Dead Space 3 Review: In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream
Kirk Mckeand gives his verdict on Visceral Games’ horror-in-space game, Dead Space 3.
Dead Space 3 Review
In space, no one can hear you scream.
But on Tau Volantis, you can’t ignore the avalanche that crashes down around you, whilst you rappel down the side of a mountain. The opening of Dead Space 3 instills fear, but not in a ‘pant wetting’ kind of way, it’s more of a fear of the unknown – a fear that the creeping dread you know and love, has been replaced with bravado and showmanship.
You see, it starts with you assuming control of an unknown, dispensable grunt on the soil of Tau Volantis, and as soon as you see his face you realise where this is going. Shifting perspective at the beginning of a game, to watch them be disposed of, conjures images of a very popular first-person shooter, and immediately I started to worry.
Straight after the schizophrenic events of the opening, you take control of Isaac Clarke, who is gripped in the midst of a nightmare-fueled midlife crisis.
His apartment is in a state of disrepair and the surfaces look like a breeding ground for E. coli. And once you’ve had a glimpse into his breakdown, he’s soon ‘recruited’ against his will, by gruff military types. They tell Isaac that his ex-lover, Ellie Langford, has disappeared whilst looking into a way to stop the Necromorph menace.
Soon after, Unitologists appear, and start shooting everyone in the face in their search for Isaac, whom they dub ‘the Marker Killer’.
This is where the new, human enemy types come into play.
Isaac can now take cover against low walls, but it isn’t a traditional, sticky cover mechanic, it’s just a case of clicking the crouch button and peering over the cover with the aim button, whilst retaining complete control of movement. You can also roll, but unless you read the instruction manual (they still exist, don’t they?) the game won’t tell you this until much later.
Even with the addition of a crouch and roll command, the encounters against the gun-happy human enemies just don’t work well with the slow, sluggish movement of Isaac. You can tell that this was once a game where restricting dexterity was a boon, but now it works to its detriment.
The encounters sometimes feel frustrating, especially when a grenade lands next to you and you have no choice but to run into the fray, hoping that you can fight against the stiff aiming and dispatch your foes before they rip you in half.
Luckily, these combat scenarios are actually pretty rare, and you will spend the majority of the game happily dismembering Necromorphs and impaling them with their own limbs. Business as usual.
After the unpromising start, the pace soon picks up (slows down) when the action takes you back to where the franchise belongs — in space.
Although the ship’s interiors are strictly linear, you will also find yourself boosting around space outside of the ships, in a hub area, shifting between wrecked craft and performing repairs.
This is when the game really starts to hit its massive, iron-booted stride.
Not only does the action shine in this environment, but the visuals look stunning in these sections. I often found myself panning the camera, just to catch the perfect amount of lens flare in my panoramic space-scape.
It’s definitely the best looking Dead Space yet, and the attention to detail is bordering on obsessive for the most part, with the odd exception once you hit planetside and things get a bit clippy in the snow.
Isaac’s suit looks like it’s been tarred and feathered with Vaseline and glitter, the way it sparkles and shines in the light.
His visor acts as a dynamic light source in extremely dark conditions, adding to the atmosphere. This works in tandem with the torch mounted to your weapon, and the strobing lights of the dilapidated ships you explore.
The lighting also adds something to the combat — a sense of urgency.
When a Necromorph is only visible for a second and then appears behind you, you can’t help but fire a panicked spray in every direction. You can still pick your shots, and dismember your enemies tactfully, but in this iteration your armory is much more varied and it’s often not necessary, when you can just pump them full of lead.
I say lead, but you can fire pretty much anything: bullets, plasma, fire, spikes… the list goes on.