes.

Now you can have someone watch your back in co-op to avoid sneak ups like this.

Weapons will also see some differences in this one, mainly in their alternate fire modes. For example, the Plasma Cutter’s alternate fire was to switch the aiming 90 degrees so that you could dismembers specific necromorphs horizontally or vertically. Now, it will have a knock back alternate fire, similar to the Force Gun. The Pulse Rifle also received a nice alternate fire which shoots out saw blades, reminiscent of the Ripper.

So far, Dead Space 3 may be sounding a bit different from previous games and it’s easy to worry about if it will fall into an identity crisis with the cover system, soldiers to kill and co-op. However, the developers over at Visceral Games are an incredibly talented bunch and I’m sure that worries will be set aside once we see this game in action, most likely at E3.

What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments below!