Dead Space 3 is not a horror game. Let’s just get that out of the way right up front. Visceral Games’ latest entry in the Dead Space series is a AAA blockbuster action title through and through.
The first 45 minutes of the game make this clear by featuring shoot outs, gruff space Marines and perennial hero Isaac Clarke escaping the from the clutches of religious zealots by jumping from an exploding train on to a spaceship. Gone are the gore-streaked, claustrophobic hallways of the USG Ishimura. They have been replaced with sprawling environments set in the vast and silent vacuum of space and the frozen windswept wasteland of the planet Tau Volantis.
There’s also fiery explosions. Lots of fiery explosions. Add a love triangle, a villain with a vague British accent, a plot that centers around ridding the universe of an evil force once and for all and you got enough action movie tropes to make Michael Bay swallow his own tongue. But for all its sound and fury, the overall gameplay of Dead Space 3 can, at times, border on tedious.
The game’s missions are by-and-large a series of fetch quests, wherein Isaac is tasked with fixing some malfunctioning piece of equipment or technology, is separated from his team and is sent on an errand to collect “X” number of doodads before finding his way back and fixing said problem. This would all be fine if the enemies were unpredictable, but after the first hour of the game you can easily anticipate when and where they are coming. Are you in a large room? Did you just pick up an important item? If your answer is “yes” to either question, then get ready for combat.
Despite the waves of baddies you are tasked with mowing down, there is always more than enough health and ammo to go around (on regular difficulty anyway). The strategy of resource management, and the panic of running low on ammunition while waiting for next necromorph to lunge out of the woodwork is virtually non-existent.
Playing with a friend in the games co-op mode smooths out a lot of the game’s rough edges. It’s much easier to overlook the repetitive gameplay, forgettable characters and overblown plot when you have someone to share the experience with. In addition, playing cooperatively introduces a secondary plot and side missions which explore story of secondary protagonist John Carver. Those side missions are arguably some of best parts of Dead Space 3.
The game’s crafting system allows players to dream up an almost endless combination of weapons and sub-weapons, but it continually takes you out of the world of the game. The desire to stop and fiddle with my weapons at the gratuitously placed crafting benches disrupted and ultimately slowed the fast-paced rhythm Visceral tried to set for the game. Despite those issues I was still compelled to press on and finish the game. In spite of its perceived flaws, Dead Space 3 still does enough to warrant your time.
The visuals of Dead Space 3 stand out as one of the best parts of the game. The graphics are detailed and cinematic. Each set piece has the look of a AAA title on current generation console. While it may be a very different game from its predecessors, Visceral did a great job keeping the look and feel of the game’s world consistent with the rest of the series. Even though it plays more like a modern day third-person action shooter, the series’ three major games share a consistent look and narrative arc.
For all the changes to this iteration of Dead Space, the game’s core combat mechanics thankfully remain largely unchanged, and still feel incredible satisfying. Whether you use a newly crafted weapon or keep it old school with your trusty plasma cutter, strategically dismembering the packs of necromorphs the game throws at you feels just as rewarding as it did in Dead Space and Dead Space 2.
Ultimately, Dead Space 3 is likely not the game that long-time fans of the series wanted, but still hits enough of the right notes to be, if nothing else, an entertaining experience.