Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: February 5th, 2013
Just as Capcom’s beloved survival horror franchise, Resident Evil, has gradually shifted from delivering frightening, jump-out-of-your-skin horror in hopes of achieving mass appeal, Visceral Games’ love letter to shriek-inducing terror, the Dead Space series, was inevitably bound to introduce further crowd-pleasing innovations when it came time to finally unveil Dead Space 3. Initially, the fan-worrying inclusion of a co-op campaign and more action-orientated controls – such as the implementation of a new evade maneuver, may have caused avid Necromorph limb-chompers to wonder if Dead Space‘s trademark gameplay was short-lived, but rest assured, this assumption is far from the truth.
The Story So Far…
Before diving into the core of Dead Space’s limb-severing, gore-infested campaign, you are granted a short-lived opportunity (via a quick tutorial) to visit the bone-chilling arctic winds and blinding, rather suffocating snowstorms of Tao Volantis – Dead Space’s unpredictable, new locale. Progressing through the claustrophobic atmosphere of the unmistakably frozen planet proved to be a danger itself early on in the tension-filled prologue, but with the addition of the series’ renowned Necromorph enemy variations to thwart off as well; this environmentally hazardous setting seemed more like an elaborate deathtrap of sorts for unsuspecting players to fall victim to. This is exactly why, as we continued to progress through the beginning fibers of Dead Space 3′s neatly-woven campaign, we couldn’t help but linger on a direr, must-answer question. How long until we revisit the deadly, but intriguing frozen wasteland of Tao Volantis?
Don’t get us wrong, most of your time as engineer turned battle-worn veteran, Isaac Clarke will be spent surviving the extremely life-threatening conditions that the Necromorph-infested planet showcases, but certainty not all of it. You see, Dead Space 3 exhibits a far larger, more expansive experience than the franchise’s highly-acclaimed predecessors demonstrated. Ultimately, this allows for diverse and consistently varying environments without seeming noticeably foreign in the series’ vast, awe-inspiring universe. From traversing through the larger-than-life atmosphere of outer space via zero-gravity to slowly tip-toeing through the close-quarter confines of varying ancient space vessels (a task bound to jumpstart buried Dead Space 1 memories), Visceral Games’ latest entry in the franchise introduces some particularly classic locales before even daring to dive into the unknown territory of Dead Space 3′s main attraction: Tao Volantis.
…Dead Space exhibits a far larger, more expansive experience than the franchise’s highly-acclaimed predecessors demonstrated.
In hopes of supporting the addition of such an assorted range of intriguing surroundings, the incredibly lengthy campaign – consisting of roughly 16 to 18 hours of gameplay – grants you with an engrossing tale that intertwines the sudden transitions in scenery quite nicely. Tasked with helping EarthGov soldiers, Robert Norton and the co-op playable, John Carver, rescue the mysteriously vanished Ellie Langford and team after their attempt to reach the surface of an uncharted planet, Isaac’s mission to eradicate the Marker threat altogether presses him to search a flotilla of ancient ships in hopes of finding Ellie before embarking on the peril-ridden quest of ending the Necromorph plague indefinitely. As the plot thickens, Isaac soon finds himself taking the grueling fight for mankind’s existence to the source of all evil; the infamous icy wonders of Tao Volantis, for the first time in the series’ extensive history. Indisputably, it is deep within Dead Space 3‘s eerie, chill-inducing campaign that the franchise displays a risky, but immensely rewarding direction for the series.
Like never before, you have the opportunity to ignore the linear trek through the main story, and engage in isolated optional missions that help contribute to the series’ mythology by providing strong backstories to many of Dead Space 3‘s gory, blood-stained environments. One such memorable optional mission had us scaling up the Conning Tower of Terra Nova – in search of valuable munitions, as we faced Necromorph ambushes, electrical-based traps and reverse gravity plating due to the clever planning of one disobedient soldier named Edwards. Assuming the messages we were receiving from Edwards were pre-recorded (these ships were 200 years old, mind you), we proceeded forward in hopes of reaching the top of Conning Tower to see for ourselves if the Terra Nova actually had a living, breathing survivor onboard. What we discovered was both shocking and simply unforgettable, adding a layer of emotion beneath the otherwise horror-focused campaign.
The Terror Continues
…Dead Space 3‘s campaign will continuously inflict hair-raising scares and heart-pounding tension arguably more intense than anything seen prior in the series.
Retaining the critically-acclaimed terror of past titles, Dead Space 3‘s campaign will continuously inflict hair-raising scares and heart-pounding tension arguably more intense than anything seen prior in the series. Whether it’s the whipping wind of a blinding snowstorm obscuring your vision or the sudden upheaval of violent, Necromorph enemies from an unknown frozen grave, you will constantly be on the offensive in terms of preventing nerve-wracking paranoia and nail-biting anxiety from overcoming necessary, life-saving senses as you journey cautiously onward. The undeniably magnificent sound design supports the on-screen scares phenomenally as well, with every bloodcurdling shriek of an unseen Exploder or unexpected crackling of ice beneath distant footsteps driving your unstable trigger finger to near irrational heights in hopes of surviving each sudden, tension-filled engagement. For good measure, the unpredictability of the series’ grotesque, repulsive monstrosities continues; Slashers abruptly smash through air vents in tightly confined corridors, concealed Stalkers intelligently charge at opportune moments, and Leapers appear seemingly out of thin air before closing the distance rapidly on your now-compromised position. For those outspoken naysayers that assumed Dead Space‘s trademark terror wouldn’t be properly demonstrated in the third entry, well, let’s just say you’re in for a rude awakening.
Introducing even more enemy variety deep within the horror-filled, 19 chapter campaign, Dead Space 3 includes the implementation of new human Unitologist foes to surgically dismember. Serving as nothing more than disposable filler in-between aggressive Necromorph encounters, each short-lived battle with these gun-wielding opponents seemed to present only an excuse for the inclusion of cover-based, pop-in/pop-out gunplay that proved relatively disruptive to the otherwise terrifying experience. Thankfully, Visceral Games’ addition of fresh, Marker-created adversaries help to round out this minor setback and help ease the gameplay back to its appendage-separating formula.
…Dead Space 3 includes the implementation of new human Unitologist foes to surgically dismember.
Among many of Dead Space 3′s horrifying new enemy additions, Twitchers easily became quite possibly our most feared Necromorph variation in the entire series. Resembling traditional Slashers in physical form while also displaying spastic movements and blurry, obscured features, Twitchers oftentimes left us simply terrified due to their unrivaled speed and frightening capability to dodge carefully-aimed limb shots. The skeletal appearance and deadly, swarm-based attacks Feeders bring to the table also presented countless, heart-pounding opportunities to challenge our reflexes as well. Relying on mercilessly ambushing you with large numbers and slashing melee strikes, these deformed, humanoid-like creatures proved to be worthy adversaries in close-quarter spaces.
Dead set on complementing the chilling assortment of Necromorph variations with addictive gunplay, Visceral Games has incorporated the brilliant concept of weapon-crafting into Dead Space 3‘s template. Diving into any of the conveniently located tool bench stations, you have the ability to create weapons from blueprints obtained during the campaign (reminiscent of Dead Space 1 and 2) or craft your own unique gun starting at the frame. Almost every weapon frame supports an upper and lower tool – serving as your primary and alternative firing modes – with an assortment of tips and attachments that modify how your self-created gun operates. Taking the place of power nodes, weapon stat-changing circuits can be collected and installed to boost your guns devastating capabilities as well. Out of the various guns crafted, my personal favorite was an acid-based, Heavy Elite Ripper paired with an earth-shaking Ground Diffractor; a combination that successfully mixed mid-range gunplay with crowd-controlling, near-range destruction.
Obtaining the resources necessary to build such weaponry, however, relies on exploring every inch of Dead Space 3‘s diverse, oftentimes deadly environments, which makes the inclusion of reliable Scavenger bots such a welcome new addition to the series. By utilizing built-in radar to find concealed resource deposits within the area, these helpful bots can search and discover useful ingredients needed to craft weapons, health replenishing items, and more before transferring their findings to a conveniently located tool bench station. More than just adorable scraps of metal, successfully incorporating these bots during gameplay proved to be a vital, richly rewarding necessity when it came to surviving the unforgiving onslaught of the campaign.
A Tale of Two Necromorph Slayers
…you and your teammate will engage in more tactical-related gameplay…that refocuses the single-player campaign to account for the addition of another player.
Thankfully, the items and weapons created during the course of the single-player experience can be carried over to Dead Space 3‘s most risky, new campaign feature: online co-op. With partners assuming the role of John Carver: a no nonsense, mission-orientated soldier archetype, you and your teammate will engage in more tactical-related gameplay – such as providing covering fire while the other reloads or sharing ammo clips and health items between battles – that refocuses the single-player campaign to account for the addition of another player. Astonishingly, puzzle segments and battle scenarios accommodate quite nicely to cooperative play, allowing strategical, well-coordinated efforts to present more successful results, especially when playing in higher difficulty modes. It’s also safe to note that the promising drop-in/drop-out feature is extraordinarily well-implemented as well, allowing Carver players to continue playing their chapter as Isaac – with the same personal inventory – long after their teammate has called it a night. While some could argue that the inclusion of cooperative play detracts from Dead Space’s popular template of paranoia-generating psychological horror and madness-inducing isolation, the core elements that make the franchise particularly horrifying are still undeniably present with or without a partner.
What Dead Space 3 solely represents and exemplifies – deep within its incredibly well-executed presentation – is a satisfying conclusion to one of gaming’s greatest horror trilogies, filled will all the trimmings necessary to introduce newcomers while staying true to the scare-seeking, franchise aficionados who have followed the series since its first installment. Incorporating new gameplay elements while remaining faithful to the core formula is never an easy task, but Visceral Games succeeds with flying colors, displaying a fulfilling end to Isaac Clarke’s daunting journey while hinting at the potential for more entries set within Dead Space‘s chilling, awe-inspiring universe.
BOG’s Dead Space 3 Review Score
|9.0||Why so high?
Satisfyingly lengthy campaign, stunning backdrops, addictive cooperative play, successfully integrated weapon-crafting, remains faithful to the core Dead Space formula
|Why so low?
Disruptive pop-in/pop-out gunplay during skirmishes with human foes, laughable love triangle subplot, auto-save system’s a step back compared to other installments