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Dead Space 3 on Xbox

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Get going, action-horror gamers, those alien limbs aren’t gonna dismember themselves! Craft your unique arsenal, resist and master the elements, experience a fully realized world, and confront some of the most stubborn gameplay and underwhelming story bits you’ve ever been given. Developer Visceral Games’ latest and seemingly final installment in the Dead Space franchise, Dead Space 3, makes some mighty mistakes in gameplay and plot that may have crippled the action-horror shooter had it not been for the engulfing world, nay, universe, it depicts, among other enjoyable features. Dead Space 3 is not the game of the year or even the best Dead Space, but then it’s also not an experience to be missed if you’ve got the other two Dead Spaces under your belt. Your horrific, demented belt, that is.

Dead Space 3 returns you to the boots of disgruntled space engineer Isaac Clarke, who, after near mental exhaustion from the events in Dead Space 2, is mournfully living out his life on a moon colony dancing with Unitologists. After being removed from the colony by two EarthGov agents, Isaac is sent to follow up on an SOS signal from his ex-girlfriend Ellie Langford (from the second game), where he must then travel down to the surface of Tau Volantis, an ice-glazed and forgotten planet that promises the secret to finally silence the Necromorph threat.

Dead Space 3 is quick to make its first mistake with the plot, that is, introducing a ridiculous, pointless love triangle. Visceral Games tried so hard to make the other guy in the triangle a complete jerk that even his voice abuses the very stereotype he is. The whole ordeal forces Isaac to say some particularly dreadful lines where his whining becomes uncharacteristic and unwanted. Luckily, this love triangle is more tucked away in the overall plot, and only occasionally brought out to remind you to stop enjoying the game.

The characters of Dead Space 3 are fairly bland, as well. Isaac, without his dementia or guilt, now is just more of a gruff shell of himself than anything else, even if he does often break past that into a more dynamic and powerful character, but only to slink back into a weathered one. Danik, the Unitologist leader, lacks characterization as the villain, and is absent for most of the game. Danik’s men are also without personality and look like emotionless drones, with the only way of knowing they’re human being their screams when you blast off their limbs. Carver, your companion if you choose to play co-op, has a potential character arc hidden inside him, but if you play single-player he’s never with you to let it develop.

Despite all this, Dead Space 3’s story isn’t actually bad. The occasional line of dialogue does stand out, both in a great way and a dreadful way, but the plot progresses nicely, paces decently, twists at times, and ties into all the previous Dead Space games. It may become convoluted, but Dead Space 3 is an effective conclusion to the franchise.

Dead Space 3 has some truly obnoxious and truly amazing gameplay. This installment in the franchise introduces weapon crafting, where you find weapon parts scattered in the landscape like confetti and craft your very own killing-machine at the Bench. You’re presented with a number of options to create and then modify weapons: give your rifle an acid bath or your pistol an ammo sweeper; stick with the Plasma Cutter or throw in a shotgun. There’s a lot of variety, and at first what you can make is very minimal, but very quickly it opens up and you’re free to experiment, since weapon parts are freely interchangeable. This great system is the star of Dead Space 3’s gameplay.

Unlike the classic ‘strategic dismemberment’ gunplay Dead Space sports, this installment is more about emptying your clip than aiming for arms and legs. It’s still frenetic and it’s still Dead Space, but some may be mildly disappointed. From the late middle on, Dead Space 3 starts testing your willpower to not throw your controller at the wall in a fiery rage. This is when Dead Space 3 quickly and mercilessly becomes insanely tedious with its combat. Every chapter has at least one level where you fight waves of Necromorphs, battles that aren’t so much hard as they are annoying, and the boss battles are repetitive and occasionally unbeatable if you’ve equipped as one of your only two weapons a gun that isn’t the Plasma Cutter or something akin to it. In a way, these boss battles limit your creativity such that you only have one weapon slot free while your needed Plasma Cutter is in the other.
What’s worse, the game saves with checkpoints now, and there’s no way to return to a previous checkpoint without restarting the whole chapter; meaning, if you don’t have the Plasma Cutter (or a gun that can quickly shoot off fast moving little yellow appendages) when you enter the boss fight, you can’t go back to an autosave right before the battle to equip it. This makes for some long, sluggish boss fights where you pitifully try to shoot off tentacles with your flamethrower.

People have complained about all the backtracking and repetitive “fixing broken stuff” objectives in the game, and while it does occasionally get in the way of things it’s actually not very noticeable, and plays out a lot like the first Dead Space. Despite some awfully tedious encounters near the end, you’ll find the gameplay quite enjoyable, through and through.

Dead Space 3 does have something really going for it this time around, and that’s how real and vast the world feels. Despite what you may think, it’s not all just dead space. You begin in a flashy, bustling moon colony city, and while traversing the dark, littered streets you get the feeling that the Dead Space universe isn’t just a series of dark corridors. Later, in one of the best moments of the game, you’re roaming in complete, absolute space. You can see the ice planet Tau Volantis, large and magnificent, below you. Complete silence. The environment feels so authentic and truly bigger than you on an infinite scale. On the planet, Tau Volantis, while racing against your dropping body temperature, you’ll find tons of text logs left behind by crew members that range from decent to masterfully written, speaking of all matters of things. There will also be the occasional audio logs, diary-like recordings that give the whole place a breath you just don’t get from something like Halo. I highly recommend you partake in every optional mission, little ventures into darker places of the Dead Space world. These quests not only reward you with valuable materials for crafting, but actually have concise, better stories than the actual game. There’s a particular part of the Dead Space 3 campaign having to do with the cannibalism of the starving crew on Tau Volantis, a short tale that really empowers the wild and feral atmosphere built in the Dead Space universe. If you play single-player like I did, however, you’ll occasionally come across impassable doors that glow red and have the words “Co-Op” written on them, which is a big letdown, but then there’s always the whole Dead Space universe left to yourself to enjoy.

Helping to build on the realistic universe are the visuals of Dead Space 3. An open space vista with a glint of radiating sunlight in complete blackness is one of the many visual treats in the experience, though there are a few familiar ship interiors that become a little dull comparatively. Also, Necromorph character models project fear and raw terror into the novice gamer, especially the hooded ones with axes and deep, glowing eyes that resemble the hallucinations of Nicole from Dead Space 2. When Dead Space 3 wants to, it can be simply glamorous.

As a final side note, Dead Space 3 has a nice score to it as well. Usually the little music in Dead Space was tucked away in a crystal silence and only revealed in short, emotional bits, but here it stands out as being scary and foreboding when called for and large and gripping when wanted.

Dead Space 3 is a terror that won’t let up, with good gameplay that fails toward the end, a story that could use more character, and a unique universe that’s enchanting and fully realized vision saves the game from becoming more dead space in your games collection. Visceral Games’ latest and concluding installation to the superstar Dead Space franchise is not the perfect video game or the perfect Dead Space, but as a conclusion it is solid, if rough around the edges, and it’ll be a long time before another series steals the blacks of space away from this epic conclusion.




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