Platforms: PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Reviewed on: PS3

The introduction to this review has gone through many iterations; The dramatic introduction that would involve sweeping metaphors and non casual observations to the brutality of what was to come. A Michael Bay style introduction that was to include swearing, hip hop references and so many Will Smith-isms that it would make the ‘welcome to earth’ actor blush. An integral problem lay with all of these introductions and at the end of the day, the reason for not using them is rather sad. Dead Space 3 doesn’t deserve the effort. ‘Oohh, Aahh, that's how all of this starts, but then later there's the running and screaming’. Sadly in the case of Dead Space 3, the screaming is at a minimum whilst the running ends up just being sauntering to the next set piece.

History

 photo dead_space_3_ice_demo_05_tga_jpgcopy_zps85006c13.jpgIt’s not that I don’t like the series, far from it actually as I own all the games, the manga and one of the books as the fictional world that surrounds the series is so detailed and thought out that it rivals Halo’s Bungie universe. Drawing direct inspiration from Event Horizon for DS1, the series launched into a twisting turning narrative involving religious cults, necromorphs and insanity; the latter being more important than one previously thought. My love affair with Dead Space began back in 2008 with a trip to a local supermarket on a search for a new game; not just any game though, one that would be an experience to sit and finish over one night with a friend.

On arrival, it was as if the hand on the cover of DS1 was beckoning me to come over and pick it up, as my young innocent hand picked it up and took it to the cashier with only limited knowledge about the game. What mattered though was that I was cocky and thought that nothing in the gaming domain could scare me. How wrong I was! From the Lynch-ified version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to a perfectly crafted soundscape (cables hitting on metal, the grunts from protagonist Isaac Clarke as he thumped his leg down), Dead Space had me in physical and mental pieces.

Dead Space was a commercial success and a full blown sleeper hit, which sadly made EA stand up and take notice. Visceral Games had been given free rein with Dead Space; No executives making ….executive decisions on the game's direction. This was all to change though when we met Dead Space 2 a few years later, if only slightly.

Dead Space 2 felt more action orientated; The face of Isaac Clarke that was hidden so well throughout the first game was now on show for all to see, like the whore of Babylon. The mystery surrounding his voice was destroyed as Isaac now became a walking, talking, stomping action figure instead of the engineer shrouded in mystery who accidentally found himself aboard the USG Ishimura.

Set on the Sprawl, a space station that circled Titan, Dead Space 2 pitted Isaac against the necromorph threat once again but with the added horror of discovering more about the Church of Unitology; a church based on the idea that the marker exists to create a better existence. There may have been more emphasis on action, but Dead Space 2 moulded the action and horror perfectly, so that the balance between huge set pieces and tension strewn moments was perfect. Necromorph babies. If you’ve played DS2, you’re thinking about the section and you’re shivering as the warped moment in the game lives with you throughout your gaming career.

To the brunt

 photo dead_space_3_ice_demo_02_tga_jpgcopy_zpse23151ef.jpgBetween Dead Space 2 and this years Dead Space 3, a certain Commander Shepherd raised his polygon head (and chin) and showed the world how you could kick the universe's collective ass and make a fuck tonne of money at the same time. Mass Effect 3 made $200 million profit in the first month of sale so it gave EA an idea; Why don’t we put elements of Mass Effect into our other space franchise? Forget the tension, let’s just go balls out epic action game all over the tension strewn canvas that Visceral had so neatly woven. It’s like taking a pair of scissors to the Declaration of Independence and expecting Washington not to mind.

That may be a slight downer to the start of a DS 3 discussion, but it’s an important point that needed to be made. Dead Space 3 has forgotten its roots; gone are the small narrow corridors that become your living room, dining room and grave. Now you have large planets, expansive out door environments and non-alien enemies that you have to kill. At times it seems like the gameplay document went into a blender and was left there to mould whilst Dick and Dom drafted one up that seemed like a good idea. Necromorphs that can fire guns? Give me a break, guys.

Dead Space 3 begins pretty well with a jazzy ‘invisible children, jason russel’ esque video recapping what has happened prior to the game before we are launched into a snowy blizzard; a scene that is more tech demo than an explanation of the basic game play mechanics. For instance you are taught how to rappel, a control device that only appears sparingly throughout the game (though, the few times it does rear its head, it's crushingly underwhelming).

What does Dead Space 3 do right?

 photo dead_space_3_ice_demo_01_tga_jpgcopy_zps8d7d9fac.jpgWell, some of it’s in space so it certainly ticks that off the list.

The series has made a name for itself in creating terrifying situations, take the eye drilling from Dead Space 2, a scene that made me amazon prime some new pants. Remove the sound and you are left with a different experience, an experience that Visceral are very proud of producing. DS3 excels audibly when you put your headphones on and just listen; don’t move Isaac, just stand him still in his surroundings whilst listening for the individual creaks and groans that the environment shares. Sound builds on the fear of the unknown; that shadow in the corner of your eye becomes more real when eerie sounds accompany it.

Depressingly though, this musical ideology doesn’t run through the game; Take the quasi spiderman music on the main menu with its inception horn that blares out every now and then. It seems that nothing was sacred when it came to the action-fying of Dead Space.

The Dead Space narrative has always been perfectly paced; from the pure creepiness and taut tension of the unitology storyline to the revelation that Nicole....well if you haven’t played it then I won’t go into any further detail. The fact that the narrative alone has spawned it’s own series of books is evidence enough that the game's plot has fans tied into it more than the video game series.

 photo dead_space_3_ice_demo_04_tga_jpgcopy_zpsd0d20e42.jpgDead Space 3 intends to tie the pieces of the previous two games together and in a way it does; Travelling to the Necromorph home world of Tau Volantis to finally put this threat to bed was a brave move by Visceral and in parts it paid off. The pursuit of Isaac by certified nut job and Unitologist head Jacob Danik brings with it a massively Hollywood feel; This would be fine, but the fact that you now have to shoot his soldiers as well as necromorph brings the comparisons to Mass Effect ever closer. That comment may be taken as some as an idle parallel but as you progress further into DS3 and the narrative verges on the space opera sort, it really starts to grate. What also grates is the fact that none of the other protagonists ever thank Isaac for what he does. Job satisfaction has really hit a low point for Isaac here.

Conclusion

Dead Space 3 shouldn’t be a Dead Space game. Elements of tension are few and far between and when they come, they are worth your patience, the internal autopsy of what can only be described as a gigantic necromorph hive mind creature (which isn't a million miles away from being the "brain bug" from Starship Troopers) being the most memorable scene - however these are few and far between. Fans of the series probably already have the game, so it’s hard to say “don’t buy it if you are a fan’ but I’ll say it anyway. Fingers crossed that the hook at the end of the game does end up to be a reality and that Visceral will have learnt from their foray into Resident Evil 5/6 territory.