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Less horror, more action, same amazing experience

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                The first two games in the Dead Space series became known for their graphic dismemberment gameplay mechanics, a HUD-less display that helped immerse players in the chilling atmosphere, and an ever-present sense of fear that death could come from anywhere. But after two stellar but similar entries, Dead Space was in danger of losing its innovation unless it did something to help shakeup its formula. While some of the additions Visceral Visions made feel somewhat out of place for the series, don’t let that deter you. Dead Space 3 is another fantastic entry that deserves the attention of both series veterans and newcomers alike.

                The story starts off three years after the events of Dead Space 2, and Isaac has spent most of that time in hiding from the Unitology cult from the earlier two games. Once he learns that his friend Ellie disappeared after possibly finding a way to end the Necromorph monster outbreaks, he suits up again to find her. After that, however, the story becomes a confusing mess. Dead Space 3 frantically tries to weave alien conspiracies, love triangles, and moon plots into the story, but it fails to do so in a way that makes any of it feel compelling or interesting. By the time you make it to the last third of the game, you won’t know where you are or what you’re really doing and it makes the last few sections of the game feel very padded on.

                Controls have largely stayed the same, but they’ve added new dodge and cover mechanics for Isaac to use. Dodge works great, but going into covers can be a frustrating chore and simply does not come across as being beneficial in any way. Also added to the game are new enemy types, including human soldiers that will shoot back and throw grenades at Isaac, and Necromorphs that you can sneak by instead of engaging head-on. These new enemies and gameplay mechanics help to make each enemy encounter more unique than the last one, but they also present a more action-oriented experience than the traditional survival-horror that the series has come to be known for. The exceptional sound design and spine-chilling musical score that has become a series staples returns, but the music sometimes will give away if a room has been cleared of enemies or not, which can help take the player out of the environment. For the most immersive experience, I’d recommend playing in a dark room with headphones on and the music turned off.

                One of the most exciting new features for the game comes from the new weapon system. Instead of just finding weapon blueprints and then purchasing them like in the prior games, you now find parts in each level that can be used to create your own, personalized weapons. You want a flamethrower that also shoots electrified bolts and automatically gathers ammo for you? Go ahead and make it! The amount of parts and customization features seem endless. They’ve also replaced the old money system of the first two games with a new resource-gathering one. You’ll find a variety of resources throughout the game that can be used to upgrade your armor, create ammo or healing items, or make even more parts for your weapons. These two new systems work tremendously with oneanother and force you to carefully think about each critical spending decision you make.

                The brand new online co-op mode is another highlight for the game, where two players can tackle the full campaign as either Isaac or a brand new character, John Carver. While it would seem that having the safety of a partner would make the game less spooky, the developers did an outstanding job of making John’s backstory relevant to the gameplay by having him experience vivid hallucinations while the other player is left panicked and confused over what’s happening to their partner. This leaves both players tense as they wonder if they can trust their partner and the mode becomes a much more refined and polished multiplayer feature than the Team Deathmatch of the second game.

                While some of the new features of the game end up falling flat and the last few chapters of the game feel stretched out due to a lackluster and muffled story, Dead Space 3 ends up being another magnificent entry for the series.  The game is more action-oriented than its predecessors and that may upset some survival-horror fans, but the dynamic gameplay is easily the deepest in the series and the co-op experience goes against the odds to be a highly welcomed addition that gives it some much needed replayability and helps cement Dead Space as one of the most innovative and refreshing new IPs of this generation.

 

Final Score: 8.5

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