The lights are on
Ever since Dead
Space 3 was released, Tim has been championing
its merits to anyone who will listen to him. While he clearly
loved the game, the reception around the rest of the office has been
decidedly mixed. Tim tried to get me to play Dead Space 3 on a couple of
occasions, but I told him I wasn't interested, having never
finished the first installment. When it came time for him to challenge
another co-worker to play it, I knew I was destined to be his guinea pig. Like
it or not, it was time to step back into Isaac's space boots.
I heard Dead Space
3 was more action-oriented than the first two games in the series, but when I started
playing, it still felt a lot like Dead Space. I spent the better part of a day
exploring desolated spaceships, dismembering grotesque necromorphs, and jumping
every time an enemy broke out of a vent directly behind me (which is still a
cheap scare tactic, in my opinion). Granted, Dead Space 3 didn't come close to
filling me with the same sense of dread as the original did, so that aspect of
the series is definitely missing. But even though the latest installment might
not be as scary, Visceral's love of horror sci-fi still shines through, and I
found myself frequently stopping to appreciate the designs of the game's retro-inspired
spaceships and godforsaken locations.
Dead Space 3 did
take some time to get used to, however. For starters, the plasma cutter is
underpowered when you first get it, taking a few shots to sever the limbs of
enemies. Between that and my penchant for overlooking my stasis abilities
during fights, combat took a while to warm up to. The weapon-crafting system
was also poorly explained, requiring a quick coaching from Tim before I got a
sense of what I was doing.
Once I got the hang
of the game mechanics, however, I had a lot of fun. After a few
upgrades, my plasma cutter was slicing off necromorph limbs with ease, and
finishing off foes with a cold, bloody stomp is as satisfying as it's ever been.
It's clear Visceral was earnestly trying to tell a good story, and although it
might not live up to something like The Last of Us, it was still better than a lot of shooters.
Some of the gameplay scenarios were annoying, as were a few boss fights, but I
didn't come across anything that made me want to stop playing.
Later in the day,
Tim hopped online to play some of the co-op with me. To my surprise (and to the
detriment of Tim's own argument), I actually enjoyed it less. Dead Space 3 is a
fine co-op game, but the atmospheric tension and sense of agency I felt over
the story was instantly gone. Telling a compelling story in a multiplayer setting
is hard, and it's clear to me that Visceral Games failed to crack that nut.
Story and atmosphere are big components of the Dead Space series, so if someone
only played the game in co-op, I could see how they might walk away with a very
different impression of Dead Space 3.
My VoteI managed to finish
about half of the game during our day-long challenge. It's not my favorite game of 2013, but it seems like a perfectly respectable action game, and I enjoyed my
time with it. How strongly I advocate for it making the list will ultimately come
down to what other games are on the edge. Based on my gut, however, it would
be weird for us not to include it. Triple-A action games get a
disproportionate amount of grief from players; they may not tell the most
compelling stories or feature the most innovative gameplay, but they tend to be
polished, enjoyable experiences from beginning to end. Dead Space 3 seems to
fit that bill, and I hope there's room for it on the list.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.