Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review: Dead Space 3 (PS3)

In his third foray against the Necromorphs created by the grotesquely human mutating and corpse reanimating Markers, engineer Isaac Clark is given a lot.

A lot of ammunition, a lot of health regenerators, a lot of parts to take advantage of the new weapons building technology, a lot of save points to save his progress throughout Dead Space 3. But for a world where ammo, weapons and health are plentiful, there is sure a lack of damn light. All this futuristic technology, why can't a guy get a high-powered flashlight around here?

Dead Space 3 is one dark and dank game, purposely so to maintain the survival-horror and terrifying, what-creatures-are-around-the-next-pitch-black-corner terror that pervaded though the first two games in the franchise. However, while the darkness is meant to still provide survival-horror scares and gameplay, Dead Space 3 has drifted from a survival-horror game that had shooting, to a shooter that has survivor-horror elements. Loyal Dead Space fans may not be entirely pleased by that development. But for newbies like myself to the franchise, Dead Space 3 is a great looking, long-lasting, adventure with diverse environments and enemies to fight that is one of 2013's early must-have titles.

Gamers new to the series will be brought up to speed in the first stages of Dead Space 3, where a whole background of Clark and his nightmare encounters with the Necromorphs in the first two games is explained rather nicely.

Clark has shifted from an engineer just trying to survive on a ship full of mutated and frightening humans-turned-monsters to a full-blown bad-ass solider type, hell-bent (once he finds out his former girlfriend is in severe danger by seeking the Marker destruction with a small faction) on once and for all seeking some way of destroying the Markers before the delusional psychotic Jacob Danik unleashes a universal wave of Marker contagion that will consume any and all life throughout the entire galaxy.

So, Clark sets out searching for Ellie, his true love, eventually joining with her on the frozen-solid planet of Tau Volantis, where the Markers originated and ultimately must be shut down and destroyed before Danik can activate them. Despite being part of a larger group, Clark continually finds himself alone, battling wave after wave of Necromorphs in diverse environments, including plenty of light-deprived buildings and complexes that are chock-full of the reanimated and mutated monstrosities that unrelentingly attack Clark in the dark recesses.

It is a long journey from beginning to end, over 20 hours in all of single-player gameplay (and there is co-op play, too), as gamers will travel from one planet to another, with an interesting interlude of space-walking missions in-between. What was once primarily gameplay that focused on Clark's survival skills with some shooting in a classic example of survival-horror genre gameplay, has shifted toward being more gun-toting oriented (and gun-building oriented, with a new weapons-crafting feature) and shooting focused that has its scares but not much facet of survival-horror.

Shooting can often leave a lot to be desired, because it takes clip after clip to put down even one Necromorph, it seems. The best strategy is to shoot off limbs, especially legs, to first slow then finish off the hideous creatures. There are occasional puzzles to solve, but most are so basic and simplistic that they become more nuisance and annoyance than actual challenge.

As gamers visit more and more diverse environments inside and outside, they will be visually treated to a solid-looking game that reminded me of the Lost Planet franchise on a more graphically enhanced level. Along with very good visuals, the effects are even more stellar. On the ice-and-snow strewn Tau Volantis, Clark must venture outside in the extreme conditions of driving snowstorms and fierce winds. Those winds actually blow hard and heavy against Clark, making his walking extremely difficult across the cold-white landscape. Dead Space 3 gamers, through the dual shock controller shaking and the way the walking difficulty is presented while playing, will actually almost "feel" that oppressive wind holding them back, pushing against them as they make their way to warm shelter, to the point gamers might find themselves leaning forward (as I did) with realizing they are as they (and I did) attempt to almost physically "push" Clark toward the desired goal.

Going by reaction from the gaming populous that played the first two Dead Space titles and eagerly awaited the third, there's some disappointment amongst the franchise's faithful gamers with the heavy balance of action and shooting in Dead Space 3 versus the emphasis on survivor-horror conventions in the first two installments.

There are plenty of survival-horror genre scares that will have gamers jumping from their seats from creatures leaping and attacking out of the pitch-blackness that pervades throughout the majority of the game's environments.

Dead Space 3 is a very solid action shooter that still delivers plenty of scary, survivor-horror frightening moments. With over 20 hours of adventuring through all kinds of varied landscapes and worlds (and even some weightless outer space exploration), a new weapons-building system and extraordinary visuals and weather effects, Dead Space 3 is a fantastic space odyssey.

Lee Cieniawa

The Good:
‑ A long, satisfying journey with plenty of action spanning multiple worlds and environments that will provide over 20 hours of diverse single-player shooter gaming
‑ Strong graphical presentation and some slick in-game effects, like the howling wind that pushes against Clark while he traverses across the frozen tundra

The Bad:
‑ Too damn dark, even though that's intentional to up the "fright" ante
‑ Fans of the first two titles could be disappointed from the new direction of the gameplay that is more focused on being a third-person shooter than on being a survival-horror title
‑ Puzzles are simplistic, becoming more of a chore and nuisance than a challenge

Score: 9.0 / 10