Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Dead Space 3

“The Necromorph infestation has finally been brought to its source Tau Volantis. This ice planet is the stage for another dramatic and truly terrifying adventure for one of modern gaming’s most reveled heroes; Isaac Clarke.”

The eagerly anticipated third instalment in EA’s critically acclaimed action-horror franchise returns in triumphant fashion. Dead Space 3 expands upon an already successful formula and incorporates some interesting new ideas including a comprehensive weapon-crafting system and co-op campaign to give players an engaging new way to participate in Isaac Clarke’s third adventure. While there are some underlying issues with pacing and story depth, if you overlook them Dead Space 3 delivers a truly thrilling and well-developed experience that fans of the series will thoroughly enjoy.

Your time with Dead Space 3 begins with a recap of the story and an opportunity to get your bearings back as Isaac. Returning gamers will find the ‘Previously in Dead Space’ segment just enough to spark up memories of past titles but newcomers will have absolutely no luck understanding the concept behind the franchise. This poses an immediate question mark and really got me thinking that in terms of story, Dead Space feels rather convoluted. Unfortunately this same principle applies to the third instalment with the story and narrative moving too fast and not allowing you as a gamer to ever really feel invested in the characters and their woes. Perhaps the worst thing Visceral Games did was give Isaac a voice and while the voice acting itself is of a decent standard, you begin falling in an out of paying attention to what our hero has to say.

Fortunately Dead Space 3’s gameplay and environments are so good that the lackluster story poses little hindrance to an otherwise incredible experience. It’s really rare for a game that struggles in story telling to still be able to grip you so tightly with the fantastic array of environments you visit. Dead Space 3 sees Isaac travel to the frozen ice planet Tau Volantis, which is a gorgeous visual treat but everywhere you seem to go whether it’s a facility or a cave, it’s truly terrifying thanks to clever lighting and audio. Whether you agree that Dead Space is a survival horror or action horror franchise, there’s little dispute that at times this is a very scary game.

One of Dead Space 2’s biggest faults was a serious lack of creativity in comparison to its predecessor; well the third instalment makes sure to implement some cool new ideas that keep this from being more than just another clone. The introduction of a captivating weapon-crafting system finally gives gamers the excuse to stop using just the Plasma Cutter. Although the series’ original weapons make a return, finding loot throughout your journey allows you to marry components from guns together to create some powerful and diverse weapons to help you defeat the Necromorphs. Dead Space 3 also makes sure that you are forced to make full use of the crafting system; where as before any fully upgraded weapon could take down the majority of enemies you are put up against, here different weapons need to be used for particular enemies. This ensures that just like a brand new fad, you keep up to date with all the latest parts you find and make good use of them as you encounter terrifying and diverse new enemies.

It’s even more gratifying when games couple fantastic gameplay with terrific set action segments. Although the majority of your time with Dead Space 3 will be spent dismembering Necromorphs, there are key sections that will have you leaping for joy; for example the opening Prologue has a thrilling race against a falling avalanche that was totally awesome. The level of excitement really reminds me of the PlayStation exclusives Uncharted and it’s a testament to video game developers when such fine action moments present themselves frequently throughout one single game.

Whether you’re a fan of traditional survival horror or the modern action horror genre, you’ll be subjected to both types of gameplay throughout your time with Dead Space 3. The opening chapters see Isaac battle against enemies with weapons in a much more action-oriented style of gameplay, while latter chapters really begin immersing you in desolate and horrifying locations that function as the survival horror sections of Dead Space 3. There’s a fine balance that keeps action intense while simultaneously dropping you into chapters that are chilling and challenging on the senses.

Another significant addition that plays an important role in changing Dead Space 3’s experience is the option to play the campaign mode cooperatively. You lose nothing from the experience going either way, in fact I would argue that some of the horror elements are lost when you have a buddy along for the ride. That being said, some of the game is cleverly designed to implement two people and there’s something really satisfying about finally being able to tackle the Necromorphs with a friend. It’s a shame however that the new character John Carver falls way short of expectation (it’s not surprising considering how high the standard was set with Isaac) but the dialogue between the two fails to really deliver.

Dead Space 3 continues to expand in a positive manner by introduction for the first time, optional side missions. Whether you choose to partake in these extra quests really depends on how quickly you want to get to the end of the game and how much extra loot you want to build better weapons. The side missions vary in content, are for the most part interesting and prolong the end of the came substantially totaling up to approximately 20-25% of Dead Space 3’s campaign. 

From a technical point of view Dead Space 3 really impresses across the board. Visually it’s another truly stunning title, which is nothing less than what’s expected from the series. While the story fails to build any emotional investment the fantastic atmosphere and sound design captivate and begin sending chills down your spine as you dig deeper into Isaac psyche and the perils in store. Most impressive however is Dead Space 3’s excellent gameplay mechanics that are fast-paced, engaging and a whole load of fun.

Overall Dead Space 3 is a wonderful package. Some pacing issues throughout the campaign and a weak story are the noticeable disappointments here but they stick out only because everything else is so damn good. Fans of the series will be happy to continue Isaac’s journey but those of you yet to play a Dead Space game need to go back and revisit the first two before you opt for this adventure.

8.5 | Gameplay |

Gameplay is by far Dead Space 3’s strongest suit. The addition of an awesome new weapon crafting system ensures players don’t repeat the same nonsensical approach of simply using the Plasma Cutter like in the previous installments. Players now have to tactically think and create appropriate weapons to deal with particular situations. Excellent action segments are spread across a well-developed campaign.

9.0 | Presentation |

You expect nothing less than utter perfection from Dead Space and there’s certainly no exception here. Each and every single environment and character model looks stunning. The ice planet is vast and dangerous while smaller areas are just as dangerous with enemies lurking around every corner. This is a perfect example of how horror is produced through sound and imagery and these two areas are so strong that it easily compensates for the lackluster story.

7.5 | Replay Value |

The introduction of co-op pretty much ensures gamers will go through Dead Space 3 a minimum of two times. With so much stuff to find and collect a second playthrough is pretty much essential. Is there enough here to invest gamers for a third time on one of the more brutal difficulty levels? I don’t think so. Die-hard fans of the series will enjoy the challenge but once you’ve seen the ending two times that’s probably enough.

8.0 | Final Thoughts |

Dead Space 3 is another awesome instalment in one of this generation’s most popular franchises. There’s enough interesting new content to keep a formula that’s not known for change, feeling fresh while at the same time providing that familiar engaging and tense experience we’ve all come to know and love. While by no means perfect, it’s absolutely worthwhile to play and see how Isaac’s story progresses.

Igor Kharin.

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