Dead Space 3 Review: What Happened to You?
Good games have a look and a feel to them. It’s something that’s almost intangible, and transcends the processing power and controls. It’s something that finds its way into every facet of the title, elevating the entire experience into something special.
Dead Space 2 had this. Dead Space 3 does not.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed my time with Dead Space 3, more or less. The things it does well, it does very well. But it’s lacking a certain magic, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to join in with the pundits’ criticism on this one – in it’s shift to a more action oriented title, Dead Space 3 has lost a little of what made the franchise so great.
The Return of Isaac
Let’s start with the positive. Immediately after a somewhat jarring prologue, we rejoin our favorite tortured space badass, Isaac Clarke. Let me just say I love this guy. Dead Space 2 gave him a voice, and did a great job of characterizing him, and that more or less continues here. Anything and everything good in the story stems from Isaac. There are really no exceptions. He gets a straight up goob for a partner who looks like he just flew in from “Gears of War Douchebag City: Population Marcus Fenix, Dom whatever the F, and this guy,” but it gives Isaac an excuse to annihilate Necromorphs with a partner, so it’s okay in my book.
Isaac is what continues to ground this series, even as the action ramps up and the necromorphs become even more believable. Somehow, he’s still able to straddle the line between “complete badass” and “vulnerable hero,” the John McClane formula that’s responsible for Die Hard being the best action movie ever made. One minute he’s doing something unbelievably cool, and the next, he’s going crazy. Or getting his limbs chopped off. Especially when I play. I probably have the highest “limb dismemberment ratio” of poor Isaac this side of Colorado.
I was glad to Ellie back and play a part in the story, but I could have done without her massive boob job. I mean, I know it’s been said before, but did the guys who did Dead Space 1 and 2 hand their franchise to Michael Bay? Was he an executive producer I didn’t hear about? It’s like a bad joke, except it’s actually Dead Space 3. When Ellie’s breasts are pleading Isaac to help her, or when Ellie’s breasts tell me to turn the power generator back on, I just can’t take her seriously. You took a modestly designed character dressed in practical (non-cleavage displaying) clothing in Dead Space 2, and then gave her some ridiculous enhancements and a shirt that basically paints a huge target for the necromorphs on her chest. Sigh.
The gameplay is more or less the same; use your “engineering” weapons to dismember Necromorphs as they seek self-inflicted genocide by throwing legions of themselves at you. If their ultimate goal is the survival and spreading of their “species,” this doesn’t seem like the way to go. While the gameplay basics are there, and it “looks” like a Dead Space game, it doesn’t really “feel” like Dead Space. Movement is faster. Enemies seem to care less about your shots, walking through them seemingly more than ever before. And…it just seems to lack the same level of polish. Again, maybe that’s not a fair criticism, but you’ll see when you play – Dead Space 3 just seems like a straight to DVD sequel of a (mostly) beloved franchise.
Like build-a-bear, but with guns
While the gameplay has seen a downtick in quality, crafting weapons has never been more fun, and is a deep, rewarding system. It’s unfortunate that crafting weapons is the highlight of a space horror game, but thems the breaks, and my belief is you will probably have more fun finding resources and crafting weapons than actually, you know, playing the game.
Co-op is pretty solid, and because of the series’ new direction, I’d say it’s the preferred way to play. The story was clearly designed with your partner in mind. I’d say having a buddy cheapens the scares, but since there’s really none to speak of in the beginning, you might as well go balls to the wall. Just what you’ve always wanted in your horror. In my playthrough, I ordered my partner to shoot everything while I hid in the back and collected the rewards. Because I’m an expert.
Dead Space used to be the “last bastion of survival horror.” People would criticize the direction of Resident Evil and point to Dead Space, asking “why can’t they be more like this franchise?” Maybe that’s why it’s so disheartening to see Dead Space 3 take the EXACT SAME trajectory. The fears feel artificial because it’s clearly not the focus, and the game suffers for it because the mechanics weren’t ever designed for it. Dead Space 3 isn’t a bad game by any means, and if you’re a fan of the others, I’d encourage you to check it out. It just could have been so much better.
I give Dead Space 3 three Ellie’s breasts out of five.