- Different to previous Dead Space games, but gameplay is just as good
- Good co-op
- Plenty of new ways to play after the story is finished
- Emphasis on action may put off some fans
- Lacks the scare factor for the most part
- The gunplay doesn’t feel suited for large-scale battles
Change is a brave thing when it comes to sequels. Just last year we saw – despite being far from a bad game – Resident Evil 6 get panned for being a departure from the series’ roots. So with Dead Space 3 also taking a new direction with the third main game in the franchise, how does it stack up against its predecessors as far as the scare factor goes? Well regardless of what it is, I can tell you that it’s brilliant. The only thing that’s worrying to fans of the series is that it’s not the same beast, and it feels like a mash-up of classic corridor-crawling and action-hero-style set pieces without committing to one or the other.
It’s a strange one really, as it’s like two games have been rolled into one. The adventure starts off with a high-octane action sequence atop an icy summit, where within the first half-hour you experience the collapse of a mountain, a gunfight on a speeding train, and yet more bullets being spewed as you battle through a city. You don’t need to be an expert to say that it doesn’t sound like Dead Space at all.
Following that you spend hours navigating through corridors, performing tasks that would normally be about as mundane as counting dust particles or watching Twilight, made good by the fact that there are enough creatures bursting out of walls to make it interesting. As you go on, these little isolated scares get bigger and more frequent, and start to lose effect. It soon turns into a “press button, kill enemies” exercise, and it’s from here that the game starts to transform.
It’s here when action-hero Isaac rears his head. You’re not so much as put on the planet’s surface as thrown onto it from the “safety” of your orbital haven, and then things start to go a bit Rambo. The levels completely change in design, with dark corridors of blood and steel replaced by icy tundras and Necromorphs popping out of the snow everywhere you go. And while this part of the game makes for a good shooter, I wouldn’t necessarily say it makes a good Dead Space game.
The game’s main problem is that the gameplay dynamics always feel geared slightly more toward survival horror rather than a twitch shooter. Isaac’s guns are either too weak or too slow to fire before you’ve applied any of the numerous upgrades, and when you’ve got about a dozen enemies all vying for a taste of your face the last thing you’ll want to be doing is reloading as if you’ve never even seen a firearm before.
That being said, the main thing to bear in mind is that the game is still fun. Admittedly enemy types don’t often vary, you’ve got a mixture of Necromorphs and humanoid creatures with a few mammoth bosses and that’s your lot. Headshots just don’t cut it against them, each one is individually deadly and can only be killed by detaching enough arms, legs and tentacles. But there’s something about slicing off limbs in abundance that’s oddly rewarding, and you can even use Isaac’s powers of Kinesis to toss dismembered blades through the air and into the skull of oncoming attackers. It’s essentially the same system as the other games with a few added bells and whistles, but it works as well as ever.
The weapon and upgrade system works a little bit different this time around too. Resources can be scavenged (or bought with real cash) and used to upgrade your RIG at any of the Suit Kiosks scattered across the game, and weapons can be modified at Work Benches. Each weapon is divided into an upper and lower half, giving you primary and secondary fire options. Each part has four slots for upgrade chips (eight total per gun) and it’s nice and easy to chop and change to alter your gun’s attributes to suit a particular situation. New weapons can also be crafted once you’ve found the necessary parts and blueprints, but it seems that the best ones take an eternity to scavenge resources for, with EA waiting in the wings to take your real moolah for the privilege.
As you’ve no doubt heard, a lot of people are shouting about the inclusion of co-op. Whether or not it has a place in a survival horror franchise is a good question, but it’s at least reassuring to know that the single-player tale hasn’t suffered from it. In fact, it feels that co-op has been integrated into it rather than the other way around, as it’s more or less the same deal. The only additions are a handful of co-op-only side missions and the tactical options that having an extra player offers.
While those looking for another Dead Space game in the same vain as its predecessors might be disappointed, the third game in the series is evidence that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the game is now more bombastic, lacks some of the scares and leans toward an action shooter, it’s still a very accomplished title which is what’s really important. There’s plenty of replayability with Classic, Pure and teeth-grindingly difficult Hardcore modes unlocked after completion, with hundreds of lovely collectibles scattered around each of the 20 chapters. Isaac may not be the humble engineer that he once was, but rest assured that he’s still a lot of fun to be around.