The Dead Space series, for me, has made the horror genre relevant again by plunging the player into pure, uninterrupted terror. The first game was near enough the definition of ‘horror’ while you, a lonely engineer, stumbled through an abandoned space station, with only your Plasma Cutter to hand. There was no voice to your character, nor was there any companion to keep you comfortable during the games worst moments. The only company that followed you, had limbs that needed to part ways from their bodies.
Change of Pace
First thing’s first — I guarantee that a lot of people will discard this third title after falling in love with the original. After re-playing the first game it’s somewhat disheartening to know what-once-was, but in order to expand the series further and open itself up to a bigger audience, it was always inevitable to have more of an “action” focus. Where as the first title had a sombre opening with a calm vista of space across your ship’s dashboard, the third in the series is almost akin to the start of “Uncharted 2” as you clamber over a crashed ship in the midst of a snowstorm.
Set shortly after the end of the second game, Isaac is found living by himself in an apartment complex, clutching drawings of what appear to be Markers and listening to a message left by his companion from the last game, Ellie; who seems to be moving on from Isaac. Almost immediately you find yourself tasked with rescuing Ellie and her research team after their colleagues lost contact with them, one of whom is Ellie’s new boyfriend. But as well as a rescue mission on your hands, you now have the head of Unitology aiming a gun at your head, looking to stop you from causing further harm to the Markers and what he thinks will result in being united in “body and spirit”. As the only man to survive so many encounters with the Necromorphs, as well as the only one to destroy the markers, it was only natural that a religious cult would try to put an end to Isaacs reign of heroism – not that he wanted any involvement in the first place.
Sure, the series has slowly evolved into a much more “action” orientated game with more gunning your fear, than running away from it, but I actually found it to suit the gameplay rather well. If you’re going to play this game for horror then I suggest you buy a gaming headset, as I believe it’s the only way to experience the game in all its terrifying glory. If you play through your average set of TV speakers, of course the horror is going to be diminished. When I play a horror title I expect to become enveloped within the games surroundings and atmosphere, meaning that when something does appear from the shadows I’m genuinely scared stiff.
But let’s talk about the things that remain, such as the exclusion of a HUD presenting all-important information organically through your environment and character, plus retaining the feeling that you’re always alone; so that when a Necromorph eventually decides to burst out of a vent – you’re still going to need a fresh pair of pants. Fans of the Zero G sections in prior games will also be happy to learn that they make a much more impactful return, giving you entire areas outside of a space station to explore. Also aiming to keep you busy, side-missions have also been added to change the pace as well as add longevity.
Engineer at heart
Taking weapon upgrades to the next level, the team at Visceral has implemented a fully customizable weapon system, providing you with the chance to create a new weapon entirely – within certain boundaries of course. Would you like an electrocution death beam coupled with a flamethrower? Go ahead! There are plenty of options, but I decided to instead upgrade my Plasma Cutter to its full extent, helping me focus on one weapon. Another thing the series has been well known for is its ability to present the player with sublime graphics, making it look beautiful as you traverse the snowy landscapes of the Marker home planet, Tau Volantis or when you’re alone in the dark with nothing but your blue visor for light.
For any seasoned Dead Space player, you’ll no doubt find it refreshing to find you have a lot more movement at your disposal. If you constantly found yourself in a tight spot in previous games with a slightly archaic control system, you now have the ability to roll or dodge out of the way of incoming attacks. Additionally you can also crouch behind cover now, making it a little safer once Unitologist’s starting pumping out the lead. If you were curious about the threats in the game there are returning enemies, but also some new ones. The introduction of human targets adds to the fear that everything is trying to kill you, not to mention that when they die, their bodies can then be re-animated by a fellow Necromorph – even once the head has been severed.
Horror times by two
Ditching the competitive multiplayer from Dead Space 2, the team decided instead to include a co-op mode. Now before you start cursing to the lord’s and repeating the words “Resident Evil 5”, don’t worry, as the co-op seen in this game is entirely optional; in fact I almost forgot the game included it. Not to say that the mode isn’t worthy of your attention, very much the opposite, through the co-op campaign you’ll not just the get the chance to play as Sergeant John Carver – starring in the main story – but you will also come across unseen cut-scenes, battle strategies and uncover the traumatic past Carver has led. Anyone familiar with Isaac’s previous “visions” of his ex-partner will see a familiar pattern when playing as the Sergeant, as his wife and son tear into his mind and alter his surroundings; including toy soldiers and birthday presents lining corridors, audio logs of him and his wife fighting and blinding visions of his tormented thoughts.
Incorporating a much grander story needed a larger scope of gameplay and characters, hence why it maybe doesn’t feel quite as well paced at times, as you’re sometimes presented with many enemies in one area just to slow your progress. With many games now focusing on a multiplayer aspect, it does seem as though the main story has suffered slightly due to the addition of a separate co-op campaign. Pacing is sometimes a little off, the camera sometimes goes on the fritz and many things seem a bit too familiar. But I still love the series, however what lies next for the franchise remains unknown, but if the next-generation will bring anything, I hope it’s more Dead Space.
- + Further customisation of both your suit and gun
- + Still focused on an isolated experience
- + Still pushes graphical boundaries
- - Multiplayer needs work
- - Camera Issues
- - Too much action