The lights are on
The Dead Space series is made famous by bringing the horror genre into the next generation. The first two entries were fantastic in their own respects. Plenty of scares and action coupled with a decent background story. A third title in this series was inevitable. While Dead Space 3 manages to be an enjoyable game in general, it doesn't bring anything new to the gaming-sphere. By a long shot.
The first two games took place primarily on giant spaceships. The spaceships, overrun by the necromorph plague, served as excellent backdrops for the games. While the first third or so of Dead Space 3 takes place in a similar environment, the game really picks up upon entering the planet Tau Volantis. Tau Volantis serves as a great change to the pacing of the series. I feel as though if they had kept the entire game on a spaceship again it wouldn't have been nearly as interesting.
The combat remains relatively unchanged from the last iterations. The biggest change comes to weapon crafting. The first two games allow for weapon upgrades through the use of nodes and credits to build items, but Dead Space 3 uses different materials to craft different kinds of upgrades, similar to the resource system in Mass Effect. This system is useful when constructing new items and upgrades, but I found that I didn't use it very often. There are many options to create new guns, but I really only used a gun combo I discovered in the first couple hours of the game throughout the entirety of the story. The new weapon crafting mechanic is interesting, but that's all it really is. You will mostly be using it to craft med kits or to apply damage or speed upgrades to the weapon you already are using.
What really enticed me during Dead Space 3 are the set piece moments. This generation of gaming has been known for its use of extravagant big-budget moments. For me, the Uncharted series is the best example of this, but some of the moments in this game are equally as great. From crashing your ship from space to swimming through the digestive system of an enormous creature, there is no shortage of insane near-death experiences for Isaac. In addition, a few sequences early on take place directly in outer space, allowing for full 3D exploration. In this large space area, you are able to explore debris, find new items, and do side missions.
While the set pieces are an excellent part of the game, the game falters in some major key points. The boss battles specifically leave much to be desired. They are barred by repetitive and boring mechanics that require you to do the same thing over and over again. The aforementioned digestive system sequence is excellent, but it's maimed by the fact that the parts leading up to it are just recycling the same strategy over and over again to fight the boss. In addition, the swimming mechanic happens to be literally the same function as the space travel mechanic, complete with the same sound effects. I could just be a stickler, but I feel as though a little more effort could have gone into the boss fights. Often times, you are forced to simply fight the same boss again and again. This constant rehashing and repetition is jarring.
The boss battles, while often huge and great looking, aren't nearly as dull as the main villain. This game introduces the leader of the Unitologists, Jacob Danik. Every moment with him is a cringe-worthy mess of poorly written dialogue and story sequences. Every scene that he is in he promises to simply put a bullet in Isaac's head and in every one of those scenes he has every means to do so. Instead, he simply says he will kill Isaac, breaks into a monologue, and then Isaac miraculously escapes unscathed. Rinse and repeat.
The Danik sequences aren't the only ones plagued by poor dialogue, however. While the delivery is spot-on and generally pitch perfect, it's the writing that holds the entry back. Cheesy and predictable dialogue is placed every step of the way. Many new characters are introduced this time around but are killed off in sequence one-by-one ala "Aliens". I played through the entirety of this game twice and I could barely tell you any of the character's names. The writing simply leaves players with nothing to feel when a character dies.
On the other hand, he series continues to move forward in the field of visual entertainment. Dead Space 3 features gorgeous scenery, generally impressive animations, and immersive sound design. From the realistic snow textures to the musty and dark interiors, the game is a joy to look at. The animations are on par with what is to be expected of an entry of such a huge series. From what I can tell, there were very few noticeable graphical glitches. My only issue with the graphics is that at one point, the light from Isaac's face mask is used to shine a really dark area. The lighting in this sequence was extremely well-done and dynamically shifts in size and shape as you move about the area. The problem is that this is pretty much the only place that this happens. In other equally dark areas, there is no such lighting. This is an easy mechanic that could have been implemented throughout the game. On the audio side, the enemy sounds are appropriately loud and each shot from your gun is satisfying.
Most of the main missions are enjoyable and features the excellent and heart throbbing combat expected of the series. It's a well-known fact this title veers away from the scariness standard set by the first two entries, but it still manages to make you jump once in awhile. Some of the best of the games missions are, unfortunately, the side missions. A few of the most well-designed and well-paced missions are entirely optional. While these are great to play, the fact that some of the best experiences are optional and most of the worst are required is a huge mistake. Many of the critical path missions are just fetch quests that require you to explore an area and find three or four pieces to some machine or device to move on to the next area. If they only did one of these kinds of missions, I would understand. But the fact that there is just constant fetch quests and back tracking is hugely annoying and devoid of any interest or fun.
Dead Space 3 manages to look, sound, and play awesome. The combat is fun, the enemies sound appropriately loud and terrifying, and the graphics and animations are extremely well-done. The set pieces are some of the best in gaming today. Where the game falters is the story. Predictable story sequences, dull dialogue, and uninteresting characters and boss encounters plague an otherwise excellent game. Visceral manages to craft an overall enjoyable game, but seems to have focused more on appealing to the masses with the more action-oriented gameplay and weapon customizing than making an genuinely amazing title.
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