The initial entry into the “Dead Space” franchise marked a risky attempt at a survival horror game, a genre of game that, unlike the modern shooter or action adventure genre, has a much smaller market share. Electronic Arts pushed on despite of the fact and along titles such as “FEAR” and “Resident Evil”, “Dead Space” became the face of horror games on console.
Fans of the original “Dead Space” title may be sad to see the progression of this horror genre into more of a straight forward shooter. As “Dead Space” has aged, it has, like “Resident Evil”, drifted from the dark and disturbing horror title that took audiences by storm, and instead slowly shifted toward a survival shooter with only a base level of horror shrouding over the game. Released on Feb. 5, “Dead Space 3” drifted even farther away from the roots of the original entry, and, like the second game, transformed itself into a more modern shooter to sell to audiences. The games, though they have transformed, have continuously improved and there is no exception here; whether it was exploring space or the ice planet of Tau Volantis, “Dead Space 3” provided a gaming experience that set the bar for modern shooters.
Setting an industry standard is no easy accomplishment, and when EA first brought on “Dead Space” as a game in its current lineup, I doubt that they knew they were going to create one of the best looking shooters. The original entry of “Dead Space” has our engineer running around the USG Ishimura (a spaceship abandoned in “Dead Space”) trying to save the crew from the Necromorph threat, and also find his lost girlfriend Nicole. The ship brought alien technology aboard called a marker, and the device released a frequency that transformed the crew into an undead parasitic being. Frantically running around with a clunky engineer and makeshift guns, “Dead Space” scared gamers at every turn, while still taking them on an emotional journey through the eyes of the silent protagonist.
“Dead Space 2” kicks off with Isaac waking in a mental hospital. He managed to destroy the marker and the Ishimura Necromorphs, but upon finishing his journey, Isaac’s mental state deteriorated when he was attacked by the image of his now-dead girlfriend Nicole. Awake on Titan Station, Isaac learns that they created a new marker from the information stored in his memory. Now having to charge into battle against another Necromorph threat, Isaac teams up with ex-military Ellie and ex-hospital patient Stross; the trio has to run around Titan Station trying to undo the Necromorph threat while also running from Earth Gov (the intergalactic military).
After an epic conclusion that results in the destruction of Titan Station, and Isaac killing his inner demon (shown in the form of Nicole), Isaac escapes the station with Ellie. The second game highlights include Isaac once again running around the Ishimura and the intergalactic space station, providing audiences with scares like the original series, but it also branches out. The game gives Isaac some new tools and more weapons and also adds many action QTE sequences throughout the campaign.
Taking the highlights of the initial entries as a launch pad, the third game takes flight and throws our protagonist back into the heart of the Necromorph threat. Isaac, now broken mentally, on the run from Earth Gov and dumped by Ellie, has lost everything and has nothing left to fight for. On top of this pile of emotional turmoil, Isaac is chased by Unitologists, a religion believing the markers will bring mankind to the next stage of evolution. Chased down by the soldiers and Danik their leader, Isaac teams up with Ellie and her new ex-Earth Gov boyfriend to go and search for the origin of the Markers.
From the initial street fights in the lunar city to a Michael Bay-like ending and all of the amazing gameplay in between, “Dead Space 3” ties you in and immerses you into the conflict and struggle, making you feel sympathetic for our distraught hero, and feel hatred towards everything that stands in your way. “Dead Space 3” builds off some solid features established in the earlier entries, and introduces some new mechanics that only help better the game in every way.
To begin the analysis of the game, you should know that some of the attributes the other games have built, such as amazing graphic display and some unique gameplay elements, are not only all still here but also brought to the highest degree of excellence. No game made has yet to portray the vast emptiness of space better than “Dead Space 3.” One third of the game takes place in the ruined ships circling our ice planets, and it’s in this beginning portion we get a solid glimpse at some of the unique gameplay that makes “Dead Space” so great.
Whether you just want to explore space and the crashed vessels floating within it to searching for collectibles and resources, or you are fighting off Necromorphs in the tight combines of the ships, this initial portion of the game takes what made the last two games so great and gives you newfound freedom to be amazed by the vastness of the dark abyss. Flying around feels natural and easy, and there are hours of material in just this beginning portion. The quality of the game does not drop after your crash landing on the icy planet, though. It is here the game begins to escalate and we dive into the story.
The game brings back many of the engineering mini games that we know from the previous entries, along with some new additions. The short breaks from violence do not draw us out from the story or action, but instead remind us of Isaacs’s roots as an engineer—that this character is just a man who has been thrown into conflict over and over again. The game does transform Isaac making him more soldier and superior, but it does a great job at also making him human.
We experience constant lost as our team slowly dies around us, making you wonder if it was better when Isaac was just charging in solo. As we slowly lose our crew and Isaac deals with the struggles of losing Ellie, we don’t see a man snapping necks and brushing off missiles, but a soul that is tired and spent, devoting all he has to a better cause. The game does a great job of character development, making you love the characters you are trying to protect and hate the enemies. We feel for Isaac, Ellie and even Carter near the end of this story, and we are filled with anger towards Danik at every turn. The game introduces him early and does a great job making him a smart and manipulative villain to go toe to toe with Isaac, Necromorph Slayer.
A lot of negative feedback comes from the avid horror gamers who are disappointed with this game’s transition to a more mainstream third person shooter, but in context it shouldn’t happen any other way. Our protagonist Isaac Clarke has already destroyed two markers and fought off countless Necromorphs on his journey, so if he felt like the clunky engineer from game one, it wouldn’t make sense. He comes to us now with a new combat roll, stronger melee attacks, and the ability to make custom weapons. With all this in tow, we get a soldier ready for battle.
The new weapon system in particular sets this game apart from its predecessors. Throughout the game Isaac collects resources which can be used to build weapon parts, upgrades, attachments and an assortment of items like health packs and stasis packs, etc. The game allows you to hold two weapons, but you can mix and match any weapons to create a deadly new combination. Whether you fight off soldiers with a semi assault rifle/shotgun combination that has acid bullets, or face the Necromorphs with a Ripper blade/line gun powered by electricity, the game allows you as an engineer to mix and match any gun and special perk to create the ultimate killing tool. The new system partners up with scavenging bots, allowing you access to even more resources, and ensures that no matter what situation Isaac finds himself in, he will be packing a gun that is ready for the job.
Tau Volantis is beautiful; the planet may be a dead icy wasteland filled with Necromorphs, aliens and religious soldiers, but the icy tundra is brought to life with a level of quality that will have you shivering. On top of the vast snow-filled map is also a labyrinth of military and scientific buildings for Isaac to explore. Aside from the main story, the game throws Isaac a good deal of side quests that, once obtained, should be handled immediately. The adventures give us a little break from the story, diving deeper into the history of the icy planet, while also giving Isaac a bundle of new toys and resources to march back into battle with. The quests are not forced or boring, but instead a nice break from Isaacs’s epic campaign to explore all the little details hidden on Tau Volantis.
The weakest point of this game is the forced co-op. There are only 3 missions unobtainable in solo play, but it is on these missions that Carver’s character is fully developed, and if you don’t embark then you are missing out on a great character. Co-op does reduce the fear factor a little bit in the normal story, but we find that this game isn’t here to provide us with cheap thrills and jumpy moments, but instead a deep story that we will hold with us.
Isaac Clarke came, saw and conquered the Necromorph threat two times over, but in the third “Dead Space” entry, Isaac goes out to learn about the origins of the threat, and how the Markers work. From Crash Landing on Tau Volantis to discovering the planet’s alien race, “Dead Space 3” is an epic journey filled with great character and story development. The game sheds a lot of light on the back story of “Dead Space” and the Necromorph threat, while also giving us a new adventure and a new threat to crush. Isaac may have been transformed into a soldier, but given the circumstances, it was bound to happen. Horror might not be the focus, but now Isaac handles like a man ready for what’s in front of him. The graphics are stunning, gameplay fine-tuned, weapon crafting done exceptionally well. Crushing Necromorphs is still a bloody and satisfying endeavor. From beginning to end, “Dead Space 3” is an exceptional game that should be experienced by all.