I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical about this game when I heard about the cover system and co-op elements; I felt as though the cover system implied that Dead Space was turning into a generic third-person shooter and the co-op element would take away from feeling alone in a world of creepy and horrifying creatures. Honestly, I can't be blamed for that. Remember the early previews that blatantly suggested the blood-curdling scream inducing horror was done away with? How about the micro-transactions that Lord knows everyone hates? However, setting my inhibitions aside, Dead Space 3 is a bloody good riot and I'm incredibly glad to say now that I was dead spurious about Dead Space 3.
Look at it this way - Isaac has grown quite a bit since the last two games and it only makes sense that the game does as well. Isaac went from a bit of a disturbed engineer to basically a renown hero and with that comes experience. With that being said, I must give props to the cover system. It feels perfectly in place with Isaac's experience in combat and logically, it works. However, that is not the only aspect in which the game evolves along with the protagonist.
Dead Space 3 has turned the series in a different direction and goes from being sci-fi horror into a sci-fi action title. Let me first say that compared to the previous two, it pales in comparison on the scary side. We've experienced Isaac's original battle with necromorphs, the inclusion of an apocalyptic-like cult...so one would think EA would have something fresh and even more frightening to bring to the table. However, what the game lacks in fear, it makes up for in...disturbing - for lack of a better term - elements. The scare factor isn't quite there any more as it was in the previous games, but it works well to appeal to a broader audience who'd like to experience Dead Space and not finish the game with a fresh load in their pants. I certainly am on board with that. Dead Space 3 offers enough tense and creepy moments and themes to make up for the minor lack of pure terror, and it's still quite easy to enjoy and just as fun as the previous two.
We follow Isaac Clarke - who is now more mentally stable - once more into the brink as he's swiftly called into battle to fight another round of necromorphs - reanimated corpses - while investigating the signal of an alien artefact known as the Marker, which is responsible for the walking dead. We still follow Isaac through dimly lit passageways and rooms, hearing the occasional background noise that'll make you swear and cause your pupils to dilate, but there's a new setting in which we're able to venture out to the surface of the ice planet - Tau Volantis - where we're introduced to a new element: body temperature. Suffice it to say, it's just as important as cutting off the limbs of the necromorphs. We're also able to float about in zero gravity and rappel down icy cliffs and these elements offer lovely diversions to claustrophobic corridors and the likes.
Now even though I was pleased with the game, I'm still not sure if I'm a fan of the weapon crafting system. I can't deny that it's a nice addition - and well done, too - but it takes away from the survival feeling. If I were in Isaac's shoes, I'd focus more on clearing an area of necromorphs than coating projectiles in acid. Like I said though, the crafting system works well and it's a helpful feature. Bring the right components to the table and you're able to piece together customised weapons with different combinations of frames, engines and tips. In addition to acid-coated ammunition, you can electrify them as well, and you can even enhance the weapon with improved reload speed, damage, clip size and rate of fire.
Should you not want to create your own weapon from scratch, you can choose from ready-made blueprints, including classic weapons from the previous two games. You can also share built weapons with your co-op partner - in the event that you'd like him to carry an electric rivet gun or an incendiary buzzsaw launcher from the get-go.
What I'm most pleased with is that while Dead Space 3 added quite a bit of new features, it didn't change what worked in previous games. Well...almost. Introducing humans as enemies feels profane, especially given the poor AI backing them up. The inclusion of human enemies makes sense narratively, but during gameplay it feels unfinished and reluctant. All they really do is hog cover spots and blind-fire and without human enemies, the cover system would be pointless, so it's a bit of a double-edged sword here. Even when one uses telekinesis to grab an oncoming rocket or grenade and fire it back at them, they don’t make any attempt to get out of the blast range.
On the other side of the coin, however, the AI given to the necromorphs makes fighting them a bigger challenge than before as they are now significantly smarter. They'll swarm, flank and pick you apart like vultures if you dilly-dally or put your attention elsewhere. It's common for several different kinds of necromorphs to attack at once, requiring different tactics and can sometimes be overwhelming but not impossible. However, later in the game, some battles are tough and checkpoints are spaced out to an extreme degree, requiring you to take out five or six of the hardiest hostiles without dying.
A new cooperative mode adds a second protagonist, Sergeant John Carver, who's mentally so far gone that even Isaac of all people believes him to be crazy. As Carver, players see and hear some absolutely disturbing stuff, but only in co-op-exclusive missions - solo players will miss out on some optional quests that are available only when playing with two.
In either mode, the story follows a rather linear track that has you dismembering necromorphs, gathering salvage for your customisable weapons and solving puzzles to open doors or activate machines and generators. It feels repetitive and a lot of backtracking takes away from forward progress and accomplishment, so the story is less compelling despite the fast-paced action.
Nevertheless, Dead Space 3 offers a new adventure in a best-selling series and does a bang-up job of delivering a solid game, despite the downsides. One would be foolish to pass it up.