Dead Space 3 Review
Graphics and art direction still great, decent sound design, consolidated ammunition
Replaced horror with generic action, extremely predictable, terrible story with unlikable characters, microtransactions and online pass, multiplayer add nothing new to gameplay, very disappointing
Less Horror, More Microtransactions
It is difficult not to compare the Dead Space series with the “Alien” franchise simply because they are very similar.Â Dead Space is like “Alien” because it was more horror focused and took place in a dark, claustrophobic space shuttle and Dead Space 2 is like “Aliens” because it switched between horror and tense action.Â Sadly Dead Space 3 is like “Alien 3” because it is a disappointing sequel that fails to grasp any of the elements that made the previous two games good.
The game begins with Dead Space protagonist, Isaac Clarke, in hiding from the various forces who want his knowledge of the game’s Markers, alien relics which create monsters when activated. Almost immediately, he is confronted by two soldiers, Carver and Norton, who require his assistance to find Ellie, a character from Dead Space 2 and Isaac’s recently ex-girlfriend, who is trying to find and destroy the original Marker.
A few minutes after the intro, the characters are discovered by the Unitologists, a religious group who worship the Markers, and are attacked on sight. The game introduces the leader of the Unitologists, Danik, who plans to activate all of the Markers and delivery divine retribution to all non-believers.
Once the end-of-the-world plot has been established, the rest of the game follows Isaac as he works with Ellie, who is now in a relationship with Norton, and a few other characters as they try to find the original Marker and stop the Unitologists.
The love triangle between Isaac, Ellie, and Norton takes up the brunt of the story and comes off as a little too ridiculous. It is never established how strong the relationship between Isaac and Ellie is but because he is the protagonist, the writers imply that we should just take his word for it.
Love is a common motivation for a character’s actions, but Isaac merely comes off as jealous and selfish as he and Norton bicker like teenagers whilst forgetting that the world is about to end. In Dead Space 2, Isaac’s love for his late girlfriend was established and the grieve and guilt he felt for her death made his a sympathetic character, but the Isaac in DS3 is unlikable and even a worse character than the mute Isaac in the first game.
It was also quite obvious the writers wrote themselves into a corner at the end of DS2 in regards to the Markers in which not even they know what they are or how they work. This game proved my theory to be true when at the end, only more questions were added and no answers were given. The writers teased the origins of the Markers for two games and then did not even bother to try and give an explanation which in turn is insulting to the fans and just plain lazy.
The plot is generic, the love triangle is poorly done and unnecessary, and characters are unlikeable. The game’s antagonist in particular is another bland, nonthreatening villain who throws his countless and devoted minions at the protagonist as he utters one eccentric monologue after another; the man would be better suited as a villain on a Saturday morning cartoon.
The gameplay has received the same amount of effort as the story as well in which it is bland, boring, and predictable. Nothing has changed with the core gameplay: health and stasis is displayed on the characters’ backs, one button aims and the other shoots, one button activates a health pack, and objects can be lifted and thrown by the Kinesis device.
A dodge mechanic has been added along with a weapon crafting system. Weapon crafting requires various supplies and components which can either be found in the environment, dropped by defeated enemies, or bought from a store; or if you don’t feel like putting in the effort, EA allows the player to by these components for actual real-world money, which is both stupid and greedy.
Just about any combination of components can make a weapon, but I feel it takes away from what little tension there is and can make the game too easy. It may be cool to attach a flamethrower to a line gun, but I miss the game’s original weapons and upgrade system. Also, weapons now use and share the same ammo which is better than micromanaging supplies in the first two games admittedly.
The game’s focus is on action and action only; gone is the tension and horror of the previous games. Because the weapon upgrades are extremely powerful and ammo and health are handed out like candy, there is no tension whatsoever; it is also worth noting the developers don’t even try to scare the players. The action is not even fun because the same enemy types are thrown toward the player in the same way 90% of the time two in front and one behind the player every time.<
Bosses usually break the monotony, but DS3 has the player fight the same boss three times, a boss from the first Dead Space, and a new one who screams “missed opportunity” as soon as the fight starts. This new boss is the size of a small planet and should have been threatening, but only throws regular enemies at the character as it watches from afar; it is essentially the same as the last boss from DS2 and is just as boring.
There are a few set pieces in the game that add some variety, but they are also bland and boring as well. One area brings back the Regenerator alien from the first game. The setting is continuously doused by the flames of a ships engine igniting, which was used to kill the Regenerator. Apparently the creature has evolved because he simply walks through the flames unscathed and can now kill Isaac with a single swing; this time, his demise is caused by a regular turret instead of something creative.
Another area of the game takes place inside the body of a dead alien and instead of using the new setting properly for a possible scare or an exciting event, the developers decided it was better suited to be another arena to fight regular enemies. The go-to set pieces of the game are various rappelling stages that are fun at first, but wears out its welcome because they are overused.
Puzzles are still a part of the gameplay, though they are all essentially matching puzzles with different coats of paint. Many doors must be hacked through a matching mini-game using the analog sticks. This mini-game is overused and adds more onto the pile of tedium created by the gameplay.
Graphics and sound are still as good as they have been, though I feel the developers should have been more conservative with the amount of monster sounds being played from start to finish. Even if the writing is subpar, the voice actors do a good job and sound believable. The only problem with the overall visual presentation of the game is the camera’s position. Isaac is placed too far to the left of the screen and zooms in too much making it difficult for me to see what I was doing. The rule of thirds applies to games, but the camera is way off and is neither aesthetically pleasing or practical.
Dead Space 3 does contain an addition to the gameplay component, co-op multiplayer. In multiplayer, players take the role of either Isaac or newcomer Carver whose story is only seen in the multiplayer. It feels unfair to exclude everything about Carver and punish single players, but then again, Carver’s origins are only implied through a few cutscenes only seen by the second player and don’t add much to the overall story.
The gameplay is also unaffected by the inclusion of a second player. Aside from three optional co-op only missions, everything mostly plays out the same. The co-op missions are missed opportunities to throw something new that only two players could accomplish, but instead are the same batch of regular missions that have no reason to be two-player exclusive.
The only unique co-op feature is Carver experiences delusions, much like in the previous games, which are only experienced by the person controlling Carver. As stated earlier, they don’t add to the story yet they don’t add to the gameplay either. These sequences, played three times, are the same sequence found in the finale of Dead Space 2 just with a different Carver-based aesthetic.
Luckily, both players can pick up the same supplies without divvying up the loot, but the presence of two characters doesn’t make things easier. All puzzles now require two hands to complete, the hacking mini-game becoming the worst of them all. Generally movement is also a pain since the game contains a great amount of claustrophobic environments which in turn makes fighting also a pain
The inclusion of multiplayer actually makes the gameplay somewhat worse because only a few levels were tailored for it. Carver isn’t even treated as an important character since even during multiplayer cutscenes, he is barely there or blended into the background. It is also worth noting that his experiences should have been an extra for single player gamers as well.
Dead Space 3 is a disappointing end to a good series and finishes the franchise with an extremely sour note. Every aspect of this game is multiple steps back behind its predecessors and I feel that absolutely no effort went into this game. The story is bad and doesn’t explain key questions, the characters are unlikable, gameplay is bland and predictable, the multiplayer is pointless, and the fact that there are microtransactions for in-game materials and multiplayer is inaccessible without a $10 code is appalling.
Good horror games are few and far in-between and the Dead Space series was one of the better ones, up until now. Dead Space fans might as well rent and only rent this game just to finish the series, but horror and action fans who are new to the series should play the other two and avoid this game for now. The rest shouldn’t even give this bargain bin trash a glance.