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

The cover-based shooter portions are Dead Space 3′s other major failing. Especially at the end of the game, a few just get stupid, with enemies firing rockets at you while you’re actively fighting monsters. One sequence I played repeatedly had me fighting Necros on the ground, only to field rocket blasts from enemies behind guard rails on a rooftop. If I was lucky, I’d only take splash damage from their attacks, no matter where I stood; unlucky, and a rocket would hit me in the chest and force a restart.

These bits just feel really badly out of place. Dead Space is not Gears of War, and the cover system, light and easy as it’s meant to be, just doesn’t meet standards in an engagement like that. Neither do the human enemies — in fact, Dead Space 3 has a painful lack of tricky new monsters and adversaries, and the best enemies from the previous games are criminally underrepresented — who tend to just pour at you and force you to soak up damage. In a word, the cover-based shooter portions are weak. The game didn’t need them, so it’s nice that Visceral kept them to a minimum, but it’s unfortunate that they become a rather large part of the endgame.

And finally, there’s the story, which at times is the worst of the series. The background of the scenario, concerning a war 200 years in the past and research conducted by the people who lived then, is a great setup for the game, but the main cast is weak when their interactions get hammy. A love triangle scenario that felt unnecessary to the plot had me yelling at the screen: “Of course he’s acting weird, he’s obviously influenced by the Markers, just like everyone in this series.” The British Unitologist leader, Danik, also leaves something to be desired, tending toward long-winded exposition that makes you wonder why he doesn’t just execute his protagonist prisoners at any of the, you know, half-dozen chances he gets. He’s a Bond villain in a game that has no need of such.

All that said, there’s a ton of content in Dead Space 3 to sate fans of the series, much of it very good. The unlockable modes at the end of the game, like the permadeath-enabled Hardcore mode, Pure Survival mode that requires crafting of consumables, and Classic mode that removes crafting, provide lots of good additional ways to experience what we love about Dead Space. And there is a lot of what we love here.

The trouble is that, stapled onto what is a good game at the core, are a number of mishandled features that don’t add anything and occasionally detract from the experience. Co-op is a take-it-or-leave-it gesture that is only sometimes really interesting (in some missions, Carver hallucinates things the player controlling Isaac can’t see at all), but crafting can get fun, and many of the missions and a lot of the lore are stellar reasons to play the game. It is a fun time, despite a few failings.

As a lover of the Dead Space series, I recommend playing Dead Space 3. My first single-player run of “go everywhere, do everything” play clocked in at 17 and a half hours — the game is bursting with content, and I found most of it to my liking. The weaker parts are there, and they can be frustrating — but if you like Dead Space, you’ll at least find some things to like in Dead Space 3, and you’ll get plenty for your money’s worth. You may even find that jumping into co-op with a pal is worth it, even if it’s more shooty than scary.

Pros:

  • A huge amount of content and game to explore; tons of value and replay value
  • Some great set pieces that the series is known for, like the crash on Tau Volantis and subsequent march across the tundra
  • Crafting is huge, robust, and generally fun
  • The Dead Space core elements are here, much as we remember them
  • More freedom than any Dead Space game has yet offered
  • Some really great optional side stories that flesh out the world
  • Co-op can be fun, especially with the right person; optional co-op missions have some great ideas in them
  • You can totally avoid micro-transactions and still get just about anything you could ever want from the game

Cons:

  • Horror elements are greatly reduced; this is an action game, not a horror game
  • Doesn’t match the atmosphere or tension of the rest of the series
  • Latter half of the game gets a bit repetitive, with repeated areas in side missions and a lot of the same formula of enemy attacks
  • Co-op feels shoehorned into the story
  • Story is the weakest of the series and gets a bit hammy

Final Score: 75/100


Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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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.