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Dead Space 3 (Xbox 360) Review: More Action, Less Horror

Posted by on February 7, 2013 at 10:35 pm
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Littering everything from the cold void of space to the icy tundra with bloody body parts…

It’s odd thinking back on my experience with the series thus far. My first impressions of Dead Space 1 were that of being awe struck in a sense. An In-Game HUD, a third person over-the-shoulder view that didn’t obstruct the action, a unique style to art direction, using dismemberment as a means to kill baddies, and a reasonable story, as the horror was contained in a derelict space ship that forced you to take it slow, and avoid air-ducts constantly. You were an engineer, not some space marine hell-bent on killing everything in sight. It was a decent twist, taking elements from various sci-fi horror movies and mixed them up a little to create a very fun experience.

I haven’t quite gotten through the second game yet, but it tries to do a bit more without changing the formula too much. The zero-gravity areas in Dead Space 2 are especially note-worthy.

So… How does Dead Space 3 hold up?

I will say this: If you ever wanted a videogame adaption of The Thing, this is as a close as you’re likely to get. Well, aside from the The Thing: The Videogame. But we don’t talk about that game.

It was hard to ignore the similarities between The Thing’s monsters and the Necromorphs of Dead Space 1, and now that we’re on frozen tundra, it’s even harder. Hell, the humanoids that attack you with pairs of axes or crowbars only lends to that realization. But there’s more going on here, and the planet-sized ball of ice you see in the previews isn’t seen until the latter half of the game. None the less, you can expect to be trudging through rusty corridors and zero-gravity zones a lot in this game. The end-game takes it to a new level, but giving away specifics would be spoiler territory, so I’ll let you decide if you want to know more.

So where is Isaac Clark? Well, the game starts you out on another colony, with Clark currently on the run from his past. The Unitologists have almost completely destroyed EarthGov, and they’re after Clark, who seems to have retained complete knowledge behind creating and destroying Markers. The last bastion of EarthGov’s military forces Clark at gunpoint to join them in the search for Ellie, who gave up on looking for Isaac some time ago to go after what she believes to be the source of the Markers. From there, it’s a race to uncover the truth behind the Markers’ actual purpose, their origins, and the supposed end of mankind. All while surviving the dead of space, frozen tundra’s, urban warfare, and a fanatically religious militia lead by Jacob Danik. The main story can be played either solo, or cooperatively, should you have a friend who owns a copy of the game, as it doesn’t support split-screen.

I’ve yet to play with another person to see what the game offers in that mode, but hope to do so in the future, once they’ve acquired the game. Your co-op partner will take on the role of John Carver, a military man with a shady past, of whom you’ll explore more in-depth in these co-op missions.

The story isn’t anything to brag about. Expect a dilemma that threatens all of mankind, a love-story that doesn’t exactly have a lot of clarity, and odd character turns that don’t have a lot of backing. Sure, a few of the characters are fleshed out. After Clark left Ellie to get away from the impending destruction of humanity, she fell in love with a Captain of the 104th battalion, while searching for answers behind the Markers, but her boyfriend isn’t really given much personality, besides heated jealousy between him and Clark. Any and all other characters are either explored vaguely in audio recordings, or not at all. Let’s face it, if you don’t really know someone and what they’re about, why should you feel sorry for them if they die?

The gameplay is geared towards action, with the added ability to crouch this time around. You’ll be facing human enemies as well as monsters, though don’t expect that barrier to stop monsters from using weapons. The human AI is… poor, especially in situations when there are monsters attacking them. Though human NPC’s have a tendency to attack immediate threats with relatively good aim, their basic reactions are pretty dimwitted at times, ignoring your gun-fire when monsters attack. The monster AI seems to work a lot better, especially with monsters who retreat to take cover, or those who seek out corpses to infest, but then again, they are fairly mindless to begin with. It didn’t stop me from dying a few times from enemy fire or monsters that swarmed you in bulk. I would complain about the checkpoint system, as at one time a checkpoint caused me to lose 5 or 6 minutes of progress, but I can live with auto-saving.

Visceral decided to up the ante by allowing you to collect materials to make custom weapons. In fact, it’s really the one stand-out feature added to the series. Trust me. The customization can be very deep. You’ll start off with a basic weapon chassis, and build from there, combing various cores and tips to make unique combinations of weapons, be it a shot gun with a secondary rapid-fire spike gun, or a revolver with a Ripper blade whose ammunition is coated in acid. The game gives you plenty of options to fiddle with.

My personal favorite so a plasma-cutter/flame thrower that’s infused with Stasis energy.

If you wish, you can create blue-prints, and share them with friends so they can build them at the Benches littered about the game.

Graphically, the game looks beautiful, but that’s nothing new. Though the graphical intensity of the game of the game allows for you great looking environments, don’t expect too much differentiation. Sure, the snowy tundra of Tau Volantis or the out-of-the-way streets of New Horizons Lunar Colony offer a bit of a change here and there, and debris field between four S.C.A.F. ships hovering over Tau Volantis’ surface is fun to float in, you can expect to run around the industrial corridors of derelicts space craft and bases a plenty. Monster variety is a bit limited, too, introducing maybe one or two knew breeds or variations.

Did I have fun with this game? Sure, but I don’t think the punch is quite there with this game as one would have hoped. It seems to have focused on action, distancing itself from general horror, and leaving me wondering if I was truly afraid at any point. Would I recommend Dead Space 3? Well, die-hard fans will still enjoy it, I imagine, and even if it’s not exactly the scariest game I’ve played, the enjoyment of dismembering monsters is still there.

With a completion time of 14 – 16 hours, $60 dollars isn’t a bad price.

8/10 FleshEatingZipper

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