Dead Space 3 Xbox 360 Review
For those that haven’t played the rest of the series, this kind of throws you into the deep end as far as the story goes. The most the game gives you is a little prologue, where there are these things called Markers that mutate people, changing them into things called Necromorphs. Humanity has known about them for the past 300 years, since a Black Marker was found in the Gulf of Mexico. People tried to make copies – Red Markers – because they thought that the markers might be used as energy sources. Instead, they in turn created Necromorphs. For some crazed reason, mostly martyrdom of one of the original Black Marker researchers, a religion – Unitology – rose around them. The protagonist, Isaac Clarke, was part of a mining crew that accidentally found a Red Marker that the unified Earth Government sent to deep space, trying to rid the planet of all of the markers they’d made. Things happen, more markers get built to the same result as before, and that’s where the game throws you in.
With that happy note, developer Visceral Games and publisher EA Games take you on a ride that well suits the genre that the Dead Space franchise represents – the survival horror third person shooter. The visuals, from start to end, are grim and bleak – “Abandon all hope, ye who enter,” if you will. The Necromorphs you encounter are all grotesque, with some of your attackers being even more vile than they would appear. The human opponents you have to fight along the way – Unitologists bent on fulfilling the will of the Markers – have grim appearances and crazed reactions to practically anything. When the two fight one another, it’s far more interesting to just let it play out then intervening in the fracas. Of course, you’re then left fighting the survivors, so it’s best to keep your weapon drawn.
As far as the story itself goes, you start out with a prologue where, as a colonial soldier, you go to a site on a frozen planet called Tau Volantis, retrieve some information, shoot some Necromorphs, and promptly get shot by a superior officer. You get a short intro (that you can also watch from the main menu), and then become Isaac Clarke on Earth, in a location where a new Red Marker is being completed. The Unitologists have suddenly all come together and overthrown the government because the government seeks to contain the Markers – and according to the previous game, the government had been building multiple Marker sites. The latest Marker activation turns the city into a sprawling Necromorph catastrophe. Among all of this, a military group comes to rescue Isaac, who apparently is a target of the Unitologists because he knows how to destroy Markers. After fighting their way to a spaceship, the group escapes the system and goes to a planet that seems to have the central signal for all markers – a planet with the human designation Tau Volantis (see where this is going)?
After getting to the planet, you wind up crashing into a derelict fleet. After exploring a few ships in the fleet and learning some of the background of what happened – apparently a Level 5 First Contact situation is the cause of these ships and all the dead bodies – you get a shuttle that you use to get to the surface. Of course, with all of the debris, plus the angle of atmospheric entry required to avoid the debris and survive the landing, you crash land anyway, albeit it’s in the middle of the human facilities that were set up. It turns out the fleet and the facilities are from 200 years prior, and everybody is dead because they wanted to try and contain the Necromorph outbreak. Eventually, you learn more and more about the Markers, and discover that the original expedition fleet was right. Tau Volantis is the source of the Marker signals, and it is also the way to stop them from doing anything. You also get another definition of “dead space” other than the one where Markers and Hive Minds tame Necromorphs. “Dead space” also means space without any life to discover, and it would appear that the Markers are responsible for it. After a while, you find a way to stop them, but the Unitologists, led by a fanatic named Jacob Danik, continuously get in the way, and they wind up being the true villains in spite of the Necromorph threat. The plot of the final few chapters revolves almost entirely around the actions that the Unitologists take to stop Isaac. While the plot has a fitting conclusion, it does leave you a bit cold, just because there doesn’t seem to be enough there.
The enemies level up in difficulty as the game progresses, but save for volume, it plateaus a bit two thirds of the way in, especially since, as with the other two games, you either shoot off limbs or, in an actual zombie trope that apparently is new for the series, go for headshots. There are some new enemies in the game, explained by being an alien planet and being closer to the Markers’ main signal. Also, you still have Stasis (basically freezing enemies in place) and Kinesis (because Telekinesis is just too long to write – well, that, and you use your hand and a technological attachment instead of your mind), and you use them basically the same way as in the previous games. However, the number of enemies that tend to pop out of the woodwork mean that unless you dispatch all of them quickly, you tend to die easily. Combined with all of the environmental dangers that kill you almost instantly, and a game that supposedly has about twenty hours of gameplay (including all of the side missions) takes more like thirty to forty.
One of the most fun aspects of the game is actually the weapons customization system. While it might seem tedious at first, there is actually quite a bit of enjoyment in managing components and discovering new weapons creations. While there are blueprints for certain weapons provided in the game, and there is an achievement for building all of them, crafting your own tends to give you a better arsenal. It also lets you have weapons combinations that you prefer to use, such as a shotgun paired with an SMG, or an attack with a wide spread paired with a more accurate aiming point – and that’s just one weapon. The weapons also can be upgraded using circuits that you can either build or discover, as well as with different attachments for different effects throughout the game. Meanwhile, you can upgrade your personal status, as well as your Stasis and Kinesis abilities, with a different system. The challenge there is to find the resources for it.
Overall, EA and Visceral Games have delivered an experience that has just enough to set it apart from the rest of the pack. However, there are certain points in the game that can be tedious, and plot points that seem present just to extend game time instead of adding to the story in any meaningful way. It is a game for people that enjoy this franchise, or the survival horror genre in general, but not many gamers outside of that realm.
+ Combat mechanics that set it outside the typical zombie thriller
+ A story with a fitting end
+ Customization options that allow players to experience the game how they want to
+ A variety of different missions, from straight-up combat to puzzle solving
+ A game world that fits the survival horror genre
– Instant deaths can make certain missions tedious due to constant repitition
– Certain plot points seem like filler
– Not enough of a conclusion
– Doesn’t try to extend itself much beyond the genre
Author: Nicholas Villarreal