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Review - Dead Space 3 - On Ice!

The third time is a charm. Well, at least that's what they say, but truth be told, by the third time around a series is at risk of growing stale. There's a chance that fans will be satisfied with the same style game for a third time, but there's as equal a chance they will want something more. The question the developers must ask is: "What changes can be made that will keep the series fresh, while still accommodating to our fans desires?". So Visceral games made changes as you'd expect, but do these changes ultimately bring Dead Space to a new level, or do they bring about it's downfall?

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PRESENTATION

Dead Space 3 looks pretty great. There has been a new attention to detail and it really shows. For example, I love that in dark lit areas the light from beyond Isaac's visor will shine onto wall. It's a small detail, but it looks really awesome. In addition Dead Space 3 has the most open and large areas of the series yet. The path forward is still quite linear and obvious, but areas like space for example really don't feel like they have boundaries at all (they do; I tried).

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the Necromorphs look more alien and less human this time. Maybe it's because I've gotten used to fighting them that they don't look nearly as intimidating. I also don't think they look nearly as gruesome either, even though a lot of old enemy variations return.

The game in general isn't really scary anymore. It seems like Visceral abandoned the horror scene for full action, which turns out to not be such a bad thing. Unless you're a big horror junkie. 

As impressive as the visuals are, I have a couple complaints. For one, I encountered several visual glitches, one of which I had to restart my system because Isaac somehow super glued himself to a locker door. I mean it's hard to ignore when one of the NPC's vanishes in plain sight, but the levers he was working with are still moving. I encountered small glitches like these throughout my playthrough. All except for one were visual and didn't have an effect on gameplay, and the two I shared were as bad as it got. Even though they didn't really effect my progression in the game, it certainly momentarily ripped me from the experience. I didn't experience any glitches in Dead Space 1 or 2, so I was fairly shocked I saw as many as I did here. 

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My other complaint is that the side quest use the same map, except for the layout gets re-arranged. By this I mean the rooms you go through are the same, but the the order in which you go through them is jumbled. But it's still the same room. This leads to the feeling that Visceral cut the corners to throw in extra content. Much like the copy and paste job I discussed in my review of the Dead Space 2: Severed DLC.

I have to comment on the voice acting as it's exceedingly good. Especially for Isaac. He has really come to life since we first met him as the grunting, stomping engineer. 

All together, Dead Space 3's presentational aspects are great, but glitches are a plague. The glitches may be small, but they add up quickly to really hurt the experience.

STORY

Let's get caught up to speed. Isaac has now destroyed 2 markers, defeated hordes of Necromorphs, defied Earth Gov, and pissed off the entire Unitologist religion. It's safe to say Isaac's got himself into a pretty bad situation. Even in his attempts to retire from his expeditions against the Markers, the trouble follows him. 

When a man by the name of Captain Norton shows up at his door (or more likely bust it in) and tells Isaac that they've lost contact with his ex-girlfriend (and still current love interest) on a special mission, Isaac's all but forced to join in on the search party. The trip takes them in orbit of Tau Volantis, where the SCAF forces of 200 years earlier came in seach of a means to solving the same Marker crisis. 

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The story is definitely more developed then before; it's not just about Isaac's fight for survival, but a means to an end for the Markers and the deadly alien race it spawns. Isaac's story is riddled with his love life. He finds himself stuck on the bad end of a typical love triangle. It's not that the story of the love triangle is bad, but the characters become quite over dramatized. I feel like the characters are far too up front about their emotions, and mood swings surface far too often.

Even still, Isaac's come more to life then ever before. But his story isn't the only story being told this time. Enter John Carver. Carver is the co-op player, and he brings along his own story. It's of course tiny in comparison with Isaac's, but I still found interest in him. Sadly, the only way to really get his story is to play through the co-op exclusive missions (preferably being the player playing as Carver).

The other big story going on is that of the SCAF forces I mentioned earlier. Their story is told solely through audio recordings and text logs, but it is definitely the most mysterious. I kept wondering what happened during their time that went wrong. It unravels as you progress in the game, and even ties in with Isaac's story. I'd highly recommend taking the time to read and listen to all the logs, the story has a good effect with their inclusion. 

I'd even say that from a story perspective, Dead Space 3 is the most powerful of the Dead Space games. 

GAMEPLAY

We all remember the gameplay that laid the foundation of the past 2 games: You kill Necromorphs by shooting off their limbs, stomp anything and everything on the floor, and the series seems to become more action packed as it progresses. Much of the old gameplay has returned but now it's mostly action, with hardly any jump scares or creepy moments at all. This isn't entirely a bad thing, as the action is exciting and fun. It's only a problem because of what fans have come to expect from the series. 

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Sadly a large number of changes have been made. None of them make the game drastically different on their on their own, but the combined force of all these smaller changes leads for a quite different feel. 

The biggest and most noticeable change is the weapon crafting system. In previous Dead Space games, all your weapons have pre-determined primary and secondary fire. Now the choice is yours. It's open to seemingly endless possibilities. For example, my favorite personally made weapon is a sniper rifle with a submachine gun for secondary fire. Plus you can throw on special perks like a scope for increased zoom, or even fire coating on your shots. 

However, it does come at a cost. For one, you can now only carry 2 weapons where as before you were allowed 4. Also the guns are no longer solely focused on aiming at limbs. It seems some weapons don't even require the technique to be used.Crafting itself isn't instantly gripping either. I was well into the game before I became remotely interested. However once you get the concept of collecting parts and materials, and how to use the crafting system effectively, it becomes quite addictive to see what different ways you can slaughter your enemies. 

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I was kind of shocked at the "disappearance" of inventory management. All the weapons now run off the same universal ammo, so worrying about what kind of ammo you are carrying is no longer an issue. In my opinion, this "issue" of inventory management was always a part of Dead Space that I even enjoyed. The universal ammo was obviously made to accommodate for the co-op mode. 

Another new inclusion is the side missions. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a fan of the design of these missions, but they also seem to drag on. The excitement from the main game seem to have abandoned me during the side quest. At least for me, I felt like I was just doing them in hopes of avoiding missing something awesome, but the reward was hardly worth it. Visceral also takes advantage of these missions to throw several hordes of enemies that don't seem to stop coming. This would be fun if not for the sometimes flawed enemy AI that will rush you into a corner and remain so close to you that Isaac can't aim at them properly, leaving you to rely on your incredibly weak melee attack. (I already did a post on the AI not long ago, feel free to check that out to see what I mean). The only good thing about side missions is it adds more backstory and you can unlock an extra suit for completing them all. 

I admit that at first I was very negative about all the changes, and even now writing this review, I've sure had a good number of complaints, but realistically, I cant deny that the gameplay is still a ton of fun. It's still Dead Space, and the new stuff works quite well once you adjust.

CO-OP

The new hook for Dead Space 3 is it's co-op multiplayer. Though surely it's an optional feature, the game does seemed designed with co-op in mind. Even when playing alone. As far as co-op goes, it's works fairly well. 

Having a partner alongside you makes the game a lot more fun. As with all online play, the experience you have is influenced by the kind of person you're playing with. Most of the time, I found the game to be more enjoyable with a buddy.

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 There are some limitations of course. You can't go more than one room ahead of your partner (which is actually pretty generous compared to some other co-op games), and some things can only be started or activated when both players are present, but they will only produce a problem if your partner isn't being cooperative.

There are some minor bothers that can be caused. If someone is to join a game they have you wait until the host player reaches a checkpoint. Depending on when the joining player get's connected, the wait time to actually join could be a while. Additionally, should the co-op player leave the game, you're forced to reset at the previous checkpoint, which will erase the progress of any crafting or upgrading you've done since then. It makes sense with the story for Carver to not disappear in thin air, but a better drop in/drop out feature would have fared better.

Usually when it comes to online co-op, I like to play on my own the first time through. I'd actually recommend against this for Dead Space 3. Not only does playing with a friend increase the fun in the game, but you get a slightly lager serving of the story and there is little risk for your partner ruining the experience for you. But where's the split screen co-op?

RECAP

 Dead Space 3 has a handful of flaws and numerous changes that fans wont immediately welcome with open arms. However, by the end of the game all my previous complaints (with the exception of the glitches) had gone away. Dead Space 3 may not be a whole lot like the previous games, but it's still a damn fun game. With a large number of collectibles, different modes to play through after the first completion, and the fun co-op, I'm still playing this game just for kicks.

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