The story is a mess, but I stopped trying to follow it in the middle of “Dead Space 2.” I’m sure it would help if I followed the expanded universe, but fans of a series shouldn’t have to partake in those peripherals to understand a main storyline. Here’s what I gathered (and I took notes!): Isaac has a reputation for destroying markers. Because of this reputation, he’s located and recruited by a crew that is interested in taking them out to save humanity. That crew involves his old flame, Ellie, and the new playable character Carver. Along the way, they go to a planet, which they think is a planet of markers, but it's not what it seems.
Atmosphere is the central theme of the “Dead Space” series, and this most recent entry establishes decaying streets, isolated space, and frigid outdoor environments expertly. The no-HUD lynchpin of the series is such a different and effective element of the gameplay, I’m shocked that more games haven’t stolen the idea.
The sound of “Dead Space” has never been better, which aids in establishing the perfect atmosphere. You can hear every creak, scream, and squish in each stage. Weaponry and voice work are both of the highest caliber.
“Dead Space 3” isn’t without its faults. For starters, it’s incredibly easy on the default difficulty. Necromorphs are constantly dropping ammo and health to add to a seemingly endless stockpile. My inventory always had a hefty reserve of essentials, and even more had to be stored back at my safe. I already mentioned the “military-grade” weaponry. I never felt intimidated by any creature I faced. I felt more like Scarface. Again, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. I just felt more like a super soldier rather than a lowly engineer.
Speaking of Scarface, the weapon system has been completely revamped. It seemed like the folks at Visceral had too many ideas. The new system is quite involved, and I’d venture to say a little too involved. Mixing and matching a gun’s frame, core, tip, attachment, and circuits gets as confusing as it sounds like it could be. I would’ve enjoyed the weapon creation more if EA didn’t give me the best gun in the game for playing a new limited edition version.
Difficulty and questionable weapon system aside, “Dead Space 3” is still a well-produced, triple-A title. There’s a lot of game here, and the single player experience is different from co-op. Being on a one-man mission to save the Earth is always a popular gaming trope, but having a partner in crime adds a lot to the experience. New dialog between Isaac and Carver explains more of the story, and it's nice actually learning something about Carver.
This is the first game in the series to have side missions. The solo side missions start off promisingly but fizzle midway through the game. They don’t add any substance to the game, but rather give you additional resources. Co-op on the other hand has some of the best missions in the game.
Teaming up with another player is easier than I thought it would be. You can invite a teammate at any time. Upon joining with a partner, you keep your current suit and weapons from your progress in your solo playthrough.
Finishing the game unlocks some excellent ways to play “Dead Space 3,” including a mode where Necromorphs don’t drop any items, and another that grants you only one life to live. Dying in the latter mode will send you back to the beginning.
A quick footnote about “Dead Space 3’s” Kinect functionality on the 360: It works similarly to “Mass Effect 3.” You can give voice commands to switch weapons, use medkits, etc. It works very well, but I just can’t get used to yelling at my TV when I’m gaming alone.
“Dead Space 3” is the best game I’ve played so far this year. Visceral outdid itself, creating an immersive universe that didn’t let me go. Sure, it has more action and isn’t terribly difficult on the “normal” setting, but I still had a blast playing it from start to finish, and then again on co-op. I hope this game isn’t forgotten later in the year.
9 out of 10
Stellar atmosphere that you come to expect with the franchise
Co-op warrants a second playthough
Too easy on the standard difficulty
Gives you the strongest weapon in the game if you buy it new