The Dead Space series has, so far, been the go to game if you were looking for some pretty frightening action. Always best played in a darkened room with the volume turned up to neighbour-annoying volumes, you could guarantee a few jumps as you fought your way through the Necromorphs. In fact, Dead Space 2 maintains its record of being only game I’ve ever played where a balloon made me jump. I thought it was a nasty thing, and I ended up almost screaming like a girl, but that’s a different story. The fact remains the so far the series has been great, so with a slight change of direction many people have shown concern. And while things aren’t quite as they were that doesn’t mean the game has suddenly become less exciting.
Taking the role of Isaac Clarke again, the reluctant hero is seeked out to try and sort out the latest marker based tragedy threatening mankind. The story is given a bit of an edge when his girlfriend is one of those seemingly in the most danger, but the story doesn’t really get going, instead leaving the action to speak far more than the characters themselves. While there is some dialogue through the game, and a fair bit of chatter between characters and different teams, you’ll be more interested in staying alive, slicing off limbs and running like hell to avoid getting eaten.
The ever-grotesque enemies are every bit as tricky as they always have been, often forcing you to run away half way down the corridor before turning, firing a few shots and legging it again. The skill of picking the right point to aim at is still very much an important consideration, and with many enemies respawning with new limbs or spitting cacky stuff at you you’ll be desperate to take off every arm, leg and head before stamping on the gory remains just to make sure. The last thing you want is to assume something is dead, only for it to leap at you when you try to walk past. That way lies a change of trousers. What’s quite cool though is using your telekinesis ability to tear spear-like arms off your enemies and fling them back at them – supremely satisfying once you figure it out.
The telekinesis is also used to open doors, slide things around and solve some pretty clever puzzles through the game. After some initial confusion, partly caused by unclear mission objectives and partly by not reading instructions properly, it because second nature to use, and whether you’re flinging your enemies around or controlling equipment from a distance it’s a valuable tool to keep hold of. Speaking of handy gadgets, the scavenger bot crops up a little way into the game, letting you set it searching for resources only to return later with a collection of bits and bobs it may have found on its travels. These items may be ammo, health packs or random bits and bobs that you can use at a workbench to create extra weapons and resources.
These workbenches are a mixed bag of ideas. While gathering scrap metal and upgrade chips in order to upgrade existing weapons or building new ones will delight some gamers, others might find it slows the game down a little too much. Personally I felt more inclined to stick with the weapons I’d created very early on in the game – with one acting like a machine gun and another being a pretty meaty laser cutter thing I managed to get through a lot of the game without needing to make anything else. It does, to be fair, give you something else to hunt around for if you’re happy to take your time but with so many things to shoot at you might well choose to ignore it and just plough on.
Visually Dead Space 3 is pretty much as you’d expect by now. Inside spaces are dark and laced with flickering lights, failing machinery and horribly claustrophobic dead ends, which is mixed in with some pretty impressive looking outside areas when you manage to venture out and about to risk your backside even further. But it’s the audio that really makes this something great to play. Hook up a surround sound system of some sort and you’ll hear scratching in the distance, deadly things crawling towards you from behind and the inevitable pant-filling moments when something bursts through the wall inches from your face and tries to relocate your head to a nearby exit hatch. Music is limited, rightly so, instead letting you take in the often silence of your surroundings, the loneliness of your missions and the fear involved in fending off the Necromorphs.
But despite all this, it never feels like a huge sequel to a brilliant game. It could be the slight lean towards action instead of out and out fear, or it could be the interruptions caused by the workbenches and weapon tweaking. Maybe it’s just the fact that there isn’t a huge amount that feels entirely new, almost like it’s been a bit watered down, but I know some people who are pleased by this. Not everyone likes being scared witless by their games, and while this will still make you jump it doesn’t feel quite as horrifying as before.
What is new though is the co-op mode, letting you drop in and out of a series of co-op campaigns, which let you team up with another player (online only, no split-screen annoyingly) to blast your way through some pretty badass and hardcore enemies to achieve your objectives. This gives something pretty neat to try out, and with most of us here at TGR finding more enjoyment in co-op multiplayer than competitive we were suitably please with this.
So while there’s not much new in the core gameplay of Dead Space 3, and the balance of action to scares tweaked a fair bit, it’s still a very enjoyable game. It looks great, sounds amazing and will still make you a little on edge when things get a little too quiet. Fans of the series should be all over this, but even those of you who have steered clear of Dead Space might want to take a look.
Reviewed on PS3