Dead Space 3 Review
It was never going to be an easy ride for Dead Space 3 as the latest addition to a horror franchise that has sold in excess of 5 million copies, but with a variety of mixed reviews already available online, things aren’t looking great for the latest title from Visceral Games.
Following the plot from previous Dead Space games players take on the role of Isaac Clarke, following him and his allies on their journey to rid the universe of the Necromorph threat once and for all. You’ll follow Isaac on his journey onto Necromorph infested ships, the ice tundras of Tau Volantis and even Earth for a short period. But does Dead Space 3 provide a fitting title for hardcore fans of this iconic franchise, or does it fail to deliver?
Dead Space 3
Dead Space 3 Review
When I sat down to dive into Dead Space 3 I had mixed feelings on how I would react. I’d heard rumors that the developers had strayed from the path of horror to bring players more action and combat; I can’t say that rumor wasn’t true but it didn’t exactly work out either. Before I get into my inevitable rant I will say that the game does deliver when it comes to the story, but sadly I felt as if it was told in a totally different way. The entire game felt more like a blockbuster movie, with over-the-top explosions, cinematic’s and a ridiculous number of near-death experiences, one too many even for the survivor of the previous two titles. Every 20 minutes I would meet up with other people only to fall, jump or be thrown off a cliff and become separated; a scenario that occurs so often it becomes predictable minutes in advance. I do feel that a lot of Dead Space fanatics will be happy with the way the story is told but personally I expected something a little different. I could relate it to being told a bedtime story by Susan Boyle with a full supporting orchestra, wrong place; wrong time.
Some of the more cinematic areas of the game are almost at masterpiece level, but they’re totally overshadowed by the vast amount of problems with the actual game itself. During certain story segments you’re forced to pilot a ship, dodging asteroids and shooting mines; while in other sections you’re abseiling up huge cliffs slowing falling debris before it turns you to pulp. Whether I was scaling a cliff or shooting debris from huge fans, every time I felt myself get excited I was thrown back into the lackluster combat and environments. I would have been happier if the entire game was a cinematic scene with QTE’s (quick time events) and other mini-games, other than being overexposed to the combat mechanics.
Aside from jumping, falling or being pushed off a cliff or down a hole, you’ll spend the rest of your time struggling to immerse yourself in the combat. There are basically 3 tools at your disposal; your customizable weapon, your Telekinetic abilities and Statis. The Telekinetic ability is probably one of the few areas in the game I don’t have many complaints about. As well as using it to solve puzzles and move objects, you can also use it to throw enemies and their body-parts at other Necromorphs, creating a variety of humorous outcomes.
Statis is a skill that allows you to slow down objects or enemies, giving you time to react to the situation and devise a plan and although very shallow, it does what it’s meant to. It does bring some fun aspects to the combat, such as watching your enemies limbs split apart in slow motion, but the real uses are wasted due to the clumpy movement controls. I’d notice a pack of Necromorphs heading my way, I’d slow down the faster ones and attempt to kite the slower ones, while firing off some rounds. Of course that doesn’t work due to the ridiculously slow turning speeds of Isaac and the equally ridiculous maneuverability of the enemies. Instead I found it easier to grab a grenade launcher, sit in a corner and shoot the floor.
The lackluster combat spreads to the customizable weapons feature, a feature that appears to be nothing more than aesthetic at times. You can find blueprints and components to create new weapons, or even invent your own from scratch; an amazing idea on paper. However, I could add a damage increasing item to one weapon and it would have 0 impact on the damage, while the same item on another weapon adds over 50% increase in damage. It’s a great idea ruined by hard caps and limited choice.
Another aspect of the weapon system that has attracted attention from critics, albeit for the wrong reasons, is the micro-transaction feature. This feature basically offers a store that allows players to purchase in-game items and materials for a real cash investment, removing a lot of the hard work required to create some of the stronger weapons. From the reviews I’ve read so far it appears many feel it’s pushed upon them purely because there’s a small option below the crafting window. It’s an optional feature, if you don’t want to do it, don’t; it really is that simple. I can’t say I’d ever spend cash on in-game items after paying £50 for a video-game, but at the same time I don’t begrudge the industry for doing so as it’s a business at the end of the day. You can easily breeze your way through the entire game without ever having to spend a penny. You won’t find yourself in an impossible situation; forced to invest in that new weapon, and you won’t miss out on any content either. Moving on to the final area of combat that totally failed to deliver, the cover system.
I can vaguely recall Visceral Games describing the cover system as natural and fluid; sorry what? The mention of a cover system brings to mind games such as Gears of War and Perfect Dark, games that utilize cover to offer different vantage points and tactical options; but how does that apply when 95% of every enemy you encounter will just run straight at you with no regard for personal safety? Even though the game took hours to actually introduce me to the cover system, via on-screen prompts, the few times I tried it usually resulted in a rather embarrassing death. It only works with certain objects, doesn’t apply to objects above a certain height and there’s a serious lack of a blind fire option. This lackluster approach to a much-loved feature could have worked a few years ago, but gamers expect far better from today’s AAA titles.
Even if I could get past all that, there was an issue that would have hindered my experience regardless of what else the game had to offer; copy and pasted textures and environments. I was amazed at the amount of times a texture or room was re-used; and for me to remember it is something special. I can spend 5 seconds walking to the kitchen before returning to my PC, completely forgetting the reason for my adventure in the first place. So the fact that I could notice the repetition with environments and textures is a huge negative for the game, and one I do not expect to see from such an established franchise.
The only thing that rivaled the repetition of textures and areas was the completely predictable behavior of the Necromorphs. I was less than 30% through the game and it had already become so predictable that I just gave up on expecting anything out of the ordinary. Enter a room, the door locks behind you, Necromorphs join the fight via 3 vent entrances. That pretty much sums up every single interior fight in the game, bar a few that introduce a more unique form of Necromorph. What made matters worse was the repetitive spawning system was being used in the repetitive environment; offering the exact in-game experience several chapters apart.
I wanted to enjoy Dead Space 3, I really did, but my experience throughout was lackluster at best. Every time I found something unique and exciting to focus on, another ugly issue reared its head and I was back to being frustrated. Playing the game actually reminded me of Isaac himself; drifting through the debris of what was once beautiful, just to find an oxygen tank to give me hope.
Dead Space 3 has betrayed its roots at the very core, removing half of the horror aspect to introduce a weak action-orientated approach to game play. Throughout my entire Dead Space 3 experience the only thing that evoked an emotional reaction was a pinball machine activating by itself. Gamers are constantly asking for developers to push their franchise to the limit but in this case, I fear Visceral Games pushed Dead Space 3 into the vacuum of space.
Before you go on to read my final review score I would like to clarify that this review was based on the PC version of the game. I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed the console version more but I’m not about to buy the game twice just to prove that. Everything from the controls to the textures are a total letdown on the PC, a real kick in the teeth for computer-based Dead Space fans.