The lights are on
I'm one of a couple people that broke the street release and streamed some game-play a handful of days ago. I've had time to collect my thoughts on the matter, and decided to compose my feeling on the game as a whole.
*I played this copy solo with capture equipment, so no co-op was experienced at this time
Presentation: Blood, Guts, and Spleens
Dead Space 3 came roaring onto the screen at E3 with an exploding star-ship, human enemies, "Epic" Drill puzzles, full-on coop goodness and monstrous cosmic horrors that would make Cthulhu blush. I was skeptical at first (I'm only human), had another AAA franchise gone the way of Resident Evil? I kept with the news, and that made me put away all interest in Dead Space. Then I got the chance to break the street date.
I had very low expectations.
Shock and awe tactics greeted me and my viewers as I streamed the game. This gory canvas is a blast of color and brilliant lightning with backgrounds that put the venerable Halo to shame. The budget on the art is extreme, with high fidelity effects plastered on decent textures, and trimmed with visceral detail. The Necromorphs are disturbingly well animated and properly grotesque, and Isaac and Co move with well-captured motion-work. All this is added to exceptional voice-work the series is none for with a variety of audio-effects that melt the ear with bliss... sweet, violent bliss.
Gameplay: Cut 'em Apart, Let God Sort 'em Out
I'm not naive though, shock and awe doesn't make me give this game a gold star, it's still a video game. It was the game-play that I wanted to experience, and it was as familiar as my old, sweaty gloves. The basic movement and combat remains the same as Dead Space 2, with added options and tweaked features that should've been in Dead Space 1 & 2. An absolutely amazing improvement was the pitch-perfect dismember mechanic. There are no enemies in this game like the reviled puker from DS2, who defied the series' defining mechanic. When you shoot at an enemy you have to be wary where you strike them. Chop a Necromorph in half? Now it's grown three tendrils of pain to lash your face off. Though every enemy isn't like this in the extreme, it's good to see these mutations present in an almost love-letter fashion to RE 6 veterans. Finally, again, it matters where you shoot your foes- all of them.
On top of this we have a dodge-roll, which I wasn't piping for but came to abuse it to obscene levels. This is where things get iffy if you're a series purist who saw nothing wrong with the formula of DS2. There's universal ammo and a unchanging difficulty curve. Yes, universal ammo is a thing and like Deus Ex: Invisible War (for you old folks) it is consumed at different rates by different weapons- sometimes drastically. Personally I never deviated much from my go-to load-out of Death Incarnate & Pale Horse and I ended up overloaded with ammo on Normal difficulty. I was also receiving so many health-packs I pondered giving them to the enemy because I just felt bad for them. In total, I went an hour and twenty minutes of game-play at one point without getting hit (the dodge mechanic could use some tuning). This is my subjective opinion, but if you've played DS 1 & 2 start on hard here, it's much more of a natural challenge than Normal is on 3.
Yet it was the weapon-crafting that made me crack a smile and stick three gold stars on the box. The weapon-crafting is really the highlight of the game, and which symbolizes the change of direction in game-play. Your many modules and frames leaves for a pleasing amount of personality in a video game. There will always be the 'best' combo out there but my force-gun/assault rifle (Death Incarnate & Pale Horse) tore alien ass up across the frost plains of DS 3. Never once did I curse its existence and always my foes would be denied an open-casket funeral.
Story: Ellie got an Eye Job, The End.
Hey, let's stop talking about the dude-bro crap and get down with the intellectual stuff, yea! The story in DS3 takes place shortly after DS2. Isaac and Co are working together against wicked men who may or may not be parodies on Scientologists. Things go wrong and people start dying.
There's more to it of course, the story evolves, it has its twist, and it has its ending. It's just infested with some veiled Hollywood cliches and some very pretentious, heavy-handed lines from villain and hero alike. My memory serves me greatly, but I must acknowledge that none of these new characters will be very lasting to the DS universe. They're mostly just used to set the scene and inspire some mock empathy before you forget it and start gunning down more alien-bastards.
There's also plot holes, enough that I wouldn't drive down this road in a new car. Convergence is finally explained and it sounds awesome until you realize that the laws of space-travel, at least as Ol' Einstein told us make the threat of it mostly moot. This also makes Isaac's last spoken line make you question how he got his engineering degree.Some things also remain unclear too, which only enhances some of the flaws with DS3 ending.
Now the ending isn't rushed nor controversial, which is surprising since we have an N7 suit in the game. In fact you will have some genuine empathy at the end. When you remember how Kendra of DS1 found the Ishimura's captain it might make you raise an eyebrow.
But I've hinted enough. The story is a good component of each Dead Space game. It helped sell the world and characters, and interesting tidbits could be found to reveal a larger, darker picture. Dead Space 3 I found wanting in these departments. It's a decent story, but it's outmatched by the first. It has nice characters, but the interactions in 2 were more human and enjoyable. It's perfectly average in all respects, and there's nothing really wrong with that.
Sequelitis: It's Okay
You've probably noticed my tone's been upbeat and excited. I've been gleeful about being a space marine stomping Necromorphs under my heel and blasting them to chunky salsa with guns and one-liners. Well, that salsa has a bit of a sour after-taste.
If you thought Dead Space 2 was far too action-pack, skip this one. If you're still a bit interested, buy it on sale. This is no longer an action-horror shooter. It's an action-horror shooter with monsters. Armed with a personalized gun, a manageable amount of ammo (even on hard) and always stocked on health-packs, I was never vulnerable. The stalkers of the second game shook my game up and at times I had to buy health in both games like a addict counting out my change for a heartless dealer. DS3 gave me what I wanted to have to surpass my challenges.
It was on this that I reflected on my first feelings when encountering the last boss of DS 1: "I have to kill that with this plasma cutter?!". On DS3, my final thoughts on the climatic encounter were something like this, "Kratos ain't got **** on me!". It's an example that echos my overall sentiments on DS3.
And I waited till now to mention atmosphere because that's really how this game plays. Due to the rampant improvements in your arsenal and playability, a tense atmosphere is really the last thing I would applaud DS3 for (though it still has a unique one). All the work done to reproduce moments like shivering in the halls of the Ishimura are deafened to nothing when you can consciously tell yourself, "I got this. What's coming out that vent over there... he's screwed". Those words are never empty either, not when you have a gun you designed to succeed where others would be inferior. And especially not when your supply of health is on hand.
Dead Space 3 is fun, there I said- no reason to cancel your pre-order if that's what you wanted.
Yet, not every video game needs to be fun. Some can inspire feelings of despair like Limbo. Others can be heart-retching and desperate, the flavor of Telltales' Walking Dead. Horror games fill you with atmosphere and dread, and till now Dead Space did that while maintaining moderate success.
When you start to blend fun into the mix, you dilute the other elements. What once tasted like a cheesecake, now tastes like a chocolate cake with cheesy filling- delicious but not really defined. Sometimes, losing your identity loses your unique, artistic presence. And in this age of shooters and violent video games, it can be pretty hard to stand out.
In the end, DS3 is new and fun. New to DS fans, and fun if you're not a stick in the mud. But it's not original or amazing, not the best game of the decade nor maybe the best this month. It's filler, bloody filler that's nice to bite into but vapid and unmemorable. Set-pieces blur in my memory and characters become cardboard cutouts as I finish remembering DS3. I won't replay it again, and I'll gift it to a friend whose crazy about shooters. And in two years, I know I'll forget my time with the game, and I certainly won't see it in anyone's top 10 of this generation- not from the impression it seems to leave.
I don't know if this will sell five million copies, that's up to you consumers to decide.
But I know I wasn't horrified.
very good review, you come out and say it, nice job
Nice job on the review!