I haven’t done a PC review for a while, but having a newly reinvigorated gaming rig is changing all that; and what better way to start than to take a look at EA Games’ sci-fi horror splatter-fest, Dead Space 3. The following review should be up on Techday.com’s Games Console pages anytime soon, but it the meantime you can check out the all the gory details below.
Dead Space 3 continues the unfortunate adventures of Starship engineer Issac Clark, and his battle against creatures called the Neromorphs. Set in 25th Century, the Dead Space series is a third-person sci-fi horror game very much in the style of the Doom franchise, but borrowing from films like the Alien movies and John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The plot is simple enough. An unearthed ancient piece of alien technology known as The Marker has infected the human race, driving its victims insane before killing them. The bodies of the deceased then get reanimated as horrible mutants which, when dismembered sprout all sort so extra appendages. Sound gross? Well, it looks even worse.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need to have played the first two games to enjoy Dead Space 3. Apart from a curious little dabble; I’ve not really played either of them, myself. The game starts with a “previously on Dead Space” video to get new players up to speed.
For the third game in the series EA Games decided to ramp up the action a little bit more this time. It was the rather plodding pacing of the previous games that put me off the last two.
From the start, Dead Space 3 features quite a few more cinematic set pieces than the last two games, which hooked me into the game a lot better than the previous games. The hallmark of the series, having the player in control of Isaac Clark, exploring abandoned corridors is still a staple of the Dead Space 3; but it does feel more epic than before. The game starts on an icy planet, by way of a very cinematic interactive prelude that reminded me a lot of The Thing; a movie that, without a doubt, inspired some of the game’s creatures.
The action then moves back to an Earth in chaos as the Necromorph infestation takes hold. Issac Clark, previously resigned to his fate is coerced to the join the fight once more in order the help find his former romantic interest, Ellie Langford, who has disappeared investigating the icy planet, Tau Volantis. A planet that in the past was able to stop the Necromorphs.
Isaac’s ship is badly damaged in orbit of the planet. The resulting action sequence sees players in control of Isaac as he and his companion’s hurtle through space; Issac protected by the cold of space by his trademark RIG suit. Following Ellie’s distress signal the team arrive in the docking hanger of the CMS Roanoke, a massive derelict space hulk, resting in a debris field. What follows is classic Dead Space gameplay, with Isaac wandering lonely corridors, occasionally running into hordes of Neromorphs.
The combat is somewhat refreshing as the Dead Space games don’t play like a traditional shooter. Previously Isaac tended to use scavenged engineering tools as weapons. This time players get to craft their own guns from components that can be salvaged from fallen creatures and storage compartments. Later in the game players can utilise a salvage robot to collect items on their behalf. I can see this not being everybody’s cup of tea, but at least you’ve only got yourself to blame for that underpowered weapon that you are using.
As well as the vast combination of projectile weapons at his disposal, Isaac can also strike and stamp on foes; particularly useful when they just won’t die. Two other abilities that also come in handy during combat are stasis and kinesis. Stasis allows Isaac to locally slow time, be it creature’s movement or fast-moving piles of machinery. Using Kinesis Isaac can manipulate items and machinery remotely and also fire dismembered limbs at opponents as projectiles.
Whilst I’m talking about dismembered limbs, the creatures in the Dead Space games are a little different from your usual video game opponents. To kill a Necromorph you need to shot of its arms and legs (again rather gross, I know). The loss of a limb will often cause a mutation that allows the creature to continue to crawl towards you. You just keep on shooting of those limbs.
After a bit of exploration and some mild puzzle-solving I gained access to a shuttle-craft opening up the exterior of the spaceship and allowing transport to some of the other huge space wrecks. These exterior areas are vast and propelling around them in zero-G is exhilarating.
It is an absolute stroke of genius how the developers have managed to couple the moody, claustrophobic interiors with the epic scale of the exterior sections. One minute you are casting shadows around dark corners and the next you are propelling yourself through space in a vast starship graveyard orbiting a planet nauseatingly far below.
After checking out a few of the other abandoned ships orbiting the ice planet it was time to go down to the surface. This triggered another off the game’s amazing action sequences that come at just the right time to take your breath away.
The environments and locations in the game are first class. They are moody, atmospheric, claustrophobic, epic and vast. The result is a game that manages to have you on the edge of your seat, drawing you right into the drama unfolding on the screen.
Dead Space 3 also has a co-op mode, which is interesting. Two players can experience the entire campaign together, some of the puzzles adjusting themselves for co-operative teamwork. It does detract from that whole “alone in the dark” vibe; but equally, it is fun to play alongside a friend.
If I had to pick holes in the game it would be about the diversity of the Nercomophs. After a while the creatures do get a bit samely, and they are essentially the same creatures for the other games, will a few specials thrown in. Also, and it’s probably just me, but my weapons always seemed to be horrendously underpowered. Hopefully this wasn’t by design in order to get me to utilise the rather vulgar in-your-face micro-transaction facility present in the weapon crafting menu. I any case it is a disappointing sign of the times that allows players to effectively buy themselves out of trouble using real money.
The PC game runs on a modified version of the popular Unreal Engine, which means that most reasonably capable computers should able to run it. The minimum requirements are listed as a 2.8Ghz CPU, 2 GB memory (1GB for XP machines) and a Geforce 6800 graphics card or better. I had no problem running the game on my two year-old laptop, but check your specs against the minimum requirements first.
Dead Space 3 is one of the most atmospheric games that I’ve ever played. It perfectly creates a level of tension that has you gingerly looking around every corner. The environments are so well detailed that the game draws you in and, for a time, you feel like you are actually wondering those dusty abandoned corridors.
Fans of the previous games should be all over this, but the purists among them may find the more action focused gameplay and bit of a sell-out. The rest of us fence-sitters will find Dead Space 3 a lot more accessible that the previous entries in the series. I gave the game a pretty good 9/10.
Dead Space 3 is out now on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.