Dead End for Dead Space?
No other series captures that "lost-in-space" setting quite like Dead Space. The atmosphere that these games create needs no introduction, and I've been a fan since the beginning. However, the latest addition to the franchise is a bit trickier to decode. On one side you get a really good game that for the most part stays true to its core, but on the other you find yourself wading in shallow waters, wishing that the developers had retained a bit more of that signature structure that makes these games so unique and enjoyable.
I want to make it clear that this is NOT a recycled, stale, flat or otherwise mediocre title that looks to cash in on previous games' success. No. This is a great addition to the franchise but it does have some problems. The main issue is of course the story, which just doesn't get you interested enough to really care all that much. It's not terrible, but considering how interesting everything else around you is, it should be much better. In DS2 the story of the Markers and Necromorphs sort of plateaued, where there was a balance between curiosity and terror. DS3 takes this balance and sort of distills it making it a lot less interesting. Not to say that it's unimportant to find answers, but the game seemed to take better shape when everything was shrouded in darkness and mystery.
Needless to say the story and characters kind of fall flat, but it's not a deal breaker. The real stars are of course, once again, the twitching, decaying, and downright terrifying reanimated corpses known only as Necromorphs. The game may close in on their origin, but that doesn't make them any less formidable or horrifying. These creepy guys are still just as ferocious and hostile as ever, and they are still out to dismantle you limb by limb. They may only provide players with cheap and predictable scares, but the way they move, sound, react, and fall apart is still quite unnerving. There are also some segments where you will fight regular, non-infected, humans--but this isn't nearly as interesting or pulse-pounding as being waist deep in arm blades.
One major change in mechanic is the new weapon crafting system, which allows players to basically create and combine some of their favorite weapon functionality. This is a neat way to customize the experience for yourself but at the same time it's like the feature nobody asked for. I was quite happy with the previous system of weapons and basic upgrading, so this seems unnecessary to me. Dead Space isn't an RPG, so this system feels out of place. The old system was more streamlined, and worked just fine, so I don't understand why they felt the need to overhaul it. Some players will undoubtedly like the new way, but I can't say I'm a fan of it.
The atmosphere is still the game's highlighting core component, and there are some amazing new ways it builds upon the original in that respect. For starters, a non-linear structure between missions has been introduced, where you can travel (without load screens) to and from destinations. Sounds simple enough, but the game approaches this like no other I can think of. You are able to depart from ships and other vessels and explore large open areas. These segments look absolutely amazing and floating around in space is actually quite tranquil. You can find supplies and resources amongst the wreckage of huge orbiting stations and colossal ships. Simply looking around at the awe-inspiring views, and being mesmerized by the planets that fill the emptiness in the distance, makes the game feel larger than life. It's a great way to find peace in an otherwise chaotic and gruesome game.
Overall Dead Space 3 continues the iconic struggle of Isaac Clark and introduces some exiting new things. If you've been entertained by the previous installments, then you will most likely enjoy the latest. Be weary of the game's shortcomings though, because you will find them--as well as plenty of bloodthirsty necromorph forms to slice apart. You can also bring along a friend for the ride and play cooperatively. The game features co-op campaign and, although it reduces the tension and general creepiness, having a buddy at your side allows you to be significantly more efficient. This does however add a sense of vulnerability however, because if one of you dies, you'll be restarting from the last save or checkpoint. Playing the game this way is much different, because even though it reduces that claustrophobic isolation feeling, you are no safer from being hacked to bits and must work together to fight through the nightmare.
BOTTOM LINE: Dead Space 3 is a great addition to the series, but several changes and some trade-offs may leave some players unimpressed, and possibly make the game feel too "stripped" in content.