The path leading up to Dead Space 3’s release has been a rocky one for Visceral Games and EA, both of which have received a tremendous amount of hate for diverging away from the original horror aspects that made Dead Space so famous. I, for one, was never pulled to one side or the other, I honestly thought the direction of the series was changing but I also believed Visceral Games was too good of a developer to let their pet project produce a mediocre installment. That combined with the already high quality of the Dead Space franchise led me to believe that no matter how hard EA pushes the co-op, Dead Space 3 was going to be just fine. I really wish I would have been correct.
You begin Dead Space 3, yet again, as Isaac Clark but this time around we see a much different picture of Clark. The picture is a grim depiction of Isaac, a drunkard now living alone in an apartment. If you’ll recall correctly, Dead Space 2 ended with Isaac and Ellie together, that obviously has changed since the credits rolled as Ellie left Isaac to further pursue destroying all the markers and the hell they bring forth. From there, Isaac is taken away from his apartment by two men who let it be known that Isaac is the only man with enough knowledge to fully destroy the markers.
The progressing narrative throughout Dead Space has always been one of the best things the series has possessed but that come to a screeching halt in the third installment. It all begins with the one-dimensional characters that are forced upon you within the first four hours of gameplay. No matter if it is your co-op partner or Ellie’s new lover, each character introduced does nothing but add a dull new talking head that pounds useless information into your brain. The only interesting dialogue to be found is between the already established Ellie/Isaac relationship, a relationship that develops quite nicely though their conclusion is a bit underwhelming.
The overarching fiction gets a bit more complicated as the religion aspect becomes a rather important segment of the story. Your continued quest to destroy the markers is obviously at the forefront of the storytelling but the religion mention does add another intriguing factor to the already peculiar story that the Dead Space franchise has so elegantly created. The new pieces introduced are sadly brought down by the aforementioned porous characters and also an incredibly lackluster ending, something that shocked me due to the previous two game’s success at creating a tension filled final scene. We usually go into a third installment looking for some kind of closure, which is something we did not get in Dead Space 3.
One thing that has been very noticeable through trailers and developer diaries is the unsurprisingly beautiful visuals. The environments are by far the most gorgeous aspects of the whole game. There haven’t been many games this generation that have produced a more beautiful experience than simply floating around in space, staring down at a mostly unknown planet as ship fragments float around aimlessly. That all goes without even mentioning the snowy environments introduced halfway throughout the game, which look equally beautiful.
Even though the story is rather disappointing, it is far from the worst thing about Dead Space 3. The worst parts are the simple game design flaws that ultimately lead to the Dead Space 3 experience becoming a frustrating mess. Take for example: Designing a rather elaborate, poorly explained puzzle that requires you to run around a room using your Kinesis powers. The idea is decent enough, but add in twenty charging necromorphs and you have one unbearable experience that diminishes the quality of the game. These design flaws are much unexpected, especially from a fine studio like Visceral. Honestly, by the end of the game it becomes hard to even fathom the fact that Visceral created Dead Space 3.
That frustration only heightens due to the fact that Dead Space 3 really drags on as you go deeper into the game. Drags on is putting it nicely, there are multiple times when enemies are thrown your way just to extend play time. I understand having enemies at almost every corner, that’s what Dead Space does, but having thirty when you should have ten is just insanely annoying and only gets you angrier as time trudges forward. Another factor in the present frustration is the predictability that begins to arise. After two sequels, you know when enemies are going to pop out of vents and you know that eventually you’ll be split up from your group and have to make your way back. Boring is one word I never thought I’d use to describe a Dead Space game, but it fits the final five hours of Dead Space 3 perfectly.
Arguably the thing most people were excited for headed into Dead Space 3 was the brand new weapon crafting system that Visceral has been so highly touting. The general idea is you can create any weapon you want as long as you have the parts. The parts typically consist of an item that judges whether it’s a one-handed or two-handed weapon and obviously what attachments are placed upon the stock. The finer details of the crafting are never really explained, leading the player to bang their head against the pretty menu design until they realize exactly how every part works. That being said, once you figure out how it works, the crafting becomes pretty damn fun. I had a lot of frustrating experiences throughout Dead Space 3 but none of that mattered as I sat down and created a rocket launcher that has a shotgun attached to the bottom. It was a brilliant addition by Visceral that improved the combat tremendously.
That is up until the game becomes a third person shooter and you begin to wonder “why?” There are multiple sections where Dead Space 3 turns into a carbon copy of your standard third person shooter, poor cover mechanics and all. Throughout all of the egregious additions to the newest installment, this was the most depressing for me. I’ve always had a deep admiration for the Dead Space combat, noting it as some of the best of this generation. But when you take a combat system focused on dismembering limbs and turn it into a cover based shooter, you get a forced and incredibly uncomfortable experience.
The much-lauded co-op is, as expected, just fine. It is far from the best co-op around but it gets the job done with the biggest slight against it being that the co-op character, Carver, is an unlikable asshole that enjoys making terrible decisions. Some of the oddest things regarding the co-op appear in the single player experience, such as Isaac referring to himself as “we” when he is by his lonesome. The game was clearly designed with co-op in mind as suit kiosks and hacking minigames appear side by side, though that doesn’t affect the overall experience. Despite the oddities, playing single player is more than acceptable in Dead Space 3.
It isn’t fun to start the year out with a downer like this but Dead Space 3 is definitely going to be in contention for Most Disappointing Game come December. Maybe it was my over confidence in Visceral, or maybe Visceral just made a bad Dead Space game, either way, Dead Space 3 is a heart breaker and not in any of the ways that fuel an enjoyable experience. It’s becoming more and more clear that the further Dead Space diverged away from the horror genre, the worse the series became. Maybe Visceral and EA will step back and reassess the franchise before popping out Dead Space 4; because it may be time to let this series rest.
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