Nintendo released the Wii U a few months ago, Sony just announced the PlayStation 4, and by all accounts the new Xbox will be announced before the E3 Expo in Los Angeles a few months from now. It is amazing how time flies. Can you believe the Xbox 360 is now almost eight years old? It is in fact just recently, in the twilight of the current console generation, that games are really using everything the hardware can provide. The skill that developers have harnessed with the hardware along with evolution of current franchises makes it a great time to be a gamer.
One of this generation’s current franchises, the survival-horror and third-person shooter hybrid Dead Space, began almost five years ago. Like competing publisher 2K’s Bioshock, EA’s Dead Space has been popular with core gamers looking for a darker, more immersive experience than other shooters provide. Dead Space 3 doesn’t make quite the drastic change that Bioshock Infinite looks to make later this year, but it is a significant evolution from the original. While the feature list of Dead Space 3 is certainly longer in this newest outing, these features don’t necessarily make the experience better.
Dead Space 3 continues the series of misfortunes that makes up the former engineer Isaac Clarke’s life. After a look back in time, the game picks up in not an entirely original way, in the middle of Isaac’s pity party after his girl split. Isaac Clarke’s apartment and situation is reminiscent of Korben Dallas’s in The Fifth Element and similarly the feds show up to recruit the space veteran. The fact that story borrows heavily is forgivable, but the lengths to which it reaches, particularly at the end, is embarrassingly laughable.
Isaac Clarke, formerly a ship’s engineer, is nothing if not resourceful and Dead Space 3 really exploits those assets. Isaac has also picked up some more combat abilities for this adventure. For the most part, the controls are like any other third-person shooter. The movement and camera adjustments are made with the analog sticks and the aiming and primary firing are done with the triggers. Isaac’s customizable weapons also have a secondary function which is used with the right bumper. He can create a temporary stasis; utilize kinesis; and now, he can combat roll out of danger. On the Xbox 360, voice commands can be used for interface options as well as gameplay actions like reloading.
Where things have really changed up is in the weapon creation. Isaac can find weapons, modify weapons, and even create guns from scratch. Throughout the game, resources and frames can be collected to be used at workbenches where Isaac can go to build things. If you want a plasma gun flamethrower to accomplish a task, you’re good. These RPG elements utilized in weapons and gear add a lot to the experience. Mass Effect 3 players get a bonus N7 suit for their loyalty to the publisher. Another cool addition is a little bot that will go gather resources for you, if you remember to utilize it.
There is a lot to love about the atmospheric Dead Space 3. The presentation is what you would expect from the world’s largest publisher. The sound, voices, and music are all top notch and floating through space is really a cool experience. The game does, however, get a little tedious and predictable after awhile. That is the price of length, I guess. Gamers complain constantly about campaigns being too short, but Dead Space 3 is three to four times as long as most shooters and suffers because of it. If not for the depth of the RPG elements and the optional co-op, the new game+ mode (it exists following the first play through) would likely be a wasted feature.
The drop-in/out co-op element in Dead Space 3 is a worthy effort to be sure. It adds a new story element with the inclusion of John Carver, one of the soldiers sent to recruit Isaac. Entire sections are co-op only areas which is disappointing for solo gamers. The consolation is that there isn’t too much of the story that is missed by playing alone. The Kinect features from the single player carry over and assistance commands are also added in co-op. Of course, Carver isn’t as resistant to the markers’ influence as Isaac and will break down, plagued by hallucinations which add a further wrinkle to the additional content. Unfortunately, a couple of technical and continuity issues do mar the two player experience.
Dead Space 3 adds a lot to the franchise and on paper this game is the best of the series. This new adventure captures the feeling of being in space better and to break it up, a good portion of the game is on the ground. Maybe that’s the part of where the game just doesn’t always feel like a Dead Space game. The biggest problem is that many of the plot elements are silly. It is similar to how Mass Effect 3 was technically a better game than its predecessors, but even discounting the ending, was a less fulfilling experience. Dead Space 3 is a deep and well put together game; I just can’t stop wishing it was a little better.
Dead Space 3 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PC and PS3.