Dead Space 3 Review: Love Grows Cold

Dead Space 3 is pretty to look at, delivers the requisite number of thrills, and stays mostly interesting from the first hour to the 20th. But it's also a reminder of the gloomy business that surrounds this wonderful pastime.

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EA

You won’t find a better snapshot of big-budget video games right now than Dead Space 3.

As sequels to sequels often do, Dead Space 3 delivers a most palatable sci-fi action dish, having smoothed away all the rough edges of its predecessors. It’s pretty to look at, delivers the requisite number of thrills, and stays mostly interesting from the first hour to the 20th.

Yet Dead Space 3 is also a constant reminder of the gloomy business that surrounds this wonderful pastime. Dead Space 3 makes several subtle efforts to sell you in-game resources for real money, and carves out a gaping hole in its story for online cooperative play (which, incidentally, requires an “Online Pass” that costs $10 if you buy the game used). Even if you don’t think of these efforts as offensive money grabs, there’s no escaping the fact that they change the game–and not for the better.

There was a time when the series’ mantra, “shoot for the limbs,” held more meaning, back when Dead Space used to be about scarcity. When you looked in your inventory and saw only a clip-and-a-half of ammo and a tiny health pack, you experienced genuine terror at what the next darkened corridor might bring.

That kind of scarcity can’t exist in Dead Space 3. Just imagine the backlash that publisher Electronic Arts would face if the game didn’t scatter a healthy supply of ammo and weapons throughout, but then asked players to buy those materials with real money. EA doesn’t need that stress, so instead Dead Space 3 goes the other way: By the midway point, you’re so overstuffed with weapons and ammo that you have to start selling off your surplus just to make room for more. Don’t worry about emptying your chamber on a single Necromorph; there’s plenty of ammo to go around.

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EA

The spooky atmosphere that was once a hallmark of Dead Space is further diminished through the addition of cooperative multiplayer, regardless of whether you partake. EA wants you to believe you can have your cake and eat it too–that by playing alone, you can get the same solitary chills that the series has always offered. But even in single player, it’s hard not to notice the void where your coop partner is supposed to be. Isaac Clark, the game’s protagonist, and his combat buddy John Carver, appear together at critical junctures in the story, and they often stay in radio contact when separated. The game never offers convincing explanations for why they don’t stick together all the time; you’re left to ponder the cognitive dissonance on your own, while enjoying the comfort of never truly feeling alone in Dead Space’s world.

Even if you wanted to dabble in multiplayer, it’s hard to know where to jump in. The game’s handful of coop-only missions are scattered randomly throughout the game, so you’ll need to have an online friend in waiting just to play them. Multiplayer is best experienced by people who have a long list of friends to rely on at all times, or don’t mind playing with a revolving cast of complete strangers. If neither of those scenarios work for you, a significant facet of Dead Space 3’s story is withheld.

There’s still a lot to like about Dead Space 3. Seeing a horde of monsters fast approaching, with pointy limbs flailing, as an orchestra of horns and violins rises to cacophony, is guaranteed to get the heart pumping, even if you can carelessly let the bullets fly now. As always, you’ll be pointing your gun-mounted flashlight at every corner, and listening closely to localize the growls of your attackers. The terror is dulled, but the thrill at Dead Space’s core remains intact.

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EA

I also welcome the new weapon system, which lets you cobble together an arsenal from assorted parts. Maybe you’ll craft a rather pedestrian machine gun with mounted rocket launcher, but perhaps you’ll get creative and make a dual-bladed, acid-enhanced razor launcher. It’s up to you, and from a narrative angle the system ties in nicely with Isaac’s engineering background. Unlike the game’s superfluous resource economy, the weapons are something you can actually obsess over.

The storyline treads some interesting waters as well, as the fictional religion of Unitology takes center stage. Dead Space 3 even breaks away from the series’ desolate spaceships for once, taking players to a frozen planet where the Unitologists try to cause the “rebirth” (read: mass extinction) of humanity. While several critics have drawn parallels to Scientology, it’s clear now that Dead Space is taking an ax to messianic thinking in general. In the event of a world-threatening disaster, how many of us would embrace it as Rapture, and how many of us would try to survive it? How far will blind faith take us? Sci-fi has an interesting way of putting those cosmic questions on the table. I only wish Dead Space 3 didn’t drag down the better parts of its story with a predictable love triangle subplot in its first half.

The end result of all this is a game that I found equal parts enjoyable and agitating. I hate that microtransactions and shoehorned multiplayer conspire to make Dead Space 3 worse. I hate that the review copy EA sent to me included bonus weapons that feel like overpowered cheats when used at the outset. I hate bonus weapons as a concept. In many ways, I hate what big budget gaming has become.

But I still liked Dead Space 3. You probably will too, if you just don’t let it get to you.

Score: 3 out of 5

Version reviewed: Xbox 360

10 comments
RichardMiller
RichardMiller

Hey there,

I want to share this information with you regarding recent happenings with EA, their online store Origin, and Dead Space 3 - http://youtu.be/oOgrAM63huM

Please have a look at this video, and if it works for an article, please by all means use it.  I'm available for contact to discuss.

RichardMiller
RichardMiller

What I've noticed is that ALL the micro transaction critiques FAIL to mention using the RATIONS instead of REAL money.  EVERY microtransaction for upgraded weapon parts, etc, (suit textures or the voice over for the bot don't count) you can purchase with SUPPLY RATIONS which the BOTS bring to you each time they return.  Simple solution - play through the game on casual - drop your bots every time you get a chance, then have about 1000 supply rations to get everything you want.  easy.  I'd like you to add how to do this to your article, or post this somewhere.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@RichardMiller But my problem isn't that the game doesn't give enough resources. It's that it gives you too much. The fact that you can use rations to get even more resources just compounds the issue. From the article:

"That kind of scarcity can’t exist in Dead Space 3. Just imagine the backlash that publisher Electronic Arts would face if the game didn’t scatter a healthy supply of ammo and weapons throughout, but then asked players to buy those materials with real money. EA doesn’t need that stress, so instead Dead Space 3 goes the other way: By the midway point, you’re so overstuffed with weapons and ammo that you have to start selling off your surplus just to make room for more. Don’t worry about emptying your chamber on a single Necromorph; there’s plenty of ammo to go around."

RichardMiller
RichardMiller

@newmanjb @RichardMiller I understand your view.  I have a huge surplus of ammo and other stuff from playing through the game a few times.  First I played in casual to get an understanding of what happens, and because when I first play I like to focus on story.  Only in later parts of impossible mode when playing co op do I find myself getting ammo from my safe.  If you play impossible solo, that will use more ammo for sure.  I've spent over 75 hours in the game, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.  Sure, it's not dead space 1, or dead space 2.  I wish EA had released DLC for both, for PC.  What EA might not realize  - if they release DLC every month say for DS2, or DLC in a DS2 style (spookier) people would buy that monthly for 10$ - 20$ IF it's expansive enough.  Id buy more voice overs for the bot too, and more suit skins / styles.  I want to separate my next statement so it's easy to see - 

If EA were to build DLC in regards of the dead space fan player complaints, they would make money, AND raise the sales of the base Dead Space 3 game, not to mention raise the metacritic rating.

I have a ton of resources to spend on nothing.  I could build every gun possible, and still have resources left over.  If EA gave us something to spend our resources on, then it wouldn't feel so pointless to have so much.

CraigYoung
CraigYoung

I really enjoyed it. 

The scarcity of resources depends heavily on the level of difficulty.

As for the co-op missions, I think they designed to the game to where it can't be fully enjoyed without going through co-op. So I'm happy to do just that and see what other environments there are to be discovered and what is added to the story.

Co-op is kind of like what the Severed DLC was the DS2. 

One of the coolest experiences was the space walk above Tau Volantis. It is essentially open world up there and you can really explore quite a lot. 

I did feel they could have delved a bit more into Isaac psyche the way they did in DS2. It would have been a logical path to take, but instead they chose to dramatise his emotions rather than his psychological state. 

Still - loved it! 

And oh, what it all the way to the end of the credits. 

newmanjb
newmanjb

@CraigYoung For what it's worth, I played on Hard--same as what I played DS2 on. I also tried playing a bit on impossible and didn't notice any big changes in resource scarcity, but this was toward the beginning of the game. The bigger difference I noticed was how much health you lost when taking a hit, which to me wasn't a worthy tradeoff, so I went back to Hard for the rest of the game.

RichardMiller
RichardMiller

@newmanjb @CraigYoung to add to this here's the difference in scarcity for ammo - 

casual - 7 ammo clips in a drop
normal - 5
hard - 4
impossible - 3

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

Well on the bright side Triple-A gaming gives you the freedom of absolutely linear gameplay with near invulnerability, constant cutscenes and constant handholding, so you never have the option of doing something you're not supposed to. Or any exploring, problem-solving or getting creative.

I blame the consoles. No, let's put the blame where it belongs, on the _console gamers_. You guys brought this on us by obsessively buying crap and passing over innovative and challenging games.

renji09
renji09 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@WilfTarquinI signed up just to reply to this comment. This comment is so true it burns. As a 19 year old I look back a few years and feel sad because I was a fan boy or didn't really care because it was flashy. When I hit 15 I was all about reviews, my opinion, who made it, and game play. I never say "The graphics suck so I won't buy it!!" I'd rather a game with Eh graphics and amazing story and game play then a blockbuster with awesome flashy graphics but controls like a boot and its short or the story is so boring I have to force myself to play.