The lights are on
In the past few years, Visceral Games has definitely turned previous thoughts on the horror and survival genres on their heads. With their first entry in the dead Space saga, they crafted a unique, visually appealing sojourn through the eerie ship known as the USS Ishimura, and set a marketable trend for years to come. Since those few years ago, back in '08 and '09, the series couldn't have come farther. A year or so later, in 2010, a sequel was released that broadened the scope of survival from one little mining ship to an entire cityscape, albeit boiling down to simply a bigger and better ship. With a plethora of side content and DLC, Dead Space 2 proved that even the awesome formula from Dead Space 1 could be improved upon. And now we come to the third, and certainly not the worst, installment in the new franchise. Dead Space 3 is truly an impressive testament to hard work, dedication, and visual appeal, as it battens down the hatches and forces player to hold on tight if they wish to make it through the tense trip. Not only has Visceral created a better game overall than the other two Dead Space games prior to 3, but they've broadened things even a little bit more. Instead of simply surviving and escaping to fight the Necromorphic horrors another day, now you're essentially trapped on an entirely dead planet populated my many, many more horrible creatures- the likes of which even Isaac has yet to have seen. Well, and you open up the experience to a buddy to share in the psychotic trauma as well, so...
Dead Space goes back to humanity's roots with this title, basically boiling everything down to one or two objectives throughout the game, with a few accompanying goals as well: survive, and see how much loot and resources you can find for more weapons to help you survive. With a newly added challenge of surviving both the perils of Tau Volantis itself, in addition to the creatures that dwell there, Isaac sure does have his work cut out for him. Luckily he doesn't always have to bear the load by himself, seeing as there is the newly added 2-player cooperative mode to explore throughout the evolving story as well, and his ever expanding arsenal of creative goodies and limb-hacking tools. Not everything revolves around the new setting however, and there is also the matter of how Isaac arrives upon Tau Volantis in the first place, seeing as he hasn't yet acquired the teleportation upgrade to my knowledge. Suffice it to say, you won't just be stuck on the planet the entire time throughout Dead Space 3, and you'll see quite a few different environments as well- though nothing too dissimilar from the hallways and metallic vistas of Dead Space 1 or 2, other than the snowy plains of the ice planet. Zero gravity sequences return to some extent, as to be expected, and are actually quite polished this time around- being more open to player will and such. Heck, there's even some side content in-game this time around as well! Side missions, bonus goals, you name it.
As players probably noticed between Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and then Revelations, so will you notice that between Dead Space 2 and 3, some minor adjustments to multiple systems have been made. No longer do you simply find mysterious amounts of cash everywhere for upgrades, but you must instead find particular resources and minerals for weapons and items a la Mass Effect. Now, you aren't limited so much in what you can do with these resources, as you can do most anything from purchase awesome new suit upgrades to creating your own unique weapons- it's your call. The weapons bench is a healthy lesson in greed and respect for technology,a s your minion-like scavenger robots report in readily with available supplies, upgrades, and more- thus opening your options up to a broader perspective in terms of number. Not to mention, your inventory management could mean the difference between life and death as much as any health pack or stamina boost would in any game. While you have the choice between buying and upgrading weapons in any combination of in-game creation or quick micro-transactions for a couple of dollars, in reality, you have all of the tools you need at your fingertips from the get-go. You start off with a basic line cutter, which can be upgraded in any large number of ways- whether it be from adding stasis ammo types to changing the gun frame- and then you can really go anywhere with the design. Even better, when you disassemble something you've crafted, you get a small portion of the resources you sunk into that weapon or item back, which definitely piques experimentation galore.
Dead Space 3's weapon crafting is top-notch, and certainly a well deserved improvement over the still fine ones used in the previous games, or at least to some extent. There are numerous combinations, which- though not infinite, do open up a lot of different scenarios for confrontations to play through at the very least. It's both easy and fun to craft a thoroughly devastating side-arm for Isaac to wield, especially with the new action-orientation this time around. While Isaac didn't handle like a tank (or like a character from Resident Evils 1-3 anyway) in previous games, his new moveset and other abilities definitely open up a whole new realm of survival techniques and allow players to be a little more risky a la Resident Evil 6 (albeit done correctly of course). Now, you can roll out of the way of some "mini-bosses" instead of sitting there and taking the pain over and over as they viciously rip into you countless times, and you can even sprint a tad bit more and move a bit faster so as to avoid some serious injuries that could set you back later. Overall, this allows for less time spent worrying over evading attacks, and more time spent developing countermeasures in response. The game still retains it's horrific origins, by pacing well throughout the entirety of the story, building suspense before every battle royale, and also of course injecting that little jump scare here and there in tight spaces. God, that one never gets old does it?
It may disappoint the few fans (in regards to overall fanbase) of the mode in the second game, but major multiplayer components do not make a return in this third entry. The game is instead more streamlined for what worked best this time around it seems, and that simply did not make the cut. In its place however is the infinitely more enjoyable cooperative mode, which also grants a new character in Carver, for the small price of online-only connection. Sure, you'll get twice as many enemies thrown your way, but you can play on much harder difficulties with another person by your side, and it also takes some of the decidedly downright evil objectives out of the way as well. Cooperative lords will love this next fact- some missions are singled out in single player (would you guess why?) for cooperative only, and also reward those players willing to go out of their way with a buddy with some more story-related content and weapons/loot as well. Although not at any major expense for solo gurus. While as a cooperative player, Carver's background is virtually unknown save a few flashbacks and Dead Space-esque telling points, although he does have his fair share of insane moments and hallucinations of his own as well. There are a few issues in multiplayer, but these remain mostly minor inconveniences, and can be remedied by simply enjoying the campaign story in single player- which is remarkably 90% or more bug-free.
As Tim and many others have noticed lately, while each Dead Space game has been very good and all have received excellent scores over the past few years, this third one here is easily the best and most explosive of all, if not being known for being the scariest, as the original undoubtedly was. Dead Space 3 remains a horror story at it's roots, but proves that it can evolve and mix genres with the best of them, as it does and branches out even further into the cooperative space this time around. You should test yourself, whether you're a fan of the series or not, and go out and try Dead Space 3 right now- it's your treat...
Concept: Broaden the scope of one of the best sci-fi horror franchises of modern gaming, and bring another friend along for the ride at the expense of a true multiplayer side outlet.
Graphics: From enemy details to the snowy and spacial vistas of Tau Volantis, you'll constantly be reminded that it is truly a new year for gamers everywhere, with new visual highs.
Sound: The hoarse chortles of necromorphs are unsettling as ever, and the grunts of pain from Isaac and his friends have actually evolved even further into conversation, and don't sound like they were nabbed from Doom Guy.
Playability: The changes to the control scheme for mobility are well-done and just how resident Evil 6 would have been in a perfect world...
Entertainment: It truly is scary, even now, three or four years later. Well, that, and it's as impressive or more so than ever as well. Just when you thought it couldn't get bigger or better...it does.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 9.5