Dead Space 3 arrived and I was excited, despite all my groaning about reveals of co-op, a pay to win structure and the fact that the game is about going to a frozen planet instead of being, you know, in space. So with the sound turned up way too high, the lights dimmed and my newly purchased adult diaper firmly in place, I was ready to face the necromorphs and pause to grab the calming meds if needed…
Then I started fighting humans.
No, not necromorphs that used to be human, I mean actual living, breathing, toss a grenade at you humans. The pitifully weak flesh of their necks splattered the walls as I moved forward, explosions all around me. “What is going on?” I thought. “Hey” I countered, “At least they setting some story for what’s going on and has been happening.” Isaac Clarke continues, never pausing to consider the death he rains down on humans and necromorphs alike. All of this before Mr Clarke even puts an EVA suit on.
The tutorials make Isaac sound like an idiot, needing to ask for help with every new obstacle he faces. I call them “obstacles” because there is only one real puzzle in the game. Thankfully they are over by the time you reach the surface of an ice ball hell of a world. Apparently, the key to stopping the necromorphs is somewhere on the barren surface. But humans were here 200 years ago, with more men and more guns. How the hell is Isaac going to pull this one off?
Let me backtrack a bit here. When all the baysplosions are over, you go hunting for various components scattered on a derelict fleet. You spend a bit of time in space in the early stages of the game, where you get reintroduced to each monster in turn. The ultra creepy babies that climbed the walls and shot barbs at you have been replaced by not as disturbing dogs, who have the exact same behaviour. Isaac can read Marker scrawl now, and he obtains a cryptic message from the Admiral, who was locked up for going insane. The graphics are absolutely beautiful, a stark contrast against the monstrosities you face. Spacewalks are breathtaking, quite literally if you wait and gaze for too long and run out of oxygen. Once you travel to another ship, for a moment you feel that classic Dead Space horror. Without giving anything away, let me just say that there was a section involving a tram that made my heart beat way too fast.
Going forward from there though, the genuine scares are few and far between. The hallucinations, phantasms and unbeatable monsters that were all inside your head are all gone. Isaac no longer experiences any visual or auditory episodes, and besides the admiral’s quarters, he never pays attention to a single letter of Marker scrawl again. All those psychological elements, the doubt, the suspense, are replaced with peek-a-boo style scares. Then a few hours in, it dawned on me. I wasn’t scared anymore. Sure the reflex jerk of a monster appearing right next to you is a scare tactic, but I’m talking about the fear, the horror that grips and paralyses. My plasma cutter was too powerful, and I had enough materials to make more medium medipacks than I could possibly carry. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. As a result, I died very few times, which meant I didn’t get to see those grisly execution moves that spatter the screen with blood.
In Dead Space 3, you are part of a group trying to stop the necromorphs. Of course, the game wouldn’t be as scary if you were travelling around with others (a point I will discuss under co-operative play). The ways in which you continuously get separated from the group lose credence until they border on the inane. The characters are for the most part completely forgettable and many of their deaths and actions (you didn’t expect them all to survive, right?) are more predictable than a M. Night Shyamalan movie twist.
It isn’t all bad though. The story is well made, despite the sudden dramatic appearance of a method of salvation. Isaac has issues to work through in-between having his head removed and exploring dangerous, abandoned sections of ships/facility. One section, where Isaac needs to assemble a key component, had me so engrossed I was arguing with my TV. Sadly, this is all let down by a pretty weak ending and awkward coincidences.
Be an engineer
Isaac Clarke has always been able to modify all manner of tools into weapons to use against the Necromorphs. For the first time though, you get to tinker with those designs yourself. The bench now allows you to assemble weaponry from several components. Want a hydraulic knife attachment on your trusty plasma cutter for when enemies get too close? Check. How about a line gun that can shoot in a horizontal or vertical line? Shotguns, assault rifles and flamethrowers all get tossed into the mix here, allowing you to create an arsenal that suits your needs. Of course, better weapons need more materials to be built, so scavenging goes hand in hand with progress. If you are lucky, you might find useful components of weapons in your travels, which Isaac can then make copies of.
Circuits have also been revamped. Instead of tossing multiple generic circuits at your weapon’s nodes until you get the upgrades you want, each tool of your weapon (upper and lower) can take up to four circuits. These circuits are not blank slates anymore and give certain bonuses (and sometimes penalties) to your weapon.
Weapon attachments add a plethora of effects. Set your bullets on fire, electrocute, acid bath or char your enemies. Want to pick up ammo automatically? Or perhaps you want to avoid splash damage from your own rocket launcher. These and more are available for the keen scavenger.
Bring a buddy
If you want to destroy the final vestiges of fear and atmosphere, play this game with a friend. Besides at times making absolutely no sense, it hampers the impact of scuttling noises, of tense music and that feeling of being all alone against the Marker’s hordes all fizzle away. The number of enemies doesn’t increase, and those “make a mistake and die” chase sequences quickly become frustrating when your partner (or you) keep on dying. You can save each other from enemy execution moves, and also revive each other (this can be toggled off if you don’t want things too easy.
Then come the missions that you can only do in co-op, and suddenly this is the best part of the game. Carver has many demons to confront, illusions, disembodied voices and many other disturbing events happen to Carver. Isaac stands nearby, not seeing the things Carver sees and only hearing half of the conversation Carver seems to be having with himself. This is Dead Space at its best and I wish the entire game were made this way. There are only three missions (one is which is really short) but it is really worth playing all of them from both characters’ perspectives. The experience was, in a word, chilling and really adds great depth and motive to John Carver.
Better with Kinect
We all know games are better with Kinect right? I made this handy chart to show how well the Kinect understands Wookiee.
Pretty impressive right? What it is good at, is picking up everything else in the room, including game noises, to fire off commands. Doors closing nearby make you drink a medipack. Elevators open your database. Stomping makes you refill your stasis and audio logs set off a melee rage in Isaac. If you want to save medipacks and frustrations, do yourself a favour and unplug your Kinect.
Yeah, I’m not touching this topic. Maybe one day, with Brenda’s hands. Suffice it to say, I played the entire campaign without any internet connection at all. If you search properly, you will have more than enough of every resource. If a plasma cutter that does as much damage as a rocket launcher isn’t good enough for you, maybe you should look at something less reflex oriented.
In the end, the only dead space is that hole where psychological thriller and terror used to live, a hole so teasingly pointed out by the co-op only missions. Dead Space 3 isn’t a bad game, and will most likely appeal to the “newer generation” that want pay to win purchases in their games. Old fans, however, will have to look elsewhere for their bowel evacuating stimulus. Dead Space 3 would have made a great action/ adventure game, but this isn’t Weaponsmith Hero 1, this is Mess Your Pants 3.