If it was up to me, I would have subtitled Dead Space 3 “The Continuing Adventures Of Isaac Clarke, The Unluckiest Man In The Universe”. In the first hour of this new story, he is shot at, attacked by necromorphs, blown up by mines and falls down an awful lot. And he’s doing all of this to help Ellie, his girlfriend from the previous games, except that in this one she’s already dumped him. And it only gets worse for him from then on out.
Coerced into finding Ellie, Clarke and a small band of others head off into deep space to locate her last known location, which leads them to what appears to be the Marker homeworld, cause of the deadly necromorph infections that Clarke has (barely) survived twice before. From here on out it’s classic Dead Space. There’s no HUD, which gives you near total immersion in the game, and the game locations are truly stunning. Everything, from a cliff top vista of a snow covered installation with an alien sun behind it, to the inside of a dark supply cupboard, looks incredible. From the silent emptiness of space to the rattle of necromorphs lurking behind claustrophobic corridors, the sound is perfect, too. There are more different locations than ever in this new title too, with Lost Planet-esque frozen alien worlds adding nicely to the roster of underground caverns and alien-infested spaceships we’ve already seen before. As well as the now-expected zero gravity parts, there are new abseiling sections, with Isaac clambering up or down cliff faces and machinery while dodging falling rocks and attacking necromorphs.
Like the previous games, everything about Dead Space 3 is solid, when you’re stomping necromorph corpses into tiny pieces, it looks, feels and sounds solid. The weapons feel meaty and pack a punch too, particularly once you have modified them to some degree. One of the new features in 3 is the heavy customisation of weapons – instead of just choosing a couple of weapons as in the previous titles, this time you can build them from scratch. Each weapon can have an upper and lower tool, allowing you to create weapons that are useful at more than one range (eg. shotgun for close up and sniper rifle for distance). There are so many options that it is unlikely anyone else who plays this will ever happen across the exact same combination of weapons that I wielded through the story, and that really helps to make it feel like it’s your game. The weapons you create are just as varied and interesting as in the previous titles, with flamethrowers, disc saw cutters and nail-guns joining the traditional gun-game roster of shotguns, assault rifles etc.
You create weapons using resources that you collect as you progress, or that you can purchase via micro-transactions from the PSN or Xbox stores. These well-publicised micro-transactions had me worried at first, as I struggled to build any useful weapons at the start, as I was always short of tungsten, which, surprise, surprise, I could buy from the in game store for real world money. However, before you run off screaming “But I’ve already paid £40 for the game!”, fear not. I completed the entire game on the normal difficulty level without ever having to purchase any resource packs, and in fact, by the end of the game, had enough resources to max out my armour and build decent guns for about ten more Isaacs than I had. A lot of the best resources I collected in game were found in the optional side-missions, so as far as I can tell the only reason you might want to actually pay for resources, would be so that you could skip chunks of the game you’ve already paid for(?).
And there’s a lot of game here for your money – to complete the game on normal took me five minutes short of a whopping twenty hours, a length virtually unheard of for this type of game. And that was without completing the few optional side missions that you can only play with a co-op partner. Dead Space 3 is the first of the series to introduce co-operative gameplay, where another player can drop in at any time and play as military man Carver alongside the main man Clarke. Although it works well, I felt the co-operative mode does take away from Dead Space’s atmosphere, particularly if you’re playing with a friend and wearing a headset.
As for bad points, well, over twenty hours of gameplay, it gets hard for the game to scare you, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t fighting hard to survive. And despite all that, the game did still occasionally make me jump by throwing something new at me even right at the very end. A small negative is a slightly odd save system. At one point I got to a difficult point, so I backtracked all the way back to the engineering bench, improved my armour, stocked up with first aid kits, altered my weapons and went back to do battle. I got killed, and the game reloaded the checkpoint with none of my changes applied. I could have saved, but that would have meant saving and quitting, then reloading my game. One or two of the optional missions felt a little bit like filler, which seems unnecessary in a game of this length. That being said, some of the other optional missions were actually really good parts of the game so I wouldn’t advise skipping them.