Dead Space 3 - Review

Lost mean Dead Space 3 had a pretty rough start since E3 2012. Being revealed there for the first time, fans quickly got worried by the game's hollywood-esque action treatment. Top it all of with a non-dark/not creepy setting like a completely white snow planet (genius -.-) and Dead Space 3's chances for hype are gone.
The idea to put the focus of Dead Space 3's advertisement heavily on Kinect voice control and a Co-op experience doesn't do this "last hope for mainstream horror games" any good.
But maybe the demos and advertisements just unfortunately showed us the worst parts of Dead Space 3 and not it's shining moments? - Let's take a look.      


The plot:
The story is set in 2514, on the New Horizons Lunar Colony where Isaac has resided for the past three years following the events from the Titan Station infestation and hiding from EarthGov. After previously getting a message from Ellie about her "moving on", Isaac is confronted by Captain Robert Norton and Sergeant John Carver who are chased by Unitologists. Norton and Carver tell Isaac that they need his help to find Ellie who has gone missing. Together they barely escape the colony but are followed by the insane Unitologist Jacob Danik.
The quest for Ellie and the ultimate destruction of the alien Markers confronts the team with various dangers on space stations and on the Marker homeworld, the ice planet Tau Volantis.

Dead Space 3's story differenciates a lot in comparison to its predecessors due to a very action oriented, monotone atmosphere and bad storytelling overall.
Fans expecting a big climax to a Dead Space Trilogy will be undoubtedly disappointed.
Along with a very badly introduced main (bond-)villain (Jacob Danik), bland team-characters, a very dragging and uninvolving main story and some forced subplots about the overly dramatic love-triangle between Ellie, Norton and Isaac furthermore put Dead Space 3's story into oblivion.
Although the game indeed has a strong focus on spectacle, the horror elements in the story (and gameplay) get almost completely lost.
The story very obviously was an afterthought of Visceral Games. Heavily reliant on spectactle and not on story or atmosphere, Dead Space 3 is the longest entry in the franchise so far, but also the most boring one.

Once again, it's more action and less horror.


Although Dead Space 3 has been advertised as being drastically improved with several new gameplay elements, it does not take long to recognize that most of them don't really work on a gamedesign-level and many previously introduced elements have been thrown out of the window.
So let's not talk about what we already know but what has been renewed.

Let's start with Dead Space 3's biggest problem: The atmosphere.

Along with the STUPID idea to advertise a horror game by mentioning the co-op experience everytime, Dead Space 3 has a drastic shift in atmosphere that hurts the game's feel.
Right from the start, Isaac feels much more like an action-hero badass, rather than a simple engineer being forced into horrific situations (Dead Space 1). Constantly he is put into "action situations" with countless explosions. It all just oozes action-movie and not horror.
Only occasionally the game has some okay horror-esque moments, which are sadly buried under the game's general monotone feel and overreliance on set-piece moments.

The last two thirds of the game take place on the Ice Planet Tau Volantis and perfectly show how important lighting is for a horror atmosphere. It's almost impossible to build up some kind of horror feel when everything in your setting is white, bright and during daytime.
John Carpenter's The Thing was a horror movie also set in an arctic setting, but there the horror started AT NIGHT! Was it so difficult to let Isaac crash onto this planet during nighttime?!?!

Nighttime would've changed so much.

Another aspect that kills the horror element effectively in Dead Space 3 are the enemies.
For the first time, Isaac also battles human enemies (Unitologists).
Not only do human soldier enemies (in my opinion) absolutely not belong into a Dead Space game but they are also dumb as a rock, making the new cover-mechanism basically worthless. Obviously Visceral Games wanted to mimic some Gears of War style gameplay to appeal to the mainstream.
But not only human enemies are disappointing.

The stars of the Dead Space games, the Necromorphs, get treated like throwaway jokes in Dead Space 3: Not only are (honestly) 90% of the enemy-types old ones that we already know from Dead Space 1 or 2 with slightly changed skins, but enemy placements themselves underline the monotone feel of the game. Enemies are uninspiredly just put into rooms and come rushing at you in waves making you feel like you are playing a horde-mode rather than the main campaign.
Cool boss battles could've helped here, but sadly there are only about 2 of them in the entire game, which are so disappointing and lame that they are barely worth mentioning.

Aside from a somewhat excessive amount of backtracking this time around, Dead Space 3 is mostly just as a linear single-player experience as its predecessors...mostly. At certain spots during the main story, you are given oportunities to take on sidequests. While this is a very straightforward and nice idea for a good gaming-experience, quickly it gets clear that all the side-missions (7 total) basically follow the same structure: go into these rooms, kill all enemies there, pick up object, done. To be fair, the side-missions are indeed pretty long but get repetetive very fast after having done 3 of them.

Most of the enemy types are recycled.

Now let's talk about the second biggest shitty aspect about Dead Space 3: the new weapon crafting feature.
Instead of buying weapons directly at specifically placed shops in the campaign, the player now has to collect several parts that are required for a specific weapon to build at weapon benches.
While this first sounds cool and all, Visceral Games really badly executed this idea.
First of all, spending so much time at weapon benches that are seemingly around every corner destroys any immersion-like feel left in the game. Upgrading weapons is fine but building weapons in a confusingly layed out menu makes Dead Space 3 needlessly complicated.
Although the choice of weapons to build is plentiful, weapon-material-costs are ridiculously high, forcing the player to excessively grind through the campaign.
The main story is surely beatable without crafting weapons but would become extremely hard towards the end.
Without being able to afford the "cool weapons" like the assault rifle in your first playthrough, the game pretty much forces more and more grinding to make the (already lame) game more fun (Diablo-Syndrome).
The weapon crafting feature is obviously very heavly influenced by EA that wants to sell you as much DLC (in form of material packages) as possible for you to quicker gain access to cooler weapons.

Last but not least, it is to mention that for some reason Isaac is now able to only carry two weapons at once and that the different suits to put on don't have specific abilities anymore ...way to go EA.

Why do I have to do this?!?!


Instead of implementing an uninspired online multiplayer component, Visceral Games added a Co-op mode for Dead Space 3's campaign.
Co-op is a fun mode. Playing with friends through the same levels in cooperation can be incredibly fun in Dead Space 3, if you are willing to completely abandon any horror feel for it (although in multiplayer a horror feel is generally not present).
The Co-op addition is overall a good choice, yet advertising your horror game by mentioning the Co-op every 2 seconds is not.


Dead Space 3's production values are undeniably very high.
Although its graphics are nothing to write home about, settings are beautifully detailed, facial expressions look impressively real and especially the great lighting-work has become a trademark of the franchise that is also present here.
Although this third entry graphically doesn't raise the bar that much higher above its predecessors, it effectively utilizes graphics that have pretty much become the standard to date.   


Along with the great graphics, there is also the trademark of great sound design.
Like in every other Dead Space game, hallways are haunted with creepy monster growls, monsters themselves all sound unique and the weapons in particular like the shotgun have that massive gut-busting fire sound that makes you feel like you are actually firing something heavy.
Only the voicework is inconsistent. To be fair it has to be said that the voicework is solid most of the time and that it's probably the weak dialogue and script that makes the voice performances sometimes feel comically overdramatic. 

Include Co-op? Yes. Advertise? No.

The Verdict

Dead Space 3 is not a bad game in a literal sense like Sonic '06. It is bad game considering how much financial support it has and how good its predecessors were. Yet still, i would say that it at least still qualifies as an "okay" action-game (due to the working game mechanics from DS 1 and 2).

Practically confirming that all the worries i had upfront (since E3 2012) with Dead Space 3 were legit, it was pretty much destined to disappoint.
It is sad how this much beloved franchise has gone so deep down the drain with its longest but also laziest put together third entry. 
Monotone, repetitive, not scary at all and littered with ridiculous and badly executed design choices, the only thing that barely saves  Dead Space 3 to a score of 6 is it's very high production value. 

At this point it is save to say that there better should be no Dead Space 4.
Dead Space - another franchise that started great and which greedy EA quickly stomped into the ground.  

Final Verdict: 6 out of 10

Status: Disappointing!


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