Dead Space 3 Review: Good, But More Shooty Than Scary

NOTE: This is a review of the PS3 version of Dead Space 3. Being a PC-focused site, we also plan to review the PC version of the game. Stay tuned for that review in the coming weeks.


Greater than the fear created by any of the Dead Space games was the growing dread over the last year that Dead Space 3 would suck.

So many things appeared in the run-up to the game’s release that fans were, rightfully, very worried. A traditionally horror-infused game going cooperative. A huge, expansive crafting system that would include micro-transactions. Cover-based shooting elements added to what has been a monster-fight since its inception (like we don’t have enough cover-based shooters, right?). Many of us cried “doom” at the mention of these elements, forecasting the end of what’s pretty much the only remaining triple-A horror series going.

The good news is, Dead Space 3 is not the utter disaster prognosticators believed, by any stretch. It is not broken by co-op, mangled by a pay-to-win model, or a fat-free, darker version of Gears of War. Or rather, at times it can suffer from some of those things, but by some miracle, those missteps (and they mostly are missteps) do not send Dead Space 3 crashing into a planet and exploding into burning wreckage. There’s a huge amount of game here, and a lot to like for fans. While I have my quibbles with Dead Space 3, I cannot deny that I had much fun playing it.

Dead Space 3
Platforms: Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: Feb. 5, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

We’re back to the world of Isaac Clarke, Marker killer and Necromorph plague survivor, who has gone into hiding after the events of Dead Space 2. The world of the game is in chaos — the Unitology religion has gone into all-out revolt against the government of Earth and her colonies, releasing Markers everywhere and creating monsters to destroy everything. While Isaac has decided he wants nothing to do with Necromorphs anymore, trying to stay out of dealing with the Marker threat, heroine Ellie has left in search of a way of stopping all the craziness.

But Ellie has gone missing at the uncharted ice planet of Tau Volantis, so her Earthgov boyfriend and his tragically family-less sergeant, John Carver, have been dispatched to bring back Isaac to help. The game starts with an escape from the now-militant Unitologists, culminating in Isaac and his new awkward co-op buddy Carver heading with the rest of the squad to the frozen planet.

While the game starts with the oft-lamented cover-based shooting portions as Isaac fights off the human enemies in the Unitologists, it quickly gets back into familiar territory with the arrival at Tau Volantis. The next several hours of the game are spent in space, with Isaac wandering through empty ships and fighting off ancient, centuries-old Necromorphs, and this is where the game really opens up.

For the first time in the series, Dead Space 3 allows a lot more freedom: freedom to explore the flotilla, freedom to create whatever weapons you want, and freedom to play with a friend — or not. Adventuring through the destroyed armada does a lot to evoke the original Dead Space, bringing players back to the cold, industrial hallways of darkened ships, with their vents exploding and spewing several different kinds of Necromorphs.

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13 Comments on Dead Space 3 Review: Good, But More Shooty Than Scary

Dwigt

On February 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

So far, I’m loving it. The story and the mood are no match for the first game, but they delivered something interesting anyway, and they were able to address EA’s requests without compromising the main game.

I agree it’s no longer a pure survival horror. At least, they’re aware it shouldn’t be a remake of the previous games. They just kept some elements from them and they’re pushing the plot and the gameplay into fresher (if a little generic) directions. The art direction is still great anyway.

And a big yes to the story getting hammy. I’m still in the early part of the game, but (SPOILER ALERT) Ellie and her new boyfriend with their public display of affection just in front of Isaac’s nose is a stupid element. They need the guy to be on their side, she dated him for a while and yet, they chose the worst time to make the reveal. If you want to have an adult game and get some character development for Isaac, don’t have the supporting characters behaving like a caricature straight out of a Resident Evil game.

Phil Hornshaw

On February 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

@Dwigt

Pretty much agreed on all fronts. There are some changes and compromises, but overall the game is definitely a lot of fun.

MPSewell

On February 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Everything you’ve said is really just why I won’t be buying this. The original Dead Space was a game I followed through development and relished upon release. The opening sequence was fantastic was everything I had hoped the game would be: mysterious, dark, oppressive, horrifying and reliant largely on the tension of the unknown.

While this game may be fun, it isn’t why I play Dead Space. I do not care one whit about how good of a shooting mechanic, co-op system, etc. it has. There are a dozen other games that pull off combat to a high extent, but what I am seeking is a game that oppresses me to a level like what Amnesia: The Dark Descent and the original Dead Space did. I would honestly be more happy if I had nothing but a pistol and 6 bullets for the entirety of the game than to have the best shooter mechanics in any game in history.

So while everything I’ve read about DS3 says it’s a good shooter, it’s still nothing I want to play.

Hellblazer

On February 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

As usual MP is still negative on everything.

Dead Space 3 is epic and deserve its place in the series. End of the line.

ZephyrTuvai

On February 8, 2013 at 11:17 pm

@MPSewell

Play Eternal Darkness. Might be hard to find as its a gamecune game, but as long as you can tolerate the dated graphics, its an amazingly oppressive experience.

The story might be conveyed in a kinda cheesy way at times, but it is excellent nonetheless. Also, its ability to mess with you, not just the character you play, is outstanding.

Wesker1984

On February 8, 2013 at 11:26 pm

You have some scary moments in Dead Space 3, not as scary as the first one but still some stresing parts. Play it MP before judging like this.

I hated Borderlands 1 and i was sure to hate Borderlands and after playing it i realised i liked it a lot.

Wesker1984

On February 8, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I wanted to say Borderlands 2.

Tiagonal

On February 9, 2013 at 5:58 am

@MPSewell Perhaps we’re in the same wave: the over-hype I had for the game even got my sister crying in happiness when me and all my family went buying it. Yet, they’ve killed the franchise following Isaac’s and Necros’ storyline, it’s something that HAS to end up somewhere, all with the same mechanics, enemies we’ve come to expect, a character we’ve been force to care about, with huge risk to loosing focus on the way… And now any change to any of that would be a great deal of a risk. When I realised how inmensely greater the series would be with all new unexpected horrors each sequel, I couldn’t stand any of these anymore. …So any other good survival-horror around? No? Gotta wait for The Last of us? uh.. ok. It’s not in space tho’ :( ….(And, no Colonial Marines No. It’s another shooter, not Newt’s survival.. so, hmm.. no)

Tiagonal

On February 9, 2013 at 6:01 am

I wanted to say ‘the over-hype for the First Dead Space’.

TheDog

On February 9, 2013 at 11:14 am

Anyone noticing a disturbing trend here? EA seems to be ruining some very good franchises, all in the name of trying to appeal to the broader masses. They’ve taken great rpg’s and turned them into shooters. Now they take a survival horror and turn it into a shooter. EA seems to like shooters. I hear there turning Dragon Age 3 into a shooter. No rest for the wicked. What’s really sad is some gaming mags are supporting them. Game Informer named them the second best publisher last year, as they named Mass Effect 3 rpg of the year. It’s not an rpg, at least no more than Borderlands 2, which runs off the same mechanics. Level up, adjust your skill tree. That does not make a rpg. EA kills all it touches.

Greenmantle

On February 10, 2013 at 3:16 am

This is my review of DS3:

Dead Space 3 is a Gears of War mod in which you play a depressive, egotistic maniac/psychopath called Isaac Clarke. Isaac is really sad because his girlfriend traded him for some space hunk. Isaac stopped shaving and goes on a killing spree, murdering anything that gets in his way. I liked the fact that Isaac went from being just a common engineer in the first game to the most important person in the galaxy and humanity’s last hope. It just makes more sense to have the main character of be important rather than just a regular lowly engineer. One other aspect that I really liked were the levels, instead of being stranded in a single ship like in the first game (which got boring very quick, everything was brown and dark), you get to travel all over space and see different environments. You even get to play a mission in Hoth which was pretty cool since everyone loves Star Trek. This game gets a 9.5/10 because of the awesome turret sections, ship-piloting/debris-shooting set pieces and the implementation of a cover system (which was apparently missing from the first 2 games). It is great to see how much better a series with every iteration. I can’t wait for the DLC!

Swcloud99

On April 9, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The game has horrible crashes on the PS3. They still have gone unpatched. Seriously, the game is nearly unplayable.
That should take away from it’s score.

Phil Hornshaw

On April 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

@SWCloud

Really? I played on PS3 with no issues. Sorry, that’s gotta suck like crazy.