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Dead Space 3 Review

Dead Space 3 Review

The third and final installment in the Dead Space game series, or at least as far as Isaac Clarke’s story arc goes, is upon us and it doesn’t disappoint.

I’ll say upfront: If you’re a fan of this series you’ll be very happy with this game and if you never cared about the series there’s nothing here for you.

For PC gamers I’m going to post arguably the most important thing in this review upfront: The FOV tweak which is absolutely a must with this game.

  1. Navigate your way to C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\EA Games\Dead Space 3\
  2. Open up system.txt in the text editor of your choice
  3. Find the line “Window.FOVScale = 1.00000000″
  4. Change the number to whatever you like. By default, 1.0 is an FOV of 75 degrees.
  5. (FOR 16:9 MONITORS) Change “Window.WideScreen” to true.  Consider it for 16:10 as well.

I’m running 1920×1200 and 1.2 has been just right for me. By all means experiment.

Dead Space 3 Screenshot 01

The horror aspect of this series was a one trick pony. People complain that the game are no longer scary and that’s mostly true. The reason for that isn’t because there’s been any deterioration of quality. It’s simply because series vets know when the creatures are going to jump out and they’re used to it.

So the series has wisely tilted itself more in the action sci-fi direction and less in the outright horror direction for the better. Think Aliens as opposed to Alien and that gives you the general idea of the shift.
The developers have made it clear this is the end of the road for Isaac Clarke and I have a hard time disbelieving that given the satisfying conclusion to a number of story arcs that reach back to the first game.

Without spoiling anything I see this series now at a crossroad similar to Mass Effect. If it’s going to continue there will be have to be all new threats, heroes, and characters and will be a lofty challenge to avoid a feeling of being obligatory and re-treading which is a major pitfall for far too many sequels and prequels in and out of gaming.  They would do well to not rush out the next game in this series same as Mass Effect.

Dead Space 3 Screenshot 02

GRAPHICS:

I’ve seen whining from some in the PC gaming community about the graphics being as ugly as PS1 and PS2 games and Doom 3 caliber at best…that scuttlebutt doesn’t have any credibility.

This game will not be confused for “The Witcher 2 in space” graphics wise but the series has seen nice incremental improvements in the graphics and textures and I daresay any PC gamer with the eye candy maxed out will not confuse this game for Doom 3, a current generation console game, or the disaster and epic letdown  known as Aliens: Colonial Marines.

This series has always had a nice cheat graphics wise for the developers: Lots of darkness and lots of corridors but there are plenty of wide open areas and open deep space situations that I thought were impressive particularly the open space zero G situations Isaac finds himself in.

AUDIO:

Very satisfying audio experience and sound design.  The music score stands out more in this game in a good way. Since the emphasis is less on shock and horror the composers took the shackles off themselves a little bit more in terms of thematic material, variety, and texture.

The sound design in the game is uniformly excellent as it always has been in this series and demands high quality speakers or my personal preference: Headphones. You’ll hear the creaking inside the ships, creatures scurrying around, computers, Isaac himself…audio has always been a crown jewel of the series that’s been critical to immersion and doesn’t disappoint here.

Dead Space 3 Screenshot 03

GAMEPLAY:

The gameplay has enjoyed nice tweaks and refinements since the firs game. Map the keys any way you want otherwise plug in a USB controller and be on your way.  The gameplay has been refined enough now where KBM users and controller users should be equally satisfied.

The gameplay is more satisfying and feels finely tuned in this installment especially with the aforementioned emphasis on more a sci-fi action bent like Aliens vs a more methodical, plodding, dark horror concept emphasis of the first two games. I’m not really sure how much more refinements they can make to this gameplay formula and I’d suggest if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The drop in/drop out co-op feature is a nice one. I was concerned about it originally but it’s implemented well here. I’m disappointed that there are certain optional missions and other goals that can’t be achieved without co-op which makes it mandatory for the more obsessive compulsive types but it’s nothing earth shattering. Single player campaign took me a good 15 hours or so to complete with a thorough playthrough where I looted as much as I could and did all optional missions available in a non co-op situation. Fairly generous for these types of games in this day and age.

STORY:

The courtesy menu option of “previously on Dead Space” returns to either refresh veteran’s minds or help people new to the series jump right in.  Isaac has come far enough personally that there are no more dead girlfriend hallucinations in this one and that’s welcome.

The story narrative is more satisfying in this game as it needs to be to bring certain major story and character arcs to a satisfying conclusion which I feel happens here and I think many if not most DS veterans will walk away satisfied here and with the certain mixed feelings you’d expect to have coming away from a very complicated series and a protagonist that was the every man thrown into impossible situations and somehow coming out on top.

It’s a can’t miss formula and I’ll say it: I’ll miss Isaac. It’s been a great run for him and this is a series I’ve looked forward to as one of my first major game purchases in a new year.

I hope if…or let’s face it…when the series returns they take things to the next level. They’ll have to. There’s no way to continue on “as is” after the events of this game. I hope they take their time envisioning the future of this series after this point.

Dead Space 3 Screenshot 04

Complaints:

The worst complaint far and away is something I’m seeing in more games unfortunately: A checkpoint save system where the user has NO input on it whatsoever. More than once I lost needless time and progress  on side quests and other things I’d done because I simply hadn’t quite crossed the magic line.

Developers: Just let people save whenever the hell they want or at least provide some kind of options past just this? Thanks.   When I see something like this it’s a pretty obvious cheap way to bloat the gameplay length by forcing needless repetition. That’s all it is.

Past this I’m quibbling and nitpicking:

John Carver the co-op character is fairly bland and non-distinct on his own and especially compared to a well fleshed out character like Isaac. We may see him again in the future, which wouldn’t surprise me, in which case I would hope and expect him to be fleshed out a bit more.

Some of the graphic textures leave something to be desired as is typical for many if not most multiplatform titles that have the consoles as priority one but there are far worse offenders out there. PC gamers that can max out the eye candy shouldn’t be too upset.

Microtransactions are broken and they are easy exploits for unlimited wares as well pay concepts. There’s plenty of forum fodder out there for those who want to vent their spleen about it but it’s a concept that could have been implemented much better than it was in this game and it’s a shame it’s in the state it’s in with no plans to fix it as of this writing according to EA themselves.

Dead Space 3 Screenshot 05

Bench options and weapon assembly menus and such could definitely stand to be more intuitive and streamlined a bit more. It’s cumbersome enough that I upgraded a couple of my favorite weapons and never bothered again after that. Once I upgraded my N7 Mass Effect suit to the max that was the end of that, too. The Suit upgrade system is better than the Bench setup and if they even used that same setup across the boards it would be better than the Bench system is in this game.

On Normal and hard difficulties I’d argue that there were almost too many resources believe it or not. I was rocking and rolling with at least 200 ammo clips with very little effort.

Classic mode: It would have been nice to have the option to have that available from the start and not just as a reward in New Game+ mode.

The enemy behavior leans more towards a predictable and rote horde mentality and I even caught some “spawn out of nowhere” situations.

Lack of enemy variety. I’m not sure why they didn’t carry over enemies from DS1 and DS2 in addition to what’s in this game and put it over the top.

CONCLUSION:

Overall, Dead Space 3 delivers the goods: A satisfying, third person sci-fi action shooter with a dash of horror thrown in and fairly satisfying conclusion to this story arc. The co-op guarantees some extra replay value over the previous games.

Dead Space 3 gets a three out of five: GOOD.

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