When Isaac Clarke first stepped onto our screens in Dead Space, the survival-horror genre got the kick up the ass that it needed. Followed by an outstanding sequel that topped the original in almost every way in Dead Space 2, it’s no wonder that fans of the series were jumping behind the sofa once again when the third instalment was announced. Isaac Clarke is back again in Dead Space 3, and whilst it’s undoubtedly the weakest of the three, it is by no means a bad game.
Following the events of Dead Space 2, Isaac has been allowed to live out a life of peace, hopefully never having to pick up a plasma cutter again. Unfortunately, he is quickly pulled back into action when the crazed leader of a deadly cult triggers another marker-related crisis. Forced back into his battle-suit, Isaac tools up to meet with ex-girlfriend Ellie, who has a plan to end this, and any future disasters caused by Markers.
Accompanying him is a team of scientists and archaeologists, including Ellie’s current boyfriend, causing one of the most forced love triangles I’ve ever seen. Seriously, the outcome of this relationship is transparent, even to the most uneducated of players. Still, it’s thrown in to mix up the formula of the story, which by the third game is following the same ideas. Marker activates, necromorphs show up, Isaac kills them and saves the day.
By this point, we know exactly what to expect from a Dead Space game, so the story doesn’t provide anything particularly groundbreaking. What fans of the series are really looking for is atmosphere and gameplay, and in these areas, Dead Space 3 does not disappoint. Systematically dismembering Necromorphs is as satisfying as ever, offering a level of difficulty that is challenging, but never unfair.
As you kill your way across the barren landscapes of the frost-covered planet that makes up the majority of the game’s setting, you collect resources which can be used in a new, far more in-depth upgrade system for your weapons, allowing you to craft your own tools of death from scratch. You can also collect blueprints for weapons such as shotguns and grenade launchers, before creating and slotting upgrade modules into them. It’s a system that might take you a while to grasp, but when it clicks, it works really well.
The atmosphere is where the game truly shines. Throughout the series, this is a game that has mastered the ability of feeling alone and vulnerable, even when armed to the teeth. Dead Space 3 follows suit, and even in the outdoor segments, where you travel through wide, open areas, there’s still a sense of claustrophobia that makes the gamer feel uncomfortable, but in a good way. It’s difficult to explain, but anyone who has played a Dead Space game before will know exactly what I mean.
The competitive multiplayer from the second game has been dropped – a wise move if you ask me – and instead replaced by a co-operative mode. The whole game can be played through with a companion who has his own story and history. Playing with someone else can benefit the player, as it opens new cutscenes and side-quests. However if you’re a fan of the feeling of loneliness that makes the game unique, you might prefer to go it alone.
Don’t get me wrong, having a companion beside you makes the game no easier, as the enemies become tougher when another player joins the game, however it can make you feel better knowing that you aren’t totally alone.
The addition of human enemies mixes up the way you play, forcing you to change your tactic and head for cover, which is a nice touch, and the balance between Necromorphs and humans is nicely levelled. Mixing the two together has you engaging both humans and Necromorphs at the same time, and makes for some truly intense firefights.
Dead Space 3 had big boots to fill, and unfortunately, it couldn’t quite reach the standards set by what has come before it. The co-op play lessens the sense on solitude, and at times, the human enemies and cover system push this game dangerously close to a generic third-person shooter, but it doesn’t take long for something f*cked up to appear and remind you that you’re playing something unique, and in Dead Space, that's always a good thing.