Dead Space 3 follows the galaxy’s unluckiest engineer, Isaac Clarke, as he takes up the fight to protect the human race from the mysterious Markers and its Necrospawn. This begins with Isaac heading off to rescue Ellie, his missing girlfriend who returns from Dead Space 2 with barely a mention about her missing eye (or busty chest makeover). Isaac is joined by John Carver, the first playable co-op character in the series.
The haunting depths of space stretch out indifferently in a solar haze, channeling the spirit of ‘80s matte paintings and pulpy sci-fi and horror movies, while the ice-driven snowscapes of Tau Volantis re-imagine the Antarctic terror from John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The music and sound design are top-notch as well, supporting the world class visuals with crunchy, unsettling noises
The addition of co-op moves the franchise from the fringes of core survival horror onto the mainstream stage of action thriller. Playing in co-op erodes the sense of isolation, but the scares and the persistent sense of dread the series is known for remain intact (single-player purists can still play alone and enjoy a relatively faithful Dead Space experience). The game responds well to the addition of a second player, and in some of the tougher encounters the help is welcome, especially on higher difficulties. Carver’s presence introduces new lines of dialogue and a bunch of great optional co-op missions that explore his tragic past. These are actually some of the best parts of the story. It’s odd that these missions require an extra person in co-op to access.
Combat reigns supreme in Dead Space 3 - physical, viscous, feral combat. The dismemberment mechanic is the equivalent of Dead Space’s headshot. Severing enemy appendages slows them down and kills them faster than a bullet to the brainpan. Other tools like the slow-mo inducing stasis and gravity-manipulating kinesis put a fresh spin on typical shooter fare.
First and foremost, Dead Space 3’s story feels forced.(Not gonna write about it, coz it will spoil the game for all)
The new weapon crafting and upgrading systems really adds to the combat experience. You’re constantly on the hunt for materials and resources to build a new weapon, to modify a favorite stand-by, or tune-up the performance of your RIG suit, but everything comes at a cost.
These systems work together powerfully to create a reward structure you’ll want to come back to. This is especially evident in New Game+ mode, which I immediately started once I beat the game. And I’m so glad I did. I very soon realized that I love Dead Space 3 for the same reasons I love playing replaying Diablo. Focusing solely on combat, collection and upgrades, the thrill of the fight and Visceral’s exquisite world had me hooked, despite the game’s shortcomings - of which there are plenty.
The combat system and the world Visceral has crafted in Dead Space 3 is so expertly built and well-wrought, I found myself consciously overlooking my main criticisms, because I love playing it and spending time with it. This is an important distinction to make: loving a game while being fully aware of its faults. Dead Space 3, when played the way I've been playing it, on New Game+, is an engrossing and satisfying experience. But it requires ignoring the bad story and the numbing to-do lists. It then becomes all about building up the most powerful, best outfitted Isaac you can imagine. It’s here and here alone that Dead Space 3 succeeds, mostly in spite of itself.