mystyr_e's Dead Space 3 (PC) review

Leave it out in the cold

While I always liked the Dead Space games, I was never a massive fan that I'd anticipate with bated breath whenever the next new installment came out. I'd play them sure but not raising my blood level to a feverish pitch about it so several months after Dead Space 3's rather lukewarm release, I'd thought I'd take the plunge and find out for myself. Unfortunately a lot of the complaints about the game started to present themselves rather soon and whatever good comments I had would then be followed up with something that disappointed than excite. Certain elements of the game, namely the core DS experience are relatively intact, the weapon crafting ends up becoming quite the surprise non-horrible feature and atmosphere is tense as ever but everything is uncharacteristically mediocre.

Taking place a bit after Dead Space 2, Isaac has now broken up with Ellie and has started drinking his woes away in his dingy apartment. But when 2 soldiers arrive and tell them they lost contact with Ellie's team, Isaac is off to the rescue to find his ex but then Unitology followers, led by a man named Davik, activate a Marker nearby causing another Necromorph outbreak. Isaac's travels will take him from a space station, a ship graveyard to an ice planet as he races to stop a large-scale outbreak.

Recently I finished Crysis 3, another "sci-fi universe where you're the one person who can save us all" and like that game's Alpha Ceph or Mass Effect 3's mysterious "Crucible", everything hinges on this One Thing that will stop all the evil and rid humanity from whatever it is they need to stop. This time it's something called a "Codex" and after an intriguing opening, the game from a story standpoint just kind of falls apart from there. We have yet another swarmy kinda-full-of-himself British villain (why they usually British anyway?), an awkward and clearly one-sided love triangle and a co-op partner that just quite frankly feels awkward. One thing I should note here is that I did the entire campaign solo even though the co-op is integrated into the campaign and not separate, you can totally do the whole thing on your own.

There's a school of thought with some gamers is that the best kinds of games will give you dozens of hours of entertainment. Why have a 7 hour campaign when you can have a 20 hour campaign?! Well one reason is we get stuff like Dead Space 3 which is clearly a bit too long for its own good. Part of the weirdness in the videogame medium is that because you're not an observer (TV, movies) and the main participant, a lot of the enjoyment can come from your personal journey through the game but in this game's case, too much of one thing can be a bad thing. The game has the main campaign, optional sidequests and plenty of collectibles or useful items to find that to do everything can easily run someone 14-17 hours to do everything (I did 12 and that was maybe 4 sidequests). The final area is most perfect example of this as the amount of backtracking and "collect/turn the 3 things" makes the game really close to wearing out its welcome.

Through all this is kind of bog-standard Dead Space and while it's still fun to dismember a limb, catch is in mid-air then impale them on a wall, preferably in slow motion, whatever tension and paranoia the first game tried to inflict is either completely absent or scraps. Subtlety is not this game's strong suit as necromorphs will pop up in front of you, behind you and take cheap shots, and then even more over the course of the fight that it starts to grow tiresome. Thankfully the new weapon crafting system, making your previous weapon count number 2 instead of 4 can now have whatever your heart desires: a flamethrower with shotgun, a pulse rifle with proximity mines, a rocket launcher on a electricity-arc gun that can also auto-pickup nearby ammo, weapon crafting is just...fun. Part of this comes with the caveat that you need resources to build them which can come in the form of a scavenger bot who you drop off at a certain point who then returns to a weapon bench and brings whatever he found. This can be used to craft new weapons, health kits, ammo and stasis packs which kind of dropped the survival horror aspect for more of horror assault if you will. When you have flamethrowers, rocket launchers and seemingly never being low on resources, crafting what you need is all too easy and the old sense of dread as you wonder if you're equipped enough for what's coming is dropped. Isaac Clarke: from scraping-by to full-on death machine.

Another egregious fact is in regards to the DLC and while I hate to be the however many entrant in the "EA sucks" parade, the way they handle things here is kind of gross. Being able to purchase resources, suits and weaponry which can't be unlocked and have to be purchased, the whole thing smells foul. I'm not an opponent of micro-transactions (I do play Dota 2 and Guild Wars 2 after all), the way it's handled here does not work at all.

A quote from U2's Bono, known for being quite the outspoken and confident one, remarked once that "it's easy to be the biggest, we want to be the best". If it hadn't occured, I bet a developer likely would've said the same thing about Dead Space 3: it'd be easy to be the biggest entry in the franchise but to be the best, eclipsing fan favorite Dead Space 2, is what you want. Unfortunately that's not what happened as despite the grandeur and ambition present in the game, this is something that's just not up to the caliber we know it can achieve.

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