I knew this game wasn’t going to be good going in. How did I know? Well, mostly because it had been out for months before I had ever even gotten my hands on it and the general conscience that I could get from my friends and fellow gamers was that it was even further away from the original horror concept of the first Dead Space had been. And I liked Dead Space 2, I liked it a lot. Sure, it took the horror idea and basically turned it into even more of what the typical Hollywood movie thinks of horror films nowadays – that is to say, a trip through jump scare central and “Dear God, there’s no way that could have that much blood!” Junction – but with the juxtaposition of having enough heavy ordinance to level a small moon to make it actually kind of fun.
Though it’s not a perfect comparison, I take the Dead Space series much like this: Dead Space was much like Evil Dead, not intentionally funny, but very dark in tone. Dead Space 2 is more like Evil Dead 2, more comedic, and really over the top. Dead Space 3, however, is not the perfect Bruce Campbell vs. The Army of Darkness that completes the trifecta, and I am not amused. Not remotely amused. And seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? All these critics giving this game positive reviews, some of them claiming that it’s “rife with options and flexibility” and that it’s “a thrilling and worthwhile sequel”.
No! No, it isn’t! It’s none of those things!
We join Isaac Clarke again sometime after the events of Dead Space 2, where he has apparently taken to locking himself in an apartment and being depressed. At least until he’s dragged out by two soldiers of the Earth Defense Force, who need his help to find Ellie – the female love interest character from Dead Space 2 – after she’s gone missing following an expedition to find the original source of all the Markers that are turning people into crazy abominations against God.
|Yay...the jetpack's back...I wish I cared...|
Okay, one: It’s nice to see that Isaac is over Nicole, and two: way to rip off Halo 3, guys.
But the game then plays out with Isaac heading out to a planet where, many years ago, some really bad stuff involving EarthGov and the Unitologists happened. Ellie is fine, as are a team of NPCs that I assume we’re supposed to care about, but we really aren’t given the time or reason to. No one is a bigger offender than John Carver, an actual space marine who hasn’t been in the series before and wasn’t really needed. While I’m glad that they’ve dropped the multi-player fiasco that largely undermined 2, the drop in-drop out co-op isn’t really that much better, though luckily you can play through the game without it. This does mean that certain missions are restricted from you, however, which is a massive pain and irritation.
And, of course, there don’t seem to be any missions done strictly for single player because, y’know, that would just be insane!
As far as mechanics go, it’s pretty much still what we’ve come to expect from Dead Space games before, except now for the fact that Isaac can crouch. So, cover-based shooting is possible. Oh, EA, such innovation and splendor from you, don’t ever change! Really, I do not in any way understand why the game has been taken in the route of a first person shooter. Every gun using the same kind of ammo, the only real tactic anymore being to shoot mercilessly, or use a Stasis blast and then shoot mercilessly in some of the hairier spots.
Oh, and cover based shooting. Which is NEVER "appropriate" or "natural", regardless of what the development team might say.
|It's a dead man's par-oh, fuck it, this game isn't worth the joke...|
Speaking of the guns, Dead Space 3 drops the purchasing mechanic of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 for a crafting table in order to make new guns. This is all well and good in both the fact that it gets rid of one of my main problems with the previous games – namely why Isaac doesn’t just override the kiosks to give himself whatever he wants without wasting credits – and that it allows us to get a little closer to the character of Isaac Clarke, the engineer. However, this is really rather time consuming and ultimately pointless when I was able to get through three-fourths of the game just with a plasma cutter. Also, a big part of the new mechanic is the use of resources, where certain resources are required to craft certain weapons and items for use.
Everyone, quick quiz: You have two seconds to name any game in which resource collection isn’t a time consuming bunch of B.S. Time’s up! Nevertheless, some of the weapons (once made) are nice and do allow a little bit of variety in just how you shoot mercilessly, if only on an aesthetic basis.
My problems with this game, ironically, come with three glaring issues in the plot. First, the lack of information. A lot of data comes by through text logs, which really isn’t a good way to convey important background details. A prime example being Ellie’s eye - something that was one of the more jarring moments of Dead Space 2 - suddenly being returned in this game, having been replaced between games. If I hadn’t found the text log in Isaac’s apartment that explained that, I would have never known about that and thus been really confused when Ellie was revealed and suddenly had two eyes again.
Or the details of Isaac and Ellie’s relationship, something that apparently happened in the weeks (months? Years?) between Dead Space 2 and apparently had enough time for it to end and for Ellie to hook up with the galaxy’s biggest douchebag. Ironically, this was apparently because Isaac was unable to let go of the past – ironic considering that letting go of his past was a major theme in Dead Space 2, as well as Ellie being the one looking for the origin world of the Markers rather than Isaac.
When the team finally does meet back up with Ellie and goes to the planet in question, they have a hard time getting there in a sequence where the player is forced to take control of the dropship and pilot it down a simulated corridor whilst either dodging or blasting their way through bits of debris, with the general idea being that it was nearly impossible to reach the planet’s surface without the corridor in question. This, of course, begs the question as to how the Unitologists managed to not only follow them to the planet, but get so many people through to fight Isaac.
That’s right, you’re not just fighting Lovecraft’s party guests but actual human soldiers that have come to the planet of Tau Volantis. I shouldn’t have to tell you why that’s wrong.
|...y'know, it reminds me of something...can't THINK of what...|
But yes, this game has become more than just distanced from the original horror concept – it’s become a shooter game. And while that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing in any other circumstance, it’s destroyed for me by being not remotely what it was to begin with. And not in a good way. While it wasn’t a perfect metaphor, Dead Space was much like Evil Dead and that it was at least trying to be scary, and it succeeded in a few places (for me, at least). This game? Despite claims to the contrary by the development team about not toning down or getting rid of the scary elements, that’s what they’ve done. Even Dead Space 2 had some semblances of horror. This game? Not at all.
So, really, besides the artificial trappings, it’s a watered down shooter. And if you’re into that, sure, go nuts. And no, I don't care about the alien revelation or the giant freaking moons, I’m not overly impressed. Unless Dead Space 4 or whatever happens to follow this game starts with Isaac waking up in the distant future claiming that he’s slept too long, don’t expect me to get it. Because it won’t be happening.
Dead Space 3 is now available from Visceral Games and Electronic Arts for Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, and Playstation 3.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.