Dead Space 3 is the game we’ve all been waiting for, yet sadly – for me at least – it’s not the game I wanted. If you’ve ever read my reviews or articles you’ll know I’m a massive horror game fan and I often recount the tale of how I stumbled upon the original Dead Space’s eerie marketing campaign “No Known Survivors” and consumed it all with utter glee. I was lucky at that point as the resultant game didn’t disappoint: it was tense, atmospheric and gave lessons to the industry in how to make a successful, contemporary survival horror. To a certain extent, Dead Space 2 was equally as fantastic – although it definitely took us into more ridiculous territory with seemingly every set piece culminating in an explosion. It had a decent horror/action blend which also caught many of us out with its occasional tongue-in-cheek dark humour moments whereby you’d find yourself winding up in a B-Movie-esque spooky futuristic nursing home staring at blood-stained teddy bears and messed up drawings. Fast forward another year and we arrive at the wholly uninspired Dead Space 3, a game so distinctly “middle-of-the-road” it would consistantly cause pile-ups on the A3 if metaphors could actually exist… as cars.
First and foremost, the game has proudly dropped the needless online multiplayer aspects introduced in Dead Space 2 in favour of heavily supporting a two-player Co-Op campaign. This singlehandedly cripples the main appeal of the game in two ways: 1) No horror game is ever as tense and unnerving if you’re playing with somebody else, especially if you both have customizable weapons and armour 2) You would never really want to play a co-op horror game with a stranger online, as they could easily show up, curb-stomp your toes and then dissapear having caused complete mayhem. The Co-Op is arguably still appealing to the casual gamer as it heightens the action/adventure aspects of the game as opposed to the horror elements. Some content can only be accessed when playing as a twosome and therefore the completists amongst us will appreciate this as a way to play, although when flying solo you’ll notice that your partner in crime often takes a different path to yourself allowing you that room to breathe and enjoy.
The narrative of Dead Space 3 primarily serves its purpose as our heroic protagonist Isaac Clarke stumbles once more stumbles into the breach of love, loss and crazy religious Marker-loving Unitoligist mayhem. Yes, that’s right folks, for the first time in the franchises history you’ll be fighting both human and Necromorph alien at the same time in a quest to rid the world of the evil, black monolith loving, war-raging opposition. You really have to feel for Isaac, not only has he had to endure 3 games worth of torture, anguish and schitzophernia but now he has to suffer the wrath of poor scriptwriting, whittling him down to the most one-dimensional, faceless front-man you can ever expect to play. Silent Hill 2’s James was a man oozing with dislikable qualities from the off and yet for all those flaws he ultimately sticks in my mind as far more of a hero than Isaac Clarke. The Unitoligists support a new, dastardly villain and against Isaac’s will he must participate in this war with a gang of generic side-kicks that I dub “the resistance”. Usual fare.
So far this review is coming across wholly negative – and that shouldn’t be the case. The only negative aspect about Dead Space 3 is it’s absolute averageness; it’s the most 6/10 game I’ve ever played. It does nothing new to push the boundaries of sci-fi survival horror and yet it doesn’t do anything to drop them either. Had this been the first time we’d seen Isaac in action then maybe I’d have an altogether different opinion, yet for the third game of such a high-quality series it really deserves better. The graphics are as stunning as usual – with rustic, dystopian corridors and baron planets creating the perfect, haunting setting for a game of this calibre and facial recognition animation is absolutely top notch. The Necromorphs are their usual disgusting selves, gurgling and garbling with their multiple limbs – and for once I genuinely feel they’re as powerful as ever with rapid movement and multiple swarm attacks – however the shock value ultimately isn’t there as these are the same creatures we’ve been fighting for 3 games now.
In conclusion Dead Space 3 is more of the same, and I assume for most fans of the series this is no bad thing. Those looking for scares, some creative storytelling and an interesting story to be told – then you’re probably going to be disappointed. It’s a solid game, don’t get me wrong, but it’s lack of bravery and opting to focus on Co-Op play really makes this the worst of the 3 games so far. Weapon customisation is enough to add layers of replayability, as you can spice up your Isaac’s inventory with some crazy looking ammunition that renders you a one-man army, however there just isn’t enough in this package to make it the groundbreaking title it could have been. In Space, no one should keep having love interests…