The latest horror-laden entry in the Visceral Games’ Dead Space franchise has players reprising their role as engineer Isaac Clarke. Plagued with dementia and visions of his dead girlfriend, as the game opens Isaac is in hiding, attempting to escape the mentally and physically warping powers of the supernatural monoliths known as markers. He doesn’t stay safe for long.
Visually arresting from the first breathtaking vista to the last, Dead Space 3 is a beautiful game. Fans are used to dark, dingy, industrial hallways and blood splattered walls but in this entry they will be struck by the magnificent art and large, open environments they can explore. Zero-gravity sequences are a particular highlight, providing a unique perspective on an already unsettling graveyard of ancient spaceships, all of which are caught in the glare of a blue sun, it’s a moment that will be remembered for a very long time.
The greatest addition to the game however is being able to play the campaign co-operatively with your friends. Player one controls Isaac, whilst player two plays commands John Carver, a rugged and scared Marker hunter with his own unique story to tell. Video games often give a co-op player no purpose or narrative presence, but Dead Space has successfully overcome this obstacle. Throughout the campaign players see every cut scene through the eyes of their character only and because both characters losing their minds, they will see different things from their co-op partner. This experiment in unreliable narration guarantees that if you love the game there are three unique ways to play: As Isaac alone, and as Isaac and Carver in co-operative.
From a game-play standpoint Dead Space 3 eclipses its two predecessors with ease for many reasons. For the first time players can create their own unique weapons, allowing the player to choose how they dismember the limbs of the Necromorph foes. Possible combinations include incendiary buzz saws and electrified rivet launchers and a pulse rifle/force gun combination, allowing both long range accuracy and gory short range crowd control.
Secondly the combat scenes both alone and in co-op are more intense, difficult and complicated than ever. For example Necromorph enemies now wield axes, even the occasional gun and even mutate into new, more aggressive forms after death. Thirdly the music and sound design are both sensational.
Additionally for the first time you get to fight humans in cover based combat. Thrown against the might of Unitologists, a vast religious organisation who worship the Markers, the opposition is a breath of fresh air in a series where many argued that the suspense and thrill had been lost. It is especially fun fighting humans who use the same powers as you such as stasis; you require a whole new set of tactics when taking them out.
There are flaws to the game despite its many glowing positives. With a co-op partner the game is decidedly easy to beat. It is also noticeable immediately that Dead Space 3 is less of a survival horror and more of a star-spanning action adventure. This lack of horror does little to dampen what is a fantastic third entry into a growing gaming powerhouse, it’s definitely worth having in your collection.