Man, I have played a lot of Dead Space 3. I've beaten it four times as of this blog post. Once on normal, once on hard, once on Classic Mode, and once on Pure Survival mode. So as much as people probably don't want to talk about Dead Space 3... I am in the mood to talk about Dead Space 3.
Because if you don't know this about me, I love some Dead Space action. And while DS3 isn't the best one of those games, it's still alright. I had a decent time cutting up necromorphs with souped up mining tools and watching Clarke get the shit kicked out of him.
WARNING: There will be all sorts of Dead Space spoilers from here on in if that kind of thing bothers you.
Recently Played: Dead Space 3 (Snow, Space, Love Triangles, Necromorphs: The Game)
For as many changes they've made in this game with co-op and the weapon crafting, Dead Space 3 sure does feel like a less ambitious experience compared to the previous entries. It doesn't feel like they take as many risks with Isaac Clarke or the nonsense he gets into. There's nothing on the level of the chaotic Tormentor scene or the gag inducing uncomfortableness of the eye poke machine from Dead Space 2. And even though co-op with the meat head John Carver is optional, the game still feels like it's lost something to accompany the possibility of two players. Like they've lost the personal touches involved with abusing Isaac in his war with viral dna recombinators.
I won't touch the issue of how horror or fear plays into Dead Space 3, mostly because I've never come to this series for the 'survival horror' aspect of it. The biggest thing that brought me to Dead Space when it first came out was Isaac's awesome suit, and the promise of weaponized mining tools. Dead Space played fucking great with its twist on third person shooters in the form of aiming for limbs instead of heads, and Dead Space 3 does too albeit not as fresh for the third time out. I don't think the scariness of enemies has any impact of my experience, because most of Dead Space consisted of jump scares anyway. I don't think that's the same thing as horror. Your definition may vary. What's really scary are turret sequences in this game, which are still as terrible as the asteroid part from Dead Space.
There's no shortage of ammo or health on normal or even hard. I was swimming in bullets (over a thousand rounds for one gun combination) and never had to make health at the bench. The only time survival or item management comes into play is the aptly titled Pure Survival mode, where enemies NEVER drop ammo or health. You have to make all of it at the bench with materials you collect, which makes managing your inventory until the next bench key. It feels like how Dead Space 3 probably should have played from the very start. Unfortunately, you have to beat the game once to unlock Pure Survival as one of the New Game+ modes.
Then there's also the business side of things involving microtransactions which... are really easy to ignore. Playing the game will get you all the resources you need. But if the mere inclusion of such a thing is enough to turn you away, I can understand that.
Cut Em' Up, Cut Em' Up, Don't Stop
My favorite part of Dead Space 3 is the weapon crafting. This is probably the best new thing in practice here, as it's given me new respect for weapons I initially thought were junk. In the first two Dead Space games, I hated the Force Gun. It never killed enemies, it just pushed them around. By itself, it's useless when I can just cut them up with the Ripper or blow them to pieces with the Contact Beam. But in this game, the Force Gun is an incredible support weapon, blasting enemies back, buying time to aim carefully and/or charge up shots. Pairing it with the Ripper and the Contact Beam makes some of my most favorite weapons in the entire series. Great stuff for those fast, stick-like enemies that swarm you.
I stuck with the Plasma Cutter for about 3/4ths of the game. But when I finally let go of it and played around with more weapon combinations, Dead Space 3 became a lot more entertaining. The flamethrower also gets a ton more use outside mopping up the tiny guys, and that's not even including the various attachments to change its function. The military weapons (as in real guns, not mining tools) still suck, but they're not as bad if you pair them up with more useful attachments. Playing around with the weapon crafting is probably what kept me coming back despite some shortcomings in other areas.
Love Triangles, Just What Dead Space Needed!
Story wise, Dead Space 3 is pretty shaky, but not for reasons surrounding the Markers or the final boss. I thought that was okay, mostly because I've never touched Dead Space fiction outside the main series. I always figured Markers made big necromorphs. I just thought they made Hive Minds (the last boss of Dead Space) and never knew they would go so big with it. That whole thing with Giant Killer Corpse Moons was at least a fun spectacle. No, my main problem is the dumb decision to work a love triangle into the plot. It's not like they consistently hurt narratives or anything, except when they always do.
The end result of this turns Ellie Langford (who showed considerable survival skills throughout Dead Space 2) into a piece of meat to be fought over by Isaac and some other guy who predictably gets what's coming to him. There is zero tension. Where Ellie could have been the co-op player (or at least I think she should have been) she gets reduced to useless load while Player 2 runs around as soldier guy John Carver. And I wouldn't even say that Carver is bad, but he's totally forgettable and feels like an extra who is supposed to get mauled in the first chapter to introduce necromorphs. It's a real waste when they could have had Isaac and One-Eyed Ellie take on the Universe.
However, despite story shortcomings, Jacob Danik (played by Simon Templeman) had a great voice and was pretty entertaining for what he was. And there's still a lot of great screaming as per Dead Space tradition.
A Few Sparks of Promise
Co-op is pretty forgettable in this game I've found. But the locked side missions that only open if you have two people had a few good ideas where whoever plays Carver sees different environments in the form of ominous streamers and toy soldiers, where the player as Isaac just sees more dilapidated concrete bunkers. It's just a shame that it doesn't amount to anything because Carver is so boring. And that last co-op mission Marker Containment is fucked up in the way that it locks Player 2 into stupidly hard endless battles with necromorphs in some shadow dimension until some vague objective is accomplished. It's just about the only moment in Dead Space 3 that drove me to frustration and profanity.
If only the entire game through Co-op had these discrepancies where Carver sees something different than Clarke, and the people playing the game have to talk it over or think each other is crazy. That could have been worth the trouble of suppressing some of the crazier Dead Space potential to squeeze in Co-op. And if they did that with enemies where every bullet counted... it has promise.
What Do I Cut Up Now?
I have no idea where Dead Space goes from here. It may have run its course. But they will probably continue to make more until we have a Resident Evil 6 situation. However, I still like these games a whole lot. Dead Space 1 and 2 are two of my favorite games ever. So I hope they have a Resident Evil 4 situation instead, even if its current course suggests otherwise. Unfortunately, there are more than enough landmines for this series to step on to sink it permanently. The future of this series is tenuous.
Maybe I'll just replay Dead Space a whole bunch of times.