Filling the Survival Horror shaped hole in my life vacated by Resident Evil, the original Dead Space was amazing. Strategic dismemberment was fresh and exciting, and I spent it with neither enough ammo or clean pairs of pants.
EA, arbiters of well run game series, smelt a franchise, and opened up the sequel to a wider audience. Come on already! I wasn’t surprised, but with Dead Space 2’s greater action focus, this franchise was taking a similar path to RE.
But DS2 was still a good game and it sold really well. You don’t need many guesses to figure out what that encouraged EA and Developer Visceral to do. With the third entry we have further diversification from what initially made the franchise so popular. But this time I had a secret weapon…adjusted and realistic expectations! I spent most of Dead Space 3 happily dismembering more nasty necromorphs whilst finding out what ‘make us whole’ means.
Dead Space 3 is a fantastic looking game; one of the shining examples of graphical detail in the seventh generation of consoles. Isaac’s HUD still remains as strong a design point as ever, though the eyes of all the characters can look dead at times. Ice planet Tau Volantis makes for a pleasing change in scenery, though fear not, there are still plenty of tight corridors.
The gameplay is very much ‘if it ain’t broke’, but takes on several large additions. The first is co-op, which I didn’t get into. My only comment is that there’s nothing like a door saying ‘co-op only’ to pull break your immersion.
The second change is that now you build your weapons at the bench as opposed to buying them. Initially confusing, I grew to enjoy it, and soon settled on a weapon that perfectly suited my play style.
Last but not least, we have human enemies. They aren’t stupid, taking cover and trying to rush me at appropriate times, but their frailty compared to necros makes them easier enemies.
It’s got the looks and it’s got the moves, but Dead Space 3 was ultimately disappointing. But before we get into that, play this game on hard if you’ve played the others. Realising I could buy copious amounts of ammunition, allied to my already finely-honed dismemberment skills, made things pretty easy.
Isaac, the main protagonist of the trilogy, has completed his transformation from troubled mute to all action hero, and it has cost him. The voice acting throughout is great, but I can’t shake a feeling that Isaac should have stayed silent. He’s far less unhinged now too. I’m happy that Isaac is feeling better, but his less than straightforward psyche has been an intriguing part of previous games, making him both interesting and a dubious narrator.
A healthier hero is one thing. But Dead Space 3 faces a much bigger problem that can’t be ignored; a story full of padding.
It took me roughly 12 hours to complete the 19 chapters on normal difficulty. Lop six of those chapters off and you wouldn’t lose anything. Even worse, the ending is unforgivable, as it doesn’t provide anything like a satisfying payoff for the trilogy. I still needed to hit Wikipedia to make any sense of it all.
At this point I’ll touch briefly on the DLC, Awakened, which manages to both rip you off and spoil what came before. Not only does it recycle old areas, but it’s clichéd to hell. The ending even manages to double down on the disappointment of the main game, by making all of your actions feel pointless. It’s damn infuriating, and not the feeling you want to be left with after three games.
Like Resident Evil before it, Dead Space became popular through a mix of clever design, an interesting story, and edge of your seat survival horror. If anything Dead Space did it better in places. But it’s dead in the water now, it’s need to reach out and devour bigger audiences doing more damage to it than a necromorph ever could.
Dead Space 3 is far from a bad game. I don’t complete games in a week if I don’t enjoy playing them. But it’s forgotten what made it awesome in the first place.