The biggest, obvious new feature to Dead Space 3, is the introduction of co-op. A second player can join at any point in the game, to play as John Carver, the unwilling soldier buddy of Isaac Clarke. The neat thing about this feature, is that it doesn’t detract from gamers that want a classic Dead Space experience. Playing in single player will not add an AI partner to follow you around – minus a few scenes, Carver will not appear at all while playing solo. Good news, for those of us who have suffered through mindless AI partners before (looking at you Resident Evil). Co-op does of course, have its advantages. The game can be very hectic in areas and having a second gun to back you up can be a lifesaver. You can also share items and blueprints for the new weapon creation system, with your co-op partner.
Speaking of the new weapon system, it introduces a new resource system, which removes the use of money used in the first two games. Previously, items would be bought through the store kiosks, using credits obtained throughout the game. This system has been dropped entirely and replaced with resources with which you create items, weapons and attachments.
Weapons can be made from scratch, with parts or resources and customised to do different jobs – for example, the classic plasma cutter can be modified to be a wider, more powerful shot or become a rapid-fire cutter. Weapons can be attached to each other, combining them into one, giving you two differing fire options.. The amount of possibilities seem endless for this; although I still felt that my powered-up plasma cutter did the job for everything just fine.
Powering up weapons has also changed, with no power nodes to be found in the game,, you instead, add circuits to your weapon to giving it a small boost. For example, you can add a circuit that gives you +2 damage but reduces the fire rate by 1. While some may prefer this added customisation, the sense of growth to your weapons feels lessened. Instead of permanently boosting your weapon over the course of the game, you are instead making temporary adaptations to it. Again, this flexibility may appeal to people who like to use different weapons for different enemies or sections, but the sense of growing stronger is definitely lost. Upgrading your RIG is even worse, as you simply buy upgrades when you have the resources to spare. Having to pick and choose your upgrades is no longer an issue; you simply buy everything up and wait until you can afford another batch.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment with Dead Space 3 is the loss of atmosphere. The first two games dealt almost exclusively with dark, narrow corridors, with sounds and shadows constantly keeping you on edge. Dead Space 3 does feature areas like this at the beginning of the game, but after your arrival on Tau Volantis (the ice planet featured in the game), the effect is almost lost. Fog effects are used in an attempt to replicate the sense of isolation but the atmosphere is definitely damaged by the larger setting. You may also expect a planet setting to feature a more open world format for the game, but it remains remarkably linear.. There is little exploration in the game, with the exception of the optional missions. Of course, both Dead Space 1 and 2 were incredibly linear as well; you just may have been expecting a more non-linear world.
The optional missions are another new feature for Dead Space and are designed to break up the story. Some are co-op only and are used to build the backstory of Carver. One neat thing about this is that Carver will hallucinate and see things that Isaac cannot, leading to the genuine belief that your co-op partner is losing it. Apart from these however, the optional missions are very repetitive. Most are set in almost identical locations and are just a matter of moving from one room to another, killing every enemy and advancing until you find a reward at the end. A bit more variation to the optional missions and they might have been more rewarding.
The game also adds new enemies in the form of human soldiers. Dead Space has always seen you fighting the alien force known as the Necromorphs. Human enemies appeared but they were infrequent and usually as bosses where they morph anyway. Dead Space 3 has large sections where you will be fighting soldiers and using cover to hide from their returning fire. This is a common element in third person shooters but it feels unnatural in a Dead Space game. It’s another way in which Visceral have distanced themselves from the earlier games, to appeal to a wider audience.
Dead Space 3 does a lot of things well. The co-op action is as good as any other game (and the fact it doesn’t detract from the single player experience is welcome), the world and settings are still fairly unique. The weapon crafting system will appeal massively to many people and is adaptable to many play styles. The sacrifice for this though, is much of what made Dead Space so unique. The loss of atmosphere is disheartening and the game can no longer be classified as ‘scary’. While it’s not as drastic a change as Resident Evil 6, it’s certainly on a path away from survival horror. Ultimately, it depends on what you are looking for in a Dead Space game. If you’re looking for something that is going to keep you on edge constantly, you may end up disappointed. As a third person shooter though, it’s still one of the best around.
I’d be interested to hear what you, our readers think about Dead Space 3!