It is easy to say that the Dead Space series has been one of the greatest Survival Horror titles of this generation, mainly because it’s a genre that is hardly dove into by major developers. Still, the very idea of the Necromorphs can send chills down most players spines, their design is terrifying and the basic response to shoot it in the head only pisses them off.
But Dead Space 3 hits the one problem that has killed survival horror franchises like it, they went the action route and added a co-operative play. This has been the bane of possible great games like Resident Evil 6 and Silent Hill: Book of Memories. So the question everyone is asking is if Visceral games, the team behind the Dead Space series, can make Co-op survival horror work?
Dead Space 3 takes place three after the events on the Sprawl in Dead Space 2, our protagonist Issac Clark is off the grid hiding from the Unitologist cult and the EarthGov soldiers. He is found by the last remaining soldiers of the EarthGov armies and we’re introduced to Sargent John Carver, your co-operative partner. Shortly after they are attacked by the Unitologist soldiers who unleash the marker on the unsuspecting planet. Carver gets Issac off of the planet and he is told about a mission to Tau Volantis, where the man-made Markers originated. Issac and Carver go to the planet on a mission to search and destroy the Markers, only to find that they’re not the only ones looking for it.
Now here is the kicker with the game, the game can be played two ways, the hyped co-operative play that EA has been selling to us, and a Single-player campaign. The game is drastically different, with the single-player focusing on keeping you alone in the fight against the Necromorphs and solving the puzzles, like we’re used to on the Dead Space series. Co-op will allow the second play to join as Carver and help through more difficult fights and puzzles, it’s a great balance. The best thing is that Co-op is an option not a necessity, and the single player is not slowed down by dumb AI which plagued horror titles like Resident Evil 5 and 6.
The major gameplay of Dead Space 3 has not changed since the original, giving you the ability to move and shoot at the same time with tools ment for chopping limbs off of the Necromorphs, the big difference though is some new human enemies in the form of the Unitologists. When they appear the game turns into a cover based 3rd person shooter, cover is access just by approaching the waist high barricade or wall, this gets complicated in missions where both the Unitologists soldiers and the Necromorphs are fighting you at the same time as your never quite sure if you are in cover or not.
Another new feature is the ability to create weapons, by finding parts from dead bodies or crates you are able to modify and create new weapons. Weapons can range anywhere from machine guns that shoot spikes, shotguns with electric capabilities and more. The weapon capabilities seem to be only limited to what parts you can find and how you put them together but it creates a deep system that can help destroy your enemies.
Dead Space horror element always came in the unexpected, you never knew when the Necromorphs would just pop out at you. This feature is still in the game but amplified when you get to the Ice Planet Tau Volantis, allowing them to just pop out of the snow and attack. The game also throws back to it’s roots in missions prior to making it to the planet, putting you on a destroyed freighter in orbit over the planet, it gives the abandoned and alone feel that you get from the original Dead Space when you travel on the Ishimura.
Like the previous titles, Dead Space 3 looks great from the imaginative ships to the icy wastes of Tau Volantis. While it looks like the human based characters could have used some work, the Environmental suits that Issac and Carver uses have a great design with each upgrade looking more bad ass then the others. The real applause here go to the games sound design and atmosphere for the game, as with all great Survival Horror titles, there has been several times where I was scared out of my skin just because of a small sound in the background.
The big question was if Visceral could do a good Co-Op Survival Horror game and the answer is yes. But the real reason why it’s great is because Co-Op is completely optional, and the dread of the original series is still there even with your partner. While the action may bring new people into the series, it’s also good to see that they did not isolate their fans. I don’t believe that it is the best in the series (a spot that I reserve for Dead Space 2) but if you are a fan of the games or the genre, I recommend it.