Dead Space 3 Review
I am a huge fan of horror games. Resident Evil, Silent HIll, Penumbra, Amnesia, Doom, so on and so forth. While Resident Evil has become a shooter and Silent Hill has grown stale over the last six years, a funky little studio in Redwood Shores that was previously known for 007 spinoff games and a few Lord of The Rings games was busy with an EA-bankrolled takeover of the horror genre called Dead Space. When that game was released in 2008, horror was actually terrifying again, due in large part to the attention to detail in lighting and audio. There wasn’t really any music during most of the game, opting instead to utilize the creaking mass of the ship to provide a sense of rhythmic depth that still haunts me to this day. The experience was expertly paced and the strategic dismemberment combat system was fresh and new. Dead Space 2 released 3 years later with even better horror elements and tightened combat. The pace was faster and the game was bigger with a number of twists and turns. Dead Space 2 took a lot of chances with a breakout formula, and it felt great to see the game progress in the way that it did. But some of us asked ourselves, “was Dead Space becoming a shooter too?” This is the same trap that the previous king of horror- Resident Evil- has fallen into. Dead Space 2 relied on more set-piece moments and action than its predecessor, but it also did a better job of nailing the horror elements. The game was more dense and the atmosphere was thick and the suspense was razor-sharp. With the sequel being such an improvement upon such a well-paced and stellar game, what does Dead Space 3 do? Does it bend the genre into a more action-shooter hybrid like Resident Evil? Does it utilize familiar scares and atmosphere to give us more of what we already have like Silent Hill? Does it play it safe with an already tried-and-true formula and just give us more Dead Space? The answer may surprise you… it kind of does all three.
Dead Space 3 sees us return into the laughably unlucky shoes of engineer-extraordinaire Isaac Clarke. He hasn’t exactly recovered from his Necromorph encounters yet (can’t say I blame him), and he is on the run from the government and from the shifty Necromorph-obsessed cult called Unitology. The game opens with him in what I assume is supposed to be the futuristic equivalent of a run-down apartment. His girlfriend Ellie (who intrepid Dead Space fans may recognize as the love interest from Dead Space 2 who had her eye gouged out) has broken up with him. In true Isaac Clarke fashion, he has taken to listening to the message on repeat in his apartment. The door to his apartment opens, and a paranoid Isaac makes for the door, only to be roughly taken down by new-coming protagonist John Carver, an Earth Gov soldier. Carver’s captain Norton explains that Earth Gov is basically overrun by Unitologist uprisings, and that Isaac Clarke is needed for a mission to rescue Ellie. Taking this mission will also protect Isaac from the Unitologists, who have a bone to pick with him because he has destroyed two markers in the past (alien monoliths that create Necromorphs through carrier waves- it’s kind of complicated). Isaac doesn’t really see that he has a choice, and he agrees to aid them in their search for Ellie, and also because he probably doesn’t want to stick around to see what these religious kooks have cooking for him when they actually do find him. It is at this moment that the player assumes control of Isaac.
Right off the bat, the game feels good in your hands. It’s a bit quicker on its heels than Dead Space 2, while still keeping its trademark controls and general feel. The RIG H.U.D. is still in play, and Isaac’s health is a luminescent column running up his spine, while his Stasis level is represented as a half-circle next to it. Anyone who has played either previous games will recognize the minimalist heads-up display. It still looks stylish and adds a lot of depth and immersion to the experience. This game also has a bit of “Mass Effect 3-itis,” in that the texture theme is noisier and a bit more cluttered. While this felt a bit forced and out of place in Mass Effect 3, it felt more like a natural evolution in Dead Space 3. The world hadn’t necessarily changed much, but Isaac sure as hell had, and so had his perspective.