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+
287 Comments
Posted by SuperWristBands

I really wish Dead Space 3 was trying to be more Dead Space.

Posted by rulerofeden

Picking this up today. Hope my opinion will differ from yours, Brad.

Posted by jaks

Brad you seemed to like it more in the Quick Look.

I am just starting Dead Space 2 now so it will be awhile before I get to this. :O

Posted by JayEH

wow

Posted by DigTheDoug

Gnar gnar.

Chah.

Posted by Venatio

This is indeed dissapointing
 
Guess I'll skip it for a while, seems like they forgot what made Dead Space so great

Posted by Carousel

Electronic Farts more like.

Posted by AMyggen

@jaks said:

Brad you seemed to like it more in the Quick Look.

I am just starting Dead Space 2 now so it will be awhile before I get to this. :O

To me, a 3/5 seems perfectly in line with his comments in the Quick Look: A pretty decent game, but not even close to the two previous Dead Space titles.

Posted by Sooty

Thanks Obama EA.

Posted by JoeyRavn

Dead Space seems to be one of those extremely polarizing games. I've just started playing it and... I don't know. It looks great (though I have to say, I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with DS2), those cinematic action sequences are still top notch and combat is as good as ever. At least when you're fighting necromorphs, that is. Fighting humans seems way, way out of place for this series. Popping headshots and taking cover? Yeah, no.

I'm definitely going to play and finish Dead Space 3, though. It just hasn't gripped me as the second one did right off the bat.

Posted by TooWalrus

@Carousel said:

Electronic Farts more like.

Yowza.

Posted by Morningstar

Wow, did not expect this :O

Online
Posted by xSeanZx

@JoeyRavn said:

Dead Space seems to be one of those extremely polarizing games. I've just started playing it and... I don't know. It looks great (though I have to say, I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with DS2), those cinematic action sequences are still top notch and combat is as good as ever. At least when you're fighting necromorphs, that is. Fighting humans seems way, way out of place for this series. Popping headshots and taking cover? Yeah, no.

I'm definitely going to play and finish Dead Space 3, though. It just hasn't gripped me as the second one did right off the bat.

I would agree with the statement about it not gripping you right off the bat, although I though the prologue in this game was really cool, its nothing like the opening of dead space 2. Now that was intense and awesome shit.

Regardless, I still love the hell out of this game. Im into Chapter 4 and still enjoying it very much. The scope seems much larger, and still I have a sense of tension in all the areas I go to. Im loving it so far (this is coming from someone who puts Dead Space 2 in my top 5 games of all time).

Posted by suicidepacmen

This is an acceptable review score, Brad.

Posted by Arthol

Was really looking forward to play this one, but it sounds like EA's policy of annualizing their releases has claimed another victim? What a shame.

Posted by MaxOpower

Sooo conflicted on this game. Game informer and Polygon loves it, but now brad doesn't... I'll Probably wait for whatever Jeff and maybe Patrick/Ryan has to say about it.

Posted by OllyOxenFree
Posted by LikeaSsur

This is very disappointing, I loved Dead Space and Dead Space 2. To see a franchise turn from action horror to just action is....kind of sad.

Oh, Dead Space, we hardly knew ye.

Posted by VicRattlehead

comment meltdown incoming? will brad be 2 for 2 in 2013 FIND OUT NEXT WEEK ON GIANTBOMB.COM

actually do people care about deadspace enough for meltdowns?

Edited by evanbower

Really happy to see someone in the games press actually, y'know, critique Dead Space 3 for its missteps, instead of just pointing them out then saying, "but it still plays like Dead Space, 9,5." I can take almost nothing from those other reviews when story and atmosphere are pretty much top priority for me. #bradgetsit

Edited by Dezztroy
@AMyggen said:

@jaks said:

Brad you seemed to like it more in the Quick Look.

I am just starting Dead Space 2 now so it will be awhile before I get to this. :O

To me, a 3/5 seems perfectly in line with his comments in the Quick Look: A pretty decent game, but not even close to the two previous Dead Space titles.

That's the thing though, 3 does pretty much everything better than 1 and 2. Except for the whole fighting humans part, but you don't do that very often.
 
Also, Brad probably should've played some co-op before reviewing it. It adds a fair bit to the game and its story.
 
Edit: I feel like Brad gave the Tau Volantis sidequests too little credit as well. I really enjoyed learning how the
Posted by Phatmac

The score reflects your thoughts on it on the bombcast and quick look. I mostly just want more Dead Space combat so I'll be getting it. Solid review nonetheless Brad.

Posted by jimmyfenix

great review brad

Online
Posted by EuanDewar

EVA helmet in that one screenshot

Posted by familyphotoshoot

When will EA learn?

You cannot make a product that will please everyone. If you strive to consistently make geese that lay golden eggs you will fail. Not only this, but you destroy your existing fanbase in the process. It is an endless, destructive cycle that EA perpetuates in the name of greed.

Posted by Vitor

@VicRattlehead said:

comment meltdown incoming? will brad be 2 for 2 in 2013 FIND OUT NEXT WEEK ON GIANTBOMB.COM

actually do people care about deadspace enough for meltdowns?

Weirdly enough, fans are happy that a series hasn't evolved at all this time.

About a third of the way through the game and yup, I can undeniably confirm that it's more Dead Space. I liked the first two but I'd honestly had my fill by the end of the second one.

This isn't the 'action' version of the series. It's the same damned game to a fault. Certainly enjoyable but not quite up to snuff in 2013.

Posted by frankepooz

Make a amazing survival horror a coop dudebro shooter? well heres the answer how good that ends up being.

Posted by bassman2112

I'd like to rent it, but sadly there are no more Blockbusters or anything around here. Guess I'll wait for it to go on sale for like $5. Shame, I adored the first 2 Dead Space games as well; but from the very first E3 trailer, I felt this one wasn't going to be as spectacular.

Thanks for the review, Brad. It's super concise and touches on everything I wanted to know.

Posted by evanbower

@Dezztroy said:

@AMyggen said:

@jaks said:

Brad you seemed to like it more in the Quick Look.

I am just starting Dead Space 2 now so it will be awhile before I get to this. :O

To me, a 3/5 seems perfectly in line with his comments in the Quick Look: A pretty decent game, but not even close to the two previous Dead Space titles.

That's the thing though, 3 does pretty much everything better than 1 and 2. Except for the whole fighting humans part, but you don't do that very often.

Also, Brad probably should've played some co-op before reviewing it. It adds a fair bit to the game and its story.

Edit: I feel like Brad gave the Tau Volantis sidequests too little credit as well. I really enjoyed learning how the
feeders came to be and what happened to the SCAF soldiers. That poor guy in the supply depot, getting tricked by his sergeant to be eaten by his squadmates.

I'm almost positive he did play co-op, since on I Love Mondays last night they mentioned he was going home to do just that.

Posted by Yummylee

So I think I'd probably prefer to play through this in coop first, considering that it's looking to be a relatively mediocre Dead Space game from a solo standpoint. Plus I would then unlock Pure Survival, which looks playing that in single-player could be the best way for me to squeeze some survival horror-ish elements outta this.

Brad's need to play it in single-player greatly mimics my own experience with RE5. It's better for what it is in coop, but it's Resident Evil damnit, so by gum did I solo the shit out of it. But then I played it in coop and it was noticeably better... Although that's also in part because of having a wretched AI there to consistently ruin what little atmosphere that game had. Really wish RE5 could have featured the same solo/coop design, where I could still play the game purely as Chris with no nagging AI at my side.

Anywhoo sorry to randomly bring up RE5, it's just the overall reactions to Dead Space 3 definitely conjured up some memories. Really great review, Brad!

Posted by claybrez

It's like the life cycle of RE, only accelerated! Horror game? ACTION GAME! Mostly silent, vacant eyed protagonist? ACTION BRO... with hammy inner conflicts! Original setting? SOME PLACE THE GAME NEVER BELONGED IN!

I never played any of the deadspaces, this is just an outsider's opinion.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

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

Moderator
Posted by Milkman

I love Dead Space 1 and 2 with all my heart. But I think I'm just not going to play this. I have zero interest in slogging my way through another Mass Effect 3 in which I don't care about the majority of what I'm seeing just to get some sense of closure.
 
Make better games, EA. You're ruining everything. 

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

Yup, that looks about right.

Posted by Dezztroy
@evanbower said:

@Dezztroy said:

@AMyggen said:

@jaks said:

Brad you seemed to like it more in the Quick Look.

I am just starting Dead Space 2 now so it will be awhile before I get to this. :O

To me, a 3/5 seems perfectly in line with his comments in the Quick Look: A pretty decent game, but not even close to the two previous Dead Space titles.

That's the thing though, 3 does pretty much everything better than 1 and 2. Except for the whole fighting humans part, but you don't do that very often.

Also, Brad probably should've played some co-op before reviewing it. It adds a fair bit to the game and its story.

Edit: I feel like Brad gave the Tau Volantis sidequests too little credit as well. I really enjoyed learning how the

I'm almost positive he did play co-op, since on I Love Mondays last night they mentioned he was going home to do just that.

You're right. I must've missed the part about Carver in the review when skimming through it.
 
My bad, Brad.
Posted by Sooty

@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.

Posted by heatDrive88

I think it's fair to say even though this score still says 3 stars, it's probably still easy to say that this game is still really good - just maybe not as good as Dead Space 2 if that's what you liked.

Posted by Signus

I'm way too invested in Dead Space to have ignored the third game, so it's coming later today, but this review seems to fit my expectations. I'm still going to play it and enjoy it, but I probably won't adore it like I did the previous two games.

Pour one out for yet another great franchise EA stomps into the dirt with it's corporate boot. Hopefully Visceral hangs around and gets another shot at a new IP, because those guys are talented as hell.

Posted by golguin

I was expecting a 4. Unlike DmC though, I don't think you're going to have people going to bat for this game since the original Dead Space fans were all about the tension and sense of atmosphere.

Posted by mrcraggle

Such a massive contrast to the Polygon review that raved about the game and gave it a 9.5 out of 10. I really enjoyed the past 2 games (2 played better but 1 had a much better atmosphere) but so little about this game has me interested. The demo left me completely indifferent to it all and was just from E3 anyway where it looked over-actiony which isn't the reason I enjoyed Dead Space to begin with. It started out as a series that was doing what Resident Evil couldn't and now it seems like their paths are crossing over just a little too much.

Posted by Lifendz
@heatDrive88 said:

I think it's fair to say even though this score still says 3 stars, it's probably still easy to say that this game is still really good - just maybe not as good as Dead Space 2 if that's what you liked.

I'm not even sure Brad knows how he feels about the game after 20 hours of play. He was flip flopping in the QL about how he felt about certain things. 
Posted by Abendlaender

So, I'm not sure if this was mentioned but: Is this game scary? And I don't mean jump scares cause those are pretty easy to do (and pretty lame if I might add). For me, the scariest moments in games are always when there are no enemies around but you don't know that. Walking down dark hallways with sounds of footsteps echoing through the room, that is scary. Having a monster jump out of a closet while the music is suddenly shrieking is....not really scary.

Posted by sandweed

@Arthol said:

Was really looking forward to play this one, but it sounds like EA's policy of annualizing their releases has claimed another victim? What a shame.

I know it's hip to rage on EA, but the last dead space game came out in early 2011, and Dead Space 1 in 2008. This is not annualizing it.

Posted by wumbo3000

Seems like the Mass Effect 3 syndrome is hitting all of EA's franchises.

Posted by GaspoweR

@MaxOpower said:

Sooo conflicted on this game. Game informer and Polygon loves it, but now brad doesn't... I'll Probably wait for whatever Jeff and maybe Patrick/Ryan has to say about it.

Same here but I'm waiting for what Vinny thinks of the game. I seem to share similar tastes or feelings on games with him. I kinda share similar opinions regarding shooters with Jeff but with other games, it's Vinny. Sleeping Dogs was also one of my favorite games of last year. :)

Posted by BombKareshi

Overall I'm getting a "skip this one before I spoil my memories" vibe from this game. That might be difficult since my cousin will probably spend his own limited funds on this game in an attempt to commit me to join him for the co-op. 
 
Guess I'll wait till it's on special and get it cheap, kiss the Dead Space I know and love goodbye, then  sit back and  enjoy the two player action with extreme apathy.

Posted by Jedted

Dead Space never really felt like a trilogy to me. After the first one i thought that would be the end of Issac and the same with DS2. It's kinda sad when a game creates an new and interesting world, which is capable of selling the game itself, but they just stick with the same protagonist because that's the only way they think they can sell the game.

I'll likely still play DS3 at some point down the road. As long as they have some tense zero-g puzzle sequences then i'm sold.

Edited by GaspoweR

@Abendlaender said:

So, I'm not sure if this was mentioned but: Is this game scary? And I don't mean jump scares cause those are pretty easy to do (and pretty lame if I might add). For me, the scariest moments in games are always when there are no enemies around but you don't know that. Walking down dark hallways with sounds of footsteps echoing through the room, that is scary. Having a monster jump out of a closet while the music is suddenly shrieking is....not really scary.

Arthur Gies replied to someone asking the same question on Twitter that the game is more tense than scary most of the time and it still has some scary moments. That's what I felt when playing through DS1 and DS2 so reading that pretty much didn't change how I feel about this game. I'm not a horror purist like Patrick is and I'm not into the horror genre in general so this game pretty much is the right mix for me.

Posted by Box3ru13

Further proof that Brad just gives all Triple A titles 5 stars and then it won't even end up on the end of the year list. /sarcasm