Quick Look: Dead Space 3

Necromorphs, space cults, furious stomping... Sure is Dead Space alright. But is it the Dead Space you want?

Drew Scanlon on Google+
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Dead Space 3 Review

3
  • X360
  • PS3

Dead Space 3 mixes some solid new ideas in with its stock horror-action tropes, but the overall quality of the production falls short of the series' standards.

Chill out, brah! I'm just here for some gnar gnar shreddage.

Dead Space 3 isn't just trying to be more Dead Space. With an elaborate weapon-crafting system, a campaign designed around two-player co-op, and a nonlinear structure that accommodates a wealth of optional side content, you can't accuse Visceral Games of lazily pumping out more of the same. The game's first few hours set it up as an interesting and worthy sequel built around the series' fantastic signature combat, but the deeper you get, the more Dead Space 3's repetitive levels and enemy encounters, shoddy storytelling, and general lack of refinement start to wear on you. This final chapter in the trilogy certainly gives you your money's worth in necromorphs waiting to be dismembered, but the overall quality of the game just doesn't feel equal to the high standard set by its excellent predecessors.

From the first minute, the game rushes a bit hastily into the business of closing out the Dead Space storyline with finality. Earth's government is all but destroyed, and the fanatical Unitologist group is running amok, terrorizing mankind's last settlements by activating Markers and creating necromorphs all over the place. Meanwhile, Isaac Clarke is off shirking his responsibility as The One Guy Who Can Stop All This by drinking himself stupid in a dingy apartment, until a couple of meatheaded soldier types (one of whom awkwardly becomes your co-op buddy) show up to forcibly drag him into saving the human race. After a most ill-conceived opening chapter that has you running through an exploding city and getting into firefights with human soldiers, things start looking up, and the game assumes a brisk, entertaining pace for a few hours as you move into a stint on an ancient flotilla of derelict battleships, in orbit around an uncharted planet that bears profound significance to the Marker epidemic.

Most of the efforts at drama fall resoundingly flat.

While you're out there in space, picking your way through the haunted corridors of those warships, it's easy to remember what's great about Dead Space. The combat is as satisfying and brutal as ever, there's a decent bit of mood and a good number of effective jump scares, and you get to do some amazing spacewalks around the exterior of the ships, using your kinetic engineering powers to put equipment back together. And after a few hours spent reactivating generators and repairing shuttles and investigating the fate of the crew, the robustness of the new crafting feature starts to come into focus. You're limited to two weapons at a time, down from the previous games' four, but the crafting makes up for that by letting you tweak and combine massive amounts of functionality into a single weapon slot. The crafting rests on a resource system that initially feels too complex for its own good; you'll need some time before you can tell your transducers from your semiconductors from your somatic gel. As you're absorbing all this, it's easy to feel disgusted at the option to skip the effort and just buy those resources direct from EA, and by the scavenging robots you can deploy to bring back materials in bulk, provided you're willing to wait for a 10-minute timer to tick down. Or five minutes, if you're willing to buy a $5 DLC "accelerator." But eventually it's just as easy to ignore all the DLC and microtransacted nonsense completely, since you'll be swimming in crafting resources and able to build whatever you want by the end of the game if you just stay on top of deploying the default robots. That only feels a little like busywork.

You'll also start to dig into Dead Space 3's optional side missions while you're out there in orbit, and that's another new aspect of the game that starts off looking mighty promising. There's a little service vehicle you can use to ferry yourself at will between a handful of mostly intact ships, some of which don't contain anything relevant to your next story objective, but might be emitting some signal that bears investigating. In a few cases, you can elect to put off the next story mission in favor of exploring one of those other ships, where you'll find some light story touches that help fill in a little context around the nature of the fleet and the planet below, and then invariably open a cornucopia of crafting materials at the end. Those first couple of side missions train you to assume all the subsequent ones will be worth your time, and by the point when I'd handled all of my business with the fleet and headed planetside, the game had gotten into an entertaining rhythm of alternating story missions and side quests, all driven by the sort of carrot-on-a-stick character progression that propels you to eagerly keep pushing forward.

Co-op is here and functional if you want it.

Unfortunately, I felt like the overall quality of the game began to cool rapidly the longer I spent on that damn ice planet. For one thing, physical setting aside, Dead Space 3's visual design is just drab. Remember how wildly varied the second game's environments were, how masterfully crafted its atmosphere? The frozen mausoleum, the overrun civilian shopping district, the gothic gloom of the Unitologist church: you always had some masterfully lit new area to marvel at. This game has two modes: industrial-military interior, and snow. The repetition goes beyond visual design, as the game engages in the cardinal sin of copying and pasting the same specific rooms over and over to pad out its level design. I lost count of the number of times I fought a bunch of enemies in the exact same explosives storage room, and while the problem gets so bad in the side missions that eventually I wished I'd stopped playing them, it also bleeds into the core story areas enough that everything just starts to run together after a while. There's also far less variety and creativity in the design of the enemy encounters than I remember from the last two games; after a few hours I felt like I could predict exactly when necromorphs were going to burst out of the air ducts, and exactly which ducts they'd come out of. There aren't a lot of new enemies, and even many of the series' old enemies are barely represented, as you'll spend the vast bulk of your time fighting the same handful of fodder necromorphs over and over... and over.

Some aspects of Dead Space 3 just don't feel up to snuff from the get-go. The last two games knew that horror, tension, and gore were their bread and butter, and wisely filled their storytelling in around the edges of the those core elements without letting it get in the way. As the last game of the trilogy, this one feels way too concerned with spelling out all the answers to the Marker questions, and too often it does so with hammy dialogue, implausible character motivations, and poorly devised subplots. A corny love triangle, for instance, does absolutely nothing to enhance the best aspects of Dead Space, and the game's handling of Unitology is downright disappointing. The cultish religion used to provide a vague backdrop of lunatic conspiracy to the desperate struggle with the Markers, but it's now been reduced to a sneering villain with a British accent who commands a legion of riflemen and suicide bombers. These elements stumble and crash along awkwardly as the game progresses until you arrive at the end of it all, where the final revealed truth about the whole thing struck me as completely ridiculous. The production values that support all of this are also rougher than I've come to expect from this series. Character animations in cutscenes sometimes look a bit robotic and stilted, for example, and three times I had to revert to a checkpoint to fix an audio bug that completely garbled all of the dialogue. There are parts of this game where the art and level design come together to produce scenes that are absolutely top-notch, as good as you'll see in any game, but the presence of those outstanding moments is exactly why the bad parts are so irksome.

No lie, the spacewalks are easily my favorite part of the game.

As something close to a Dead Space purist, I resolved from the outset to play this game by myself until I finished it, but even taken as a pure single-player game, the cooperative earmarks are all over this campaign. You're constantly running into reminders that these levels, minigames, and action set pieces were designed for two people, since there's always two of everything everywhere you look. And Carver, the second player character, has a way of popping up in the story at some ridiculous times that both strain plausibility and also remind you that Dead Space was a lot cooler when it was just Isaac Clarke against the horde, not Isaac and some guy up on a ledge shouting at you about where to shoot the boss. Taken purely as a single-player game, Dead Space 3 enacts a ridiculous change in Carver's loyalties about halfway through the game, though if you play the three cooperative-only side missions, you do get some decent context about the guy's motivations, and some mildly interesting hallucination sequences to boot. It's a shame that content is locked behind a two-player requirement, though, and while you'll probably enjoy the option to play through the game with a friend if you like cooperative shooters, having another person there just serves to fully obliterate the game's already thin veneer of horror and tension.

If you're a completionist, you have to commend this game for the explicit way it details every single collectible and ancillary mode on offer. There's an exhaustively detailed progress report that tells you how many logs, collectibles, weapon parts, side missions, and other piece of minutiae you've found or finished in every chapter, and further lets you know what sort of item or set you'll unlock for completing each category. The game wisely separates your character and weapon upgrades from your story progress, making it easy to jump back into earlier chapters to look for things you missed. And there's a fantastic variety of one-off difficulty modes after you finish the game once. In addition to the standard new-game-plus mode that offers better upgrade items, there's Classic, which disables co-op and limits you to weapons from the first game, and Pure Survival, where the only way to get ammo and health items is by crafting them. Then there's Hardcore, which lets you save as much as you want but forces you to start the whole game over if you die. At all. If you do end up liking the game (and I did like it, despite its faults), these sorts of modified difficulty types are a great feature to see.

Dead Space 3 incorporates some successful new ideas into its stock horror-action formula, and some segments of the game really impressed me, but it's hard not to feel disappointed by the weaker parts of its design. I'm still glad I saw the Dead Space trilogy through to the end--and if you're invested in the series it's absolutely worth playing--but it's too bad this respectable series, which felt so exciting and fresh when it debuted just a few years ago, had to go out on a middling note.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
288 Comments
Posted by potatomash3r

I'm glad I waited for the review. You just saved me 60 bucks!

Posted by Deathpooky

Sad. You could see this coming in every announcement they made and trailer they put out, but I still held out hope it wouldn't completely destroy what made the original great. Two games from the horror brilliance of Dead Space 1 to now a microtransaction-filled, coop-focused action game. Just sad.

Posted by dancinginfernal

Brad "3/5" Shoemaker.

Or wait, I think I got that wrong...

Posted by Animasta

@Nettacki said:

@bhhawks78 said:

Giantbomb the one gaming outlet left who seems to have the fucking cajones to call EA out on bullshit.

There's like, two or three other outlets that called them out, namely Eurogamer and Kotaku, amongst others.

sorry official giant bomb forum rule is that we can't praise Kotaku for anything

Edited by bybeach

I do not care that Deadspace 1 seems a standalone and 2 to 3 more united, or that it migrated from something in the majority of survival horror (it already presents weapons and armor) to a majority action shooter. The QL presented something to me designed by committee rather than the connecting vision by it's creator(s). Maybe too many cooks in the kitchen, though some efforts do pan out. But I have already checked some other reviews, it's not doing bad.

Edited by Yummylee

@stryker1121 said:

@Yummylee: It seems the talk of "Well, co-op can be ignored" isn't entirely on the level. I'm no EA hater, but from this review and others it feels like DS has been homogenized...not into an awful game, but into a competent, forgettable one. Bigger and more badass shouldn't always have to be the rule with modern sequels.

You're absolutely right and I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to supposed horror franchises. But I guess that's unfortunately the way it is; giving players something new nearly always seems to equate to ''bigger and flashier''. The Power Fantasy trope resides over gaming at every angle, and it's difficult for any series these days to slip through the cracks unfortunately.

Also, completely irrelevant, but I'm really curious as to why you don't have an avatar or anything like that. You've been on the boards for a while and you've long proven to be a perfectly reasonable and rational person, so I've always considered it odd why you've invariably bundled yourself with all of the other avatar-less, green-named users who often just post nonsense and/or are alternate accounts for people who've been banned.

Online
Posted by jimmyfenix

i feeeeeel it commmminnnggg innnn thhheeeee aiiirrrrr tonnnnigghhhtt OOOHHHHH LOOOOORRDDDDDD

Edited by AV_Gamer

Most top-gaming sites gave it four stars. Personally, I'm not surprised. That's how trilogies usually go. The first is good. The second is the best and shows the entertainment piece at its prime. The third one falls short of the standard that the second one set.

There are exceptions like the Devil May Cry series, with the second game being the worst of the trilogy and the third game being the best.

Of course, I'm solely going by Brad's review. When I get around to playing it, I'll see for myself how the game stacks up. So far, I think the first game was the best in the series.

Edited by Klei

The comments bellow made me realize how fucking divas gamers can be.

Posted by leebmx

DmC it is then........

Posted by Gerhabio

Wasn't expecting this. Before the QL I thought 5 for sure (DS + Brad). Then I watched it and thought 4. Sad to see the series dwindle; the first DS will always be the best one for me.

Good Review

Posted by BaconGames

I feel like this review is very useful except I don't know quite exactly how to interpret Brad's criticism of the story. Dead Space 1 was nothing special and more about pacing/structure but it wasn't offensive or that dissonant but more importantly I LOVED the story stuff in Dead Space 2 in so far as the three main characters are concerned (Isaac, Stross, Ellie). That part was most pleasantly surprising, especially since they easily could have flopped when switching Isaac to a voiced character. In combination with the set pieces and buttery smooth action and amazing graphics, that game was one of my favorites of this generation. A wonderful sci-fi shooter with plenty of dread moments (particularly innocents getting victimized by the enemy) and somehow pulling through incredible circumstances.

Anyway, I'm gushing about the story to make the point that if Brad dismissed both the stories of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 equally, then I can't be as certain that the story is as bad or wonky as he says it is. With that said, expectations are most certainly tempered with that stuff. I'm of two minds though because I don't want to ruin my good image of the DS2 story by playing this but it could pleasantly surprise me and instead just fall flat when the co-op duder is involved.

Either way, misguided attempts at self-righteousness about EA aside, the part where Dead Space 3 fails is in the design and actual content of the game for a good portion. Combined with the novel moments being exceptions rather than rules, the strengths in the presentation and design departments fall flat regardless of micro-transactions and whatever marketing the game had. If I was a developer and really being honest with myself, I wouldn't sweat the corporate stuff as much as the fact that it failed to live up to the previous game's strengths in those areas.

Posted by Brad

@Yummylee said:

@Pie said:

On the story side, like Brad said in the quick look the dead space story has always been kinda dumb but in the previous games it was never distractingly bad as it was never the main focus of the games, the atmosphere played a much greater role. Also I still find it weird how far removed the Issac is in what I've seen of this and a lot of 2 compared to what I imagined in 1. In 1 you get the image of just a very scared, angry kinda everyman engineer guy but in the subsequent games you start getting a more Nathan Drake character who is a bit too fast on the quips and doesn't completely match that angry scared boot stomping guy from 1.

Yup, I've always thought that way and what they did to Isaac in DS2 was one of my complaints. They even actually made him look younger and more ''badass'' in the sequels.

There he looks like he's almost hitting 40. Like he's... just some guy, kinda nondescript, almost a little goofy with his potatoe head. You compare that to how he looks now (having difficulty trying to actually post another pic for comparison's sake..), he looks a lot like yet another generic action hero.

Which I suppose is basically been the progression of the series as it is anyway so, I suppose you could say it fits. Yeah, I would have much preferred if Isaac actually died or went completely crazy; they could have even starred him in a cameo role as someone who tries to kill this new theoretical protagonist at that. Oh well, I guess.

Is that really from the first game? I don't have any recollection of his face being shown in that one.

I've really been thinking about going back to play the first game again. What mode should I play it on?

Posted by benspyda

I feel if they made the co-op more like ME3 or even ripped it off completely I would be all for this game. The ME3 coop was by far the best part of that game. The main issue is that making an entire single player game coop, will always lessen the experience, just look at RE5 & RE6 compared to RE4.

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

The first Dead Space sounded like a new IP that I absolutely had to play due to my insane amount of interest. The second Dead Space sounded like an instant buy if you're a fan of the series or horror/action games at all. This screams "rental" if you're a fan. How goddamn disappointing, but I'm not surprised one iota. Imma go play the first two games and remember the good times.

Posted by Pie

@Brad: Yeah I think it's from that very first intro part when you are coming up on the ship. I think you can spin the camera round and look at yourself but not many people realised you could.

Also play it on the hardest because why wouldn't you?

Posted by WiqidBritt

@Brad: I believe you can spin the camera around right at the beginning of the game before he puts his helmet up and that's the only time in the first game you can see his face. They never explicitly show it to you.

Edited by Yummylee

@WiqidBritt said:

@Brad: I believe you can spin the camera around right at the beginning of the game before he puts his helmet up and that's the only time in the first game you can see his face. They never explicitly show it to you.

No, you also see his face completely in the ending.

His helmet collapses or whatever at around the 0:50 mark.

Online
Posted by Svenzon

Good review. I've been reading reviews throughout the day and adjusted my expectations a bit. It seems really good, but with some significant flaws. I can live with that.

Posted by MiniPato

@Klei said:

The comments bellow made me realize how fucking divas gamers can be.

Only now? What the hell is wrong with you? Were you in stasis when Mass Effect 3 and DmC came out? Nay, when the internet came out? Come on man! You've realized all along, you just wanted to post a comment to tell people that you feel superior to them. I SEE THROUGH YOUR PLOY.

Posted by Strife777

Daaang! 3 stars huh? Not that I'm that surprised after watching the quick look. Oh well, I'm sure I'll still enjoy it.

Posted by Pie

@Yummylee said:

@WiqidBritt said:

@Brad: I believe you can spin the camera around right at the beginning of the game before he puts his helmet up and that's the only time in the first game you can see his face. They never explicitly show it to you.

No, you also see his face completely in the ending.

His helmet collapses or whatever at around the 0.50 mark.

Oh of course that happens. I remember that damn jump scare now

Edited by Yummylee

@Pie: Yup, and they done a really great callback to that scare with Dead Space 2's ending as well :P

Skip to 4:18 for the part I mean. Hell, I think they even used the same musical theme, too.

Online
Posted by killacam

@deano546 said:

@Brad: Would you recommend this to someone who enjoyed Dead Space 1 far more than Dead Space 2?

..you didn't read the review, did you?

Posted by Pie

@Yummylee said:

@Pie: Yup, and they done a really great callback to that scare with Dead Space 2's ending as well :P

Skip to 4:18 for the part I mean. Hell, I think they even used the same musical theme, too.

Now I know why I was so confused after finishing DS2

Posted by evanomeara

Too bad, I trust Giantbombs word over other sites. it looks like I will wait for the price to drop before checking it out.

Posted by joshuaprince9212

@Brad would you compare the way this game was handled to the way Capcom handled the rebooting of Resident Evil? i.e. Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 in that they have co-op and are much more of an action game than a horror game.

Posted by jford

I adored Dead Space 1 & 2 - the story, setting, combat, everything. Even if DS3 is the worst of the trilogy, should I still play it?

Posted by deano546

@killacam: That'll teach me for skimming, sorry @Brad

Posted by darkcargio

goddammit EA did it again

Posted by Brad

@deano546 said:

@Brad: Would you recommend this to someone who enjoyed Dead Space 1 far more than Dead Space 2?

If it was 2's tendency toward action that put you off of it, no, probably not.

Posted by Kankohii

Is there going to be a Bradley May Cry part 2?

Posted by Hnrkaure

I've never played Dead Space. Is it worth going back to and play through all of them?

Posted by Darkstorn

I've still only played Dead Space 1. Just too many other PC games in my backlog...

Posted by tourgen

@Sooty said:

@MooseyMcMan said:

That's too bad! I'm going to wait a bit until it's on sale, and then pick it up.

I'm gonna buy it in a Steam sale.

And by that I mean in an Origin sale.

And by that I mean never.

yup. me too.

The EA micro transactions in-game are unfortunate. Kind of like saying to me, "hey, never buy our game. We busted weapon balance and crafting to support a business model. And added some cool down timers to artificially prop up item transactions."

Posted by Brad

@jford said:

I adored Dead Space 1 & 2 - the story, setting, combat, everything. Even if DS3 is the worst of the trilogy, should I still play it?

Same boat as you, and yeah, I was glad I saw how it concluded even if I didn't like how it concluded. There are certainly things to appreciate in this game even if it's flawed.

Posted by Brad

@Hnrkaure said:

I've never played Dead Space. Is it worth going back to and play through all of them?

Absolutely, 1 and 2 are among my favorites of the generation. I envy someone getting to play the first game for the first time. Play it at night with the lights off.

Posted by Brad

@joshuaprince9212 said:

@Brad would you compare the way this game was handled to the way Capcom handled the rebooting of Resident Evil? i.e. Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 in that they have co-op and are much more of an action game than a horror game.

That's not a bad analogy, though I think RE5 was way better executed on the whole than Dead Space 3. RE6... let's not talk about RE6.

Posted by EpicSteve

This have couch co-op?

Posted by mattdragn

Dead Space 1 was atmospheric to me in part because all of the game's interface was part of the in game world. Do the micro transactions damage that atmospheric feel?

Posted by mellotronrules

comparison shot in case you're interested:

Posted by Phatmac

Have you found Peng yet?

Posted by Brad

@Phatmac said:

Have you found Peng yet?

No, do you know where it is?

Posted by Yummylee

@mellotronrules said:

comparison shot in case you're interested:

Huh, he actually looks much older in Dead Space 3, but that could also be because of the bits of snow in his beard and the overall bump in detail. His head shape is still completely different, though, and he also somehow miraculously managed to start growing his hair again. Dead Space 1 Isaac looks like he's about to start balding :P

Still, a clear badassiferacation was put into effect.

Online
Posted by beatlebrainiac

so do you think this game would have benefited from an always-there AI partner a la RE5? Honestly I didn't care much for it in that game, but from the sounds of the review it would be better here than the alternative.

Posted by stryker1121

@Yummylee said:

@stryker1121 said:

@Yummylee: It seems the talk of "Well, co-op can be ignored" isn't entirely on the level. I'm no EA hater, but from this review and others it feels like DS has been homogenized...not into an awful game, but into a competent, forgettable one. Bigger and more badass shouldn't always have to be the rule with modern sequels.

You're absolutely right and I couldn't agree more, especially when it comes to supposed horror franchises. But I guess that's unfortunately the way it is; giving players something new nearly always seems to equate to ''bigger and flashier''. The Power Fantasy trope resides over gaming at every angle, and it's difficult for any series these days to slip through the cracks unfortunately.

Also, completely irrelevant, but I'm really curious as to why you don't have an avatar or anything like that. You've been on the boards for a while and you've long proven to be a perfectly reasonable and rational person, so I've always considered it odd why you've invariably bundled yourself with all of the other avatar-less, green-named users who often just post nonsense and/or are alternate accounts for people who've been banned.

BAM! You have inspired me, sir. I was just being lazy and got used to my avatar-less existence on GB.

Regarding your remarks, I do take some heart at the latest comments from the Resi guys, who've said a reboot may be in order at least a dialing back of the OTT action of the last 2 games. I think "bloated" is perhaps the word I'd use for many "AAA" games this gen..everyone trying to outdo each other and "kitchen-sinking" games as creativity wanes at the end of a console cycle.

I've not played Demon/Dark Souls yet, but I always hear about those games being lean, mean, tightly-controlled affairs that carry their own very strong and unique ID. That's precisely what I want to see next-gen from all developers.

Posted by Brad

@beatlebrainiac said:

so do you think this game would have benefited from an always-there AI partner a la RE5? Honestly I didn't care much for it in that game, but from the sounds of the review it would be better here than the alternative.

I would have preferred the game had no co-op at all and they'd spent all their energy making a great single-player experience.

Posted by Abendlaender

So, the DLC stuff in the game caused a pretty big discussion before the game was released. In the QL you mentioned the "Buy now" button in the menues which seems a bit annoying but do you feel like buying the DLC stuff would make the game notably better? The droid stuff feels pretty stupid, but was there ever a case where you ran out of droids and had to wait?

Posted by Pixeldemon

@hussatron said:

In a way, I'm kind of relieved. I thought EA would easily get away with all the kind of sleazy DLC and microtransactions, as well as the lowest common denominator changes to the gameplay.

Well, if no one uses the microtransactions they can do several things:

1) Scrap the microtransactions as a failed experiment (best case scenario).

2) Make the microtransactions more important in the hopes that more people will use them (worst case scenario that would bite them long term--but this is Electronic "we killed like 20 awesome studios" Arts).

3) Keep them as they are, because the small chance that people will eventually start wasting more money after the initial $60 buy-in is "worth it".

Posted by mellotronrules

@Yummylee said:

Still, a clear badassiferacation was put into effect.

for sure. he went from everyday joe to hollywood in 1 to 2.