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Books Should Get The Video Game Treatment?.

Gameplay Over Presentation

 

            The focus on horror elements and isolation of past Dead Space games has been tossed aside in the newest iteration of the series. Taking its place is an emphasis on action sequences, narrative, and making protagonist Isaac Clarke feel like an engineer who is equally efficient at repairing broken machinery and crafting materials as he is at dismembering enemies. Some of these new elements are welcomed additions to the series, while others deter an otherwise enjoyable experience.

 

One of Dead Space 3’s most significant additions is the introduction of co-operative play in the campaign, acting as a replacement for the poorly realized competitive multiplayer that appeared in Dead Space 2. Friends and strangers alike can enter and leave your game without experiencing any load screens on your end, making it a seamless experience. Player 2 takes controller of character John Carver who only occasionally crosses paths with Isaac if the campaign is played solo. Additional, minor story content is placed regularly throughout if played with a second person. I highly recommend playing through the campaign with a friend since the campaign isn’t nearly as scary as previous games and there is now a significantly larger cast of characters whose constant chatter completely removes any feeling of prolonged isolation. Co-op detracts little from the experience, and the joy of blasting away necromorphs with a friend more than makes up for those rare scares you may encounter during a solo run. After all, the only thing more fun than dismembering necromorphs is dismembering them with a friend. Unfortunately there are a few aspects of combat that don’t quite live up to the high par that the series has established.

 

The newest variations of necromorphs aren’t all as enjoyable to fight as past necromorphs were, and unfortunately some of the older ones are scarcely present or in some cases, have disappeared entirely, such as the brute. Taking there place is a rather large spider-like creature who shows up on several occasions during the middle section of the game. Each encounter was stressful as I found myself forced to use the newly added roll mechanic against its annoying lunge attacks while simultaneously having to shoot off its tentacles that just continued to regenterate. It wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the heart-racing thrill of trying to take down a brute. Other new enemies aren’t as displeasing, but still weren’t worthwhile additions.

 

Gun-wielding Unitoligist soldiers occasionally attack you, but thanks to their terrible aim and minimal stopping power, they’re easily eliminated. They’re simply there for the sake of the story, a story that is completely forgettable and at times laughably stupid; another great reason to play with a friend.

 

Isaac is once again forced to face the Markers and the monstrosities they create, but the presentation of the conflict and the cast of characters are painfully dull. Isaac’s newest journey begins on a space station similar to the Sprawl, but is quickly forced to escape from Unitologists who are destroying the station and on a manhunt for Isaac because of his Marker-destroying reputation. From the start, characters do nothing but yell at each other in arguments over everything, and the main antagonist, a leader of the Unitologists, makes a habit of capturing Isaac, putting a gun to his head, and managing to let him escape after a lengthy monologue. The villain isn’t the only cliché though. There’s a not-so-surprising betrayal as well as an awkward love triangle, which only leads to more yelling between characters. Thankfully the laughably bad presentation is made easier to overlook thanks to the addictive new workbench.

 

The store and safe have now been integrated into the workbench, streamlining the experience, and credits have been completely replaced by resources. Resources can be used to craft weapon parts, supplies, and circuit nodes that upgrade weapon statistics such as damage and reload speed. Every time I came across a bench, I found myself spending several minutes managing my resources by dismantling materials and building others; mainly new weapon parts. Dead Space 3’s weapon building system is the most in-depth and addictive I’ve ever experienced. Several different sections of your weapon can be replaced with dozens of interchangeable parts that can slightly or drastically alter how it functions. Familiar favorites like the ripper and line gun are back along with new additions like the shotgun, revolver, and electric bolas. There are limited restrictions on combinations, but most can be combined together, encouraging experimentation. Coupled with circuit nodes and attachments that can add effects like acidic and fire rounds, there are countless possible weapons to be built, adding immense replay value. After 30 hours of playtime I still find myself experimenting with weapon builds and trying to decide what my ideal tool of destruction is. Resources, material and weapon crafting, as well as a wide range of tech puzzles have made Isaac feel more like an engineer than ever before. However, as much as these new elements have added enjoyment to the Dead Space experience, the game unfortunately loses its footing when trying to create the same intense action sequences of its predecessor.

 

I can easily recall several set pieces in Dead Space 2 that were nothing short of impressive, yet in Dead Space 3 it often feels as though I am simply moving from one room to another, clearing out necromorphs as I go. It doesn’t help that many of these rooms are identical, which hinders the expanded environments that encourage exploration. The set pieces range anywhere from mediocre to just down-right frustrating, often because they stray from what makes Dead Space fun; killing necromorphs. These poorly realized, non-combat scenarios and the new, awful, automatic save system were my two constant sources of frustration, particularly when they worked in conjunction. Getting killed by random debris that I failed to dodge was made even more infuriating when I had no idea if I was going to be set back two minutes or 15.

 

Despite its shortcomings, Dead Space 3 is the most differentiated addition to the series yet. It is not the best one, but its new features take it in a different, yet fun direction. Co-op and mediocre set pieces have taken the terror out of the game, and the attempt at a compelling narrative falls flat on its face. The phenomenal crafting system and joy of fighting alongside a friend are fun enough however to warrant a few playthroughs, especially in the various new game-plus modes that add additional gameplay challenges. The survival-horror Dead Space of old is gone, but the new action-co-op Dead Space is a good step in a different direction.

 

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