Dead Space 3 Review
Visceral Games' latest Dead Space installment is a survival horror game that tries too hard to be something more.
I’m not a huge fan of horror games. I’ve never played current hits such as Slender or Amnesia. To be honest they don’t appeal to me. The closest I’ve come to playing such games is through Resident Evil 4, which is still on my “all-time favorites” list. Ironically enough, my favorite part of Dead Space 3 is the horror. The portions of the game which exhibit plentiful amounts of tension and make you grip your controller in anticipation for the oncoming onslaught of humans turned necromorph are where Dead Space 3 shines. Unfortunately these moments are not in abundance, as Dead Space 3 strays away from its survival horror roots in order to obtain an “Uncharted-esque” barrage of action sequences and a compelling story. Again this is unfortunate, as Dead Space does neither of those things particularly well.
I’m not completely sure what part of Dead Space 3’s story made me not give a crap. Maybe it was the complete lack of empathy generated for any of the characters; or maybe it was the generic, ‘kill the aliens, save the world’, storyline; or maybe it was the disregard for any of the events of the previous games. I’ve got it! It was all those things. At no point during my play-through did I experience any sense of urgency. The plot feels contrived, which makes everything, especially twists, predictable and uninteresting. Plot points and cutscenes just blur together into a blob of indifference. Characters, while voiced fantastically, have very little depth and fail to strike any sort of emotional nerve. It’s a shame that the story didn’t register on an emotional level, as it would have certainly made my experience throughout the game more enjoyable.
However, not all is bad in Dead Space 3. In actuality I really enjoyed playing through the 12-15 hour campaign. The gameplay is fun, and while lacking in any real depth, it is enough to drive the game. The third person viewpoint works well, despite a few camera issues. (When enemies get close or pin you against a wall its hard to see where your aiming.) This is forgivable and combat is smooth regardless of this fault. A defining attribute of Dead Space 3 is its customization. While not as deep as RPG’s like Borderlands or Skyrim, there are a good deal of weapons to obtain. All weapons are created from a terminal called the “weapons bench”. Whether creating from a blueprint or through the use of parts found around the environments, there is enough variety in guns to keep you coming back. One playthrough will certainly not give you a chance to try out all the gun combinations, making an increased incentive to experience multiple playthroughs. Want a flamethrower attached to a shotgun? Go for it! Who says a little overkill is a bad thing? Upgrading is prevalent and a nice addition, although it doesn’t feel too diversifying at any point. There are a few sections which incorporate puzzles and hacking sequences, but these are scarce and extremely easy.
As I mentioned before, the best portions of the game are the ones centered around making you jump out of your chair. I would turn a corner and some creepy music would fester in the background, building up the tension and letting me know that someone was about to get jumped by zombie-things. Later on in the game, these moments increase in number and are intensified by the increasing lack of resources that you come by as the game progresses. I started off with a full inventory, having to sell and discard in order to keep spaces in my inventory, but towards the end of the game I found myself being chased by five or more enemies while I looked for pieces of ammo scattered around the area and occasionally stopping to utilize my telekinesis power. (Anyone who thinks theres a better power than being able to move stuff with your mind is crazy.) I’m forced yet again to complain, as these horror filled moments didn’t come too often. Portions of the game are spent walking around nicely lit and tensionless environments, while the game truly succeeds when your trust into the depths of some abandoned space station, or abandoned dig site… or abandoned research facility. (Everything in Dead Space is abandoned.) However, these breaks from horror aren’t all bad, as the larger and less scary environments give the game a chance to show its breathtaking graphics.
Visceral Games, the developer of all three installments, has certainly succeeded in the graphical department, upgrading on the previous games. The backgrounds in Dead Space 3 are pretty. From the depths of space to the snowy tundra of Tau Volantus, some of the landscape animations are jaw dropping. Definitely take a break from your necromorph rampage and take in the scenery. Don’t forget to send out some postcards. The visuals don’t shine through as much in the more enclosed areas of the game, but the game is still nice to look at nonetheless. Sound is another of the game’s strong points. Most of the horrifying aspects of the game come from the soundtrack, which is mostly composed of tension building sounds found in most horror films. It works well and definitely creeped me out during my playthrough. This game should be played with headphones, as the sounds will certainly be more likely to scare. Finally, the game’s replayability is mediocre compared to other multiplayer focused games. However, Dead Space 3 does a good job at adding extra amounts of playtime to the experience. There are tons of collectibles(artifacts, gun mods, etc…) scattered around the depths of the various locations. To find all of them will take a good amount of time. In addition, Co-op provides a new an interesting twist to the franchise. Playing with a friend is always more fun, but is sure to provide you with less scare inducing moments.
I didn’t hate Dead Space 3; don’t take my negativity the wrong way. I didn’t even dislike Dead Space 3. I think the game has a lot of strong points that make it a genuinely fun experience. However, I felt myself indifferent to the events of the story and the portions of the game that weren’t horror filled felt out of place and uninteresting. I don’t think fans of the series will be disappointed, but I also don’t think fans will be blown away and for that I can’t call Dead Space 3 a great game. It’s unfortunate that Dead Space 3’s shortcomings did the game so much harm, as the Dead Space franchise has a lot of potential and is only hindered by its desire to be more than it needs to be.