Dead Space 3 Review (Xbox360)

Dead Space 3 has abandoned any sense of atmospheric horror, forgoing it all for action. Space may still be vast and hollow, the empty ships still bleak and creaking, the Necromorphs still content residing in ventilation shafts, and the religious metaphors still ever-present. But the pacing of the action renders these factors ineffectual at providing any real sense of immersion or atmosphere, and you're always painfully aware, more so than ever before, of the destructive ensemble of nuts and bolts in your hands.

Essentially, Visceral have ditched exactly what made the game unique, and no longer do you feel any sense of foreboding or dread as you wander through abandoned space corridors, as every corner is instead filled with a mundane wave of Necromorphs that desensitised superhero Isaac Clarke is so accustomed to killing he doesn't even flicker, instead croaking Nolan North-esque grunts and swears.

Isaac's jaunts into space look stunning, and are among the most hauntingly tranquil moments of the game.

Turning the game into an explosive action adventure, complete with ripped-from-Uncharted-set-pieces and stunning environments isn't a negative criticism on its own. The narrative arch just about makes Isaac's journey from space engineer to action hero plausible, but the price we pay for Isaac's personal journey is a game that abandons what made the first two Dead Spaces standout, and instead replaces them with all-out action that is wholly derivative and does nothing to inspire or innovate.

Its most innovative feature feels like the weapon crafting system, but it's hard to praise that as creative design, such is the vehement aggression with which the microtransaction system intrinsically linked to it is shoved in Isaac's face. The argument that you can just ignore microtransactions if you don't want to use them is often bandied about, and it's a valid one, but Visceral have made ignoring it as hard as possible.

You're low on ammo and health, and have been at this checkpoint four times now. You don't have many spare parts, but in front of you is a Bench. Upon accessing it, you see that you just don't have enough spare parts to craft that all-important medipack. The shiny microtransaction button looms large, beckoning you to ease your troubles for just a few quid. The pressure to succumb to that temptation is purposefully great, and it's hard not to be ripped out of Dead Space's universe by the sound of jangling coins in your pocket and EA's cash registers ca-chinging.

That's not to say the crafting system is completely useless - it does its purpose in allowing you to craft some truly cool weapons, linking the different elements into a dual-firing beast. You can create a shotgun with a shockwave attached, perfect for close encounters, or attach a grenade launcher to a buzzsaw for maximum destruction. Working out which parts work best is somewhat important, but really all you need is two weapons capable of the most destruction.

That's because, unfortunately, the nature of the combat means you never really need to push this system to its experimental limits, and you can comfortably stick with the same two weapons throughout, upgrading them and perfecting them, instead of creating an arsenal of Frankenstein weaponry that needs to be used for specific encounters.

That necromorph looks vulnerable, but it's probably still capable of moving 50mph.

Just as Isaac sees himself as the universe-saving-action-hero, every Necromorph in the game has also apparently been infected with Arnie-Sly-itus, and whatever their specific form, they come charging at you at breakneck speed. Even if you tactically shoot out their legs, they still come charging, and while the result is frantic and fast-paced combat, it soon becomes a repetitive sludge, never making you adapt or change as the game progresses. Isaac is no longer an engineer thrown into combat - a thinking man turned into an action man - but an action man who has no need for thinking.

Combat's even worse on the thankfully few occasions that humans get involved, largely because the systems just haven't been designed for such an enemy. As a result, the impact of weapons feel extremely muted, with plasma cutters and buzz saws doing bafflingly little to human flesh on some occasions, then inexplicitly causing massive gore on the next round.

Stomping on human corpses to get items also makes little sense, and contributes to the feeling that the narrative decisions and action decisions didn't quite happen in harmony. Isaac's character arch may explain it, but the other elements don't, and shooting humans just feels off when you're using systems specifically designed for alien foes.

The cover system also feels shoehorned in, adding little to the game and doing nothing to stop the ever growing shoot-by-numbers feel. Likewise, there's out-of-place turret sections and clunky ship-flying segments, neither of which seem to add anything, and giving the overall impression that Visceral may have just been trying to cram too much in, instead of honing and perfecting a few key elements like they did in the first two games.

Outside of the combat, Isaac does still stay true to his engineering roots. The main way the game progresses is by sending you through different areas of space - first through different abandoned space wrecks, before you're greeted with the icy planet and the blizzards that rule its surface. Despite the pacing of many of these quests feeling too slow, the fact they make you think - even if it's only a little bit, solving simple puzzles - means they're a welcome and positive refrain from the mindless shooting.

The game's ultimate saving grace is the overarching story, which does do justice to the complex and fleshed-out plots established in past Dead Space volumes, offering an epic space opera that provides commentary on religion and conformity within our society to a backdrop of planetary destruction. The subplots throughout hamper rather than hinder, though, and Isaac's love triangle is sure to cause a few moments of cringe, such is the banality of the dialogue and complete lack of emotional conviction created by any of the characters involved.

Imagine the most mundane thing you can think of, and he's probably saying it.

Dead Space 3 is a game that looks sleek, is polished to the last minute detail, and is full of some stunning set-pieces. But beneath those shiny distractions, it lacks any real sense of soul, slotting in among a raft of other third-person shooters, never causing you to feel anything other than short bursts of panic and relief.

It's shifted the focus to action without fully understanding how to make an action game work, resulting in a game that develops slowly from start to finish, and, at least as far as the combat goes, never does anything to surprise you. I was very sceptical before I played Dead Space 3, but I oh-so-desperately wanted to love it. Unfortunately, it never does anything to earn moderate positive feelings, let alone something approaching love, and instead it offers a vapid experience: one that looks great and ticks boxes, but one that, at the end of day, will leave you feeling emptier than any abandoned vessel Isaac happens across.

Top Game Moment: The conclusion. Not because it meant the game ending, but because of how satisfying and epic it is.

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By nocutius (SI Elite) on Feb 12, 2013
So they basically pulled a Call of Juarez, abandoning the main thing that made the game stand out in the first place.

Not that I liked the games before thanks to the camera but a friend liked them and he'll surely be disappointed with this version.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 12, 2013
Well it's not the best game in the series maybe, I4d agree with 5 out of ten if that meant average...but it typically doesn't does it? A bit low keeping in mind that the average is usually a 7-ish score these days.
By danfreeman (SI Elite) on Feb 12, 2013
i`d give the game a 6 for the same reasons that were explained in this review,yeah i had fun with the game and some parts worked really well but the complete lack of horror makes it somewhat generic,the ending was undoubtedly epic but not enough to save it.

Once you make a weapon that you are familiar with you`re gonna be using that the whole time and will probably kill everything with that,the cover system is absolutely worthless,the human enemies are incredibly easy to take out especially if you use bullets i never had a problem with ammo or med packs.

All in all a generic space shooter,i wish they would at least had some ship combat.
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Feb 12, 2013
I personally keep average at 5/10, but most people don't buy really crappy games so the general average gets raised. I think I'll get it for the story, but only on a reeeeaaaallllllly good sale.
By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Feb 12, 2013
You don't know what you are missing,i give it an 8,there is Co-op as well not mentioned in this article
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 12, 2013
Still agree with average.

See I'd love to see word-based ratings to complement the numbers. Cause let's face it, lots of people don't read the whole review :/
By JonahFalcon (SI Elite) on Feb 12, 2013
You missed the important part of co-op - and it's funny when Isaac is calm, the co-op partner is freaking out because it's all new to him.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 12, 2013
Yep, I'd have to go along with the review and score. Right from the outset, QTE's bugged the hell out me as they always do (they're even in "Aliens: Colonial Marines" at the worst possible moments").
Whatever happened to the good old searching for items that are not highlighted but are in fact hidden? I first encountered this in "FEAR 2" and it destroyed any semblance of immersion. Once upon a time, you had to search whole maps to discover these, and usually get a fright or three along the way...even a few extras.

Of course, silly me: CONSOLES, the destroyer of worlds (gaming worlds, that is).

Visually it's just okay, with the Unreal 3 engine showing it's age (the textures on the creatures are dreadful) and some awful V-Synch tearing.
Exteriors and interiors pass muster but the character visuals and animations don't.

All-in-all an average game deserving of an average score. Unfortunately with the focus firmly set on consoles, this is about as good as it gets these days.
By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Feb 13, 2013
Latest games like Far Cry 3,Resident Evil 6 and Dead Space 3 have all co-op modes specifically designed,so why would you ignore it Chosen_one,its part of it.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 13, 2013
Well I agree with that, co-op should be taken into consideration even if I personally never really see the point of it.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 13, 2013
Try Co-op in "Aliens: Colonial Marines" - it's reportedly awful and destroys what little of the suspense the game tries to generate. Everyone jostling to be point-man/woman in tight corridors, shooting each other with no effect.
Aside from that (I'm still burnt that I almost bought into the belief that game would be like "The Thing") Co-op is unfortunately (in my opinion) here to stay. However, despite what you say Heno (and it IS a good point), I don't believe developers on the whole really know what to do with it, or how to use it properly.
Many a game has a review ending with "...the Co-op feels tacked on at the end." which means most games aren't designed around Co-op. It's an afterthought (or an afterbirth, whichever way you might look at it).

"DS 3" I still think should be played alone as any horror-survival game should be, not that it improves the game by much. Then again, some people just can't bear playing a game by themselves but NEED their mates sitting beside them on the couch (right poofy that sounds, but anyway).
Action Games, well that's a different story.
By ODESSA_Z (I just got here) on Feb 15, 2013
I'll just tell you the same thing I told the other fools that scored Dead Space 3 a 5. You are crazy people. I knew this review was bogus the second I saw, "Dead Space 3 has abandoned any sense of atmospheric horror, forgoing it all for action." So, I think John Carpenter, horror master in film, who sees it differently, is right, when he praised Dead Space 3 publicly on Twitter and that YOU ARe WRONG. I think ICE-T rap and film star is right when he also praised DS3 along with Gameinformer, Polygon, IGN, TheEscapist, Destructoid and a slew of other game media...I'll accept their opinion over this ***** little Euro-trash site. No DS fan, let alone anyone with fair minded analysis agrees with this garbage. I understand, you are trying to get page views and cause controversy by echoing the sentiments of the minority of haters on the web. I understand, EA is an easy target. But being dishonest looses you any and all credibility. I'm sure Donnely who has no Twitter account and is not even listed as staff will hide behind opinion. well, your opinion is a wrong opinion. I personally know people who made Dead Space 3. You can totally tell that the idiot writing this lunacy has no clue how games are even made just by what he says.
I'll sum it up with ....Portal, Left for Dead 2, Batman, Uncharted and a laundry list of other less than average games get high scores from "strategyinformer". I need say no more.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 15, 2013
You're welcome to your opinion (and it is YOUR opinion) but don't trash this site if you disagree. Trying to back up your opinion with those of others does not give you credit, but merely robs them of theirs.

Sounds like you're doing the rounds of every site that doesn't conform to what you think and bagging them for it. That's pretty close to censorship, mate.

But, as I say you're entitled to your opinion, though I have edited your expletive for this "Euro-trash site" does not support such abusive language.

Thanks for your input.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 15, 2013
So you disagree with the rating? Okay, that's fine. Have a nice day.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 15, 2013
Just edited your post, Roddy. Grammar was wrong " nice..."?
Always good to stomp on a Grammar Nazi, hehe:)
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 15, 2013
Thank you hero, I must not have been drunk enough at that stage ^_^
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 15, 2013
You're better than me....I can't even understand what I've written if drunk (the next day that it is). Probably why it doesn't happen much these days.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 15, 2013
Well some people are just bad at taking critisism, even if it's just on something they like.

At any rate, it's not like he posting again, them trolls aren't interested in feedback or discussion.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 16, 2013
No they're not, so best to not waste time nor words on them.

Mentioning John Carpenter as he did though, made me think back.
Aside from "Halloween", "The Fog" (the original) and "The Thing" (1982), I can't think of anything else he's done that's any good and believe me being a Horror Movie nut, I've seen them all.
By Gale47 (SI Core) on Apr 03, 2013
Well, I have to disagree with the score. I find the entire Dead Space series quite amusing and playable. This one is no exception. Still, I have to agree with the fact that DS3 is too "actiony".