Combines the best of both the previous games with only minor casualties.
Dead Space 3 makes some significant changes from the last game in the series, if you’re coming into this expecting another ride like Dead Space 2 then I’m sorry to tell you that won’t be what you experience. Dead Space 3 attempts to blend the best of both the previous games into one and apart from a couple of instances; they have done an outstanding job at doing so.
The main problem Dead Space 3 has is found in its story, it really falls victim to just giving you too much information about every single aspect of the universe in regards to the founding of the Unitology religion and the origin of the markers and the necromorphs. The game opens with a huge exposition dump that goes to great length to eliminate any mystery you might have had left regarding just about anything in the Dead Space universe.
Dead Space 3 picks up two months after the events of the second game, and Isaac is somewhat of a wreck. The game opens with his relationship with Ellie in pieces and him in a crappy apartment surrounded by crazy sketches and bottles of whiskey, making it pretty clear the effect the past few years has had on him. Shortly after he discovers that the Unitologists are now hunting him, then in comes the token coop character and his boss to tell you Ellie is in trouble and they need his help. After a short mechanics brush up section, you find yourself at the main location for the game, a long abandoned space site where Ellie is apparently located.
Perhaps the boldest thing about Dead Space 3 is the complete overhaul that has been made to the weapon and suit system. Gone are the shops and upgrade nodes, replaced with work benches and dedicated suit kiosks. You’ll start out with the trusty plasma cutter, but other than a handful of blueprints here and there you will be building your arsenal from the various parts you find lying around the abandoned sites you spend your time in. The environments you’re in have been abandoned for over 200 years, so scavenging parts becomes essential, which is also how the lack of a money system is now handled. Instead you find loot, which can be used to create upgrades and modifications for weapons as well health and ammo. The universal ammo was a pretty huge concern of mine going in, on the surface it seems like something that would be very exploitable, but the way the weapons are handled very smartly avoids this. In its simplest terms, the more powerful weapons will use more ammunition, so you still have to be careful choosing what weapons to use on what enemy. This also eliminates one of the frustrations I've always had with Dead Space where you're always picking up ammo that you never use just to sell it at the first shop you come to later.
The weapon crafting system is absolutely amazing and dare I say even better than how the weapons were handled in previous games. One of the problems with Dead Space has always been that you become too powerful far too quickly, and the crafting system does a lot to eliminate that. Now each weapon is broken down into 3 separate sections, you have the frame of the weapon, then its cores and the tips you attach onto the end. For example, the plasma cutter is made up a standard one handed frame, a plasma core and a directed energy beam tip. It only takes a few minutes to figure out how this system works and it makes for some truly amazing weapons. If you even wanted to add a flamethrower onto your buzz saw weapon or perhaps just another buzz saw, you can totally do that or make every shot have a stasis mod that will slow down enemies, or make a double ended plasma cutter... you get the idea. You can get very creative with your arsenal and equip yourself exactly how you want.
In addition to the crafting system, the upgrade nodes have also been replaced with circuits, which you will find on your travels and can build them from all the parts you find. These feel a lot more crucial than in previous games as you would usually just upgrade damage before anything else and figure out the way that used the least amount of nodes. Some of the circuits you find even have downsides to them for the sake of buffing something else much higher. Between these two systems I found myself experimenting a lot more with my weapons than I ever have before in previous games. Crafted weapons can also be dismantled and you’ll regain all the resources you put into it so it really feels like experimentation and customisation is what the developers are intending you to do.
As I said at the beginning of this review, it really feels like to me that Dead Space 3 is trying to combine the best aspects of the previous two games. This seems most apparent in the pacing of the campaign, which is significantly longer than Dead Space 2; my first play through on normal for DS3 clocked in at over 12 hours and that was with doing every single thing I could do along the way.
The beginning of Dead Space 3 is easily the strongest part of the game, you have free roam of an entirely ruined space colony and while it’s a shame it doesn’t last longer, I can’t help but feel the same structure for the entire game might wear out its welcome before the end. After you land on the ice planet the game feels more like Dead Space 2, but reigned in a little. There is much more exploring to do, which is really important if you want to find all the loot you possibly can (which I admit I am somewhat obsessed with) and the addition of optional side missions really adds that extra touch of freedom. If there is one downside to these missions it is how they are presented to you, more than once I only knew I had a side mission to do was because I checked the mission screen and the rewards you get for them are definitely things you do not want to go without.
The main mission structure is pretty similar to what was found in the original Dead Space, which I did find a little disappointing as it’s little more than “go to location X, to get object Y” then repeat. That being said, there are some spectacular set piece moments and sequences along the way, a particular mention to the boss fights (something that was noticeably absent in Dead Space 2) make for some very memorable encounters. Dead Space 3 does pile on the repetition a little too much in some areas though, more than once you will be repeating the exact same mission numerous times towards the end of the game and by that point you will most likely be armed to the teeth so the final few gauntlets can get a little monotonous which brings me to my biggest problem with the game in general. It just doesn't have the immediate replay-ability that Dead Space 2 has, the second time through the repetition of the structure begins to wear thin very quickly.
It’s very easy to say that if you enjoy what Dead Space is and what it does, you’re going to have a blast playing though Dead Space 3, if it isn’t your thing, then there’s not really anything here to change your mind unless playing coop was what you needed in order to enjoy Dead Space. Dead Space 3 makes some very bold design choices for what is most likely the final game in the series (in this story at least) but more importantly than just trying something new they have absolutely nailed what they set out to change while keeping what makes Dead Space fun intact. If you’re a fan of Dead Space, odds are you’re playing Dead Space 3 and not reading this, however, if you’re on the fence about whether or not Dead Space 3 is a great game that deserves your time and money, I implore you play this game, you will not regret it.