+Still a good survival shooter
+Co-op is a good addition
+Fleshes out the Dead Space universe
-A lot of backtracking
-The scavenging and crafting can get boring
Final score: 8 / 10
Controller support: Yes
FOR WINDOWS XP (SP3), Vista (SP1) or WINDOWS 7
* 2.8 GHz processor or equivalent
* 1 GB RAM (XP), 2 GB RAM (Vista or Windows 7)
* NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or better (7300, 7600 GS, and 8500 are below minimum system requirements)
* ATI X1600 Pro or better (X1300, X1300 Pro and HD2400 are below minimum system requirements)
* 256MB Video Card and Shader Model 3.0 required* The latest version of DirectX 9.0c
* At least 10GB of hard drive space for installation, plus additional space for saved games.
* INTERNET CONNECTION, ONLINE AUTHENTICATION, AND END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT REQUIRED TO PLAY.
Even if it didn't become a huge financial success when it first came out, the Dead Space franchise from Electronic Arts and Visceral Games has just seen the release of a new installment, Dead Space 3, and continues to offer a survival horror experience that, in this day and age, is becoming quite a rarity.
With the promise of delivering an evolved title, which features a story campaign that can be played either alone or cooperatively with a friend, Dead Space 3 is looking to be going into a new direction for the survival franchise.
Does Dead Space 3 manage to keep the core of the series while adding great new mechanics or should it be left alone in front of the deadly necromorphs? Let's find out.
Isaac is back ...
... and he has a new friend
Dead Space 3 continues the story of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who survived through all sorts of traumatic events against the necromorphs, which are humans that were infected by a virus spread by different alien markers.
This time around, the Unitologists, humans who worship the markers and who believe that the necromorphs are the next stage in evolution, want Clarke dead as he is the only one that can actually understand the nature of the alien artifacts.
Fortunately, he's saved by a rag tag team of EarthGov soldiers who take him to Tau Volantis, a snowy remote planet that apparently holds the key to stopping the spread of the virus.
What follows is a pretty decent story filled with some interesting twists, but also a few betrayals that can be spotted from a mile away. Clarke gets to interact with much more people this time around, so the feeling of loneliness is diminished and, if you opt to play cooperatively with Sergeant John Carver, it's completely eliminated.
Playing with a friend changes some of the situations in the story and you definitely get to learn much more about Carver, a traumatized soldier who now experiences bouts of dementia.
While it does reveal a lot more about the Dead Space universe and tries a few new things, in the end Dead Space 3's story won't blow you away as the missions get a bit repetitive even before you actually reach Tau Volantis. The characters are also a bit annoying, even Carver himself who has quite the attitude.
Dead Space 3 is still a third-person shooter that, besides actually tasking you with shooting the deadly necromorphs to bits, emphasizes dismemberment, as players can systematically shoot off the limbs of the deadly mutants.
Speaking of Necromorphs, the enemies are pretty varied. Some variations make a comeback, like those with spikes for arms, those who carry around explosive sacks, or the "invincible" ones, but some have received updates in terms of looks or attacks, like the tiny baby mutants who sprout big tentacles.
On the surface of Tau Volantis, there are also some much bigger foes that will require lots of strategic shooting in order to take down.
Thankfully, Dead Space 3 takes its shooter mechanic and implements a wide variety of changes, as now all the weapons use universal ammo. However, this time around Isaac scavenges different construction materials that can be used to build new weapons, combine various components, and upgrade existing ones.
From creating a hybrid between a shotgun and a flamethrower, or a plasma cutter and a shock weapon, there are lots of possibilities for customization, not to mention different upgrade slots.
Sadly, the components for new weapons are quite scarce so for the first two thirds, you'll still rely mostly on the regular Plasma Cutter.
Scavenging can be done by either stomping on the necromorph bodies, but also by smashing boxes, exploring hidden nooks and crannies or a special little Scavenger bot that explores the surrounding environment and finds different bonus loot that's delivered to your closest bench station.
Besides upgrading his weapons, Isaac and Carver can also improve their suits by spending resources on different incremental upgrades for the health, armor, or air supplies, as well as the different stasis and kinesis modules.
While the whole upgrade and customization mechanic is decent, it also gets a bit tedious and distracts from the actual survival experience. It's certainly going to appeal to fans who like looting and tinkering, but those who want to experience the story can skip it and stick with the standard plasma cutter.
There are also quite a few of slightly baffling mini-games scattered through Dead Space 3, from returning ones where you need to fiddle around in a circuit box, to new ones where you need to play a sort of Tetris with debris that are blocking the rails of a tram. All of them are featured ever so slightly and just pull you out of the actual experience.
Environments are designed relatively well, as while there are still plenty of tight and twisted corridors with lots of opportunities for necromorph ambushes, there are also more open areas than before, but you'll still have to stay on your toes if you want to survive.
Being a survival shooter, the atmosphere is essential for Dead Space 3 and, for the most part, it manages to paint a grim and gruesome picture. There are still quite a few "gotcha" surprises, like pinball machines or big dolls starting to play loud sounds at unexpected times, but there are also moments where the game plays with your expectations.
Sadly, the game relies on quite a lot of backtracking as there are always things that need to be done, components that need to be found or assembled, not to mention side missions that see Isaac explore various other locations.
Face off against imposing enemies ...
... and take them down
While Dead Space 2 had a bland competitive multiplayer mode, Dead Space 3 tries to deliver a different experience by allowing the player to go through the story campaign alongside a friend.
The mechanic works pretty well, as it's drop-in drop-out, and it's certainly a different experience when you go through Dead Space 3 alongside a friend.
Doing so changes quite a few cut scenes and leads the way to new types of encounters as the second player, who controls Sgt. John Carver, experiences bouts of dementia that reveal more back story and can even lead to hidden areas, yet only in some actual locations.
Players can also share resources, as well as weapon blueprints and other such things, so there are advantages to playing alongside somebody else, although you can only do so online, as it doesn't support local split-screen play on consoles.
Visuals and Sound
In terms of visuals, Dead Space 3 is a much prettier game than its predecessors and that's saying something. Plenty of new effects have been added to the game, like how Isaac's helmets now emit actual beams of light in the dark.
While the PC version is a direct port of the console editions, Dead Space 3 still manages to look pretty good and will certainly impress players that really take the time to explore its different locations.
Sound-wise, Dead Space 3 also delivers a pretty good experience, as the soundtrack manages to alternate between orchestral parts that emphasize the survival nature and regular songs that serve to put players in a state of relaxation before springing up with a surprise. Voice acting is pretty good, but there aren't any standout performances, not even when it comes to the main cast.
Use your Scavenger bot ...
... and create new things at the Bench
Dead Space 3 is a pretty good addition to the franchise and, while it tries to respect the core of the series, quite a few of its additions don't really hit their targets, like the scavenging component or the co-op, to some degree.
Even so, fans will definitely enjoy learning more about the Dead Space universe and continuing the adventures of Isaac Clarke and his new-found buddies.