Dead Space 3 PS3 review & gameplay video – Scares on ice as series Necro-morphs from its roots
Unfortunately to get there (and at several points later in the game) you have to fight human troops. It’s a first for the series and, if it is to continue, most definitely should be the last. Firstly, third-person cover shooters aren’t exactly a dying breed in the world of videogames. And secondly, this one doesn’t work at all – partly because there isn’t actually a cover system. There is a ‘press R3 to crouch’ system, but this is exactly as satisfying as you’d expect (ie, not at all). It doesn’t glue you to low barriers, just lets you hover behind them, and there’s no provision whatsoever for peeking around the side of objects.
Dead Space 3 PS3 review &gamplay video
It makes battling other sentient beings a tiresome chore, and one that gets no better when they reappear on snow planet Tau Volantis later in proceedings. The three-way fights that then occur between you, the nutty Unitologists and the Necros sort of work, but the AI systems have a tendency to get confused: seeing a Puker back-and-forth between you and some faceless militia man like a ping-pong ball might be amusing, but somehow we don’t think it’s what Visceral intended.
There are, of course, new features of a slightly more headline nature – co-op, most notably, which adds no-nonsense soldier John Carver to the playable experience. Our playtime with this has been limited so far, but it does add to the experience in some ways… and detract in others. Buddying up with a random with no headset is a frustrating experience (particularly if you happen upon a Dead Space newbie), but with a battle-hardened companion and some chatter over the airwaves the company is welcome.
There’s the standard revive system, you can share weapons and pick-ups, and even craft special gear to help your partner (guns with extra healing properties, for instance). You play certain sections together and split up for others – something that presents some awkward and contrived moments if you’re playing on your tod. You’ll likely get sick of a bridge collapsing to strand Isaac from his colleagues, and at times the joins are almost laughable as you can spot way in advance just when and where the game is going to force you and Carver apart.
If you do go the co-op route there are several hours of unique content to experience – something that a few will no doubt decry as selling them short if they choose to go solo – but overall we’d say the addition is a positive, as it only detracts from the single-player campaign in a superficial manner.
The aforementioned weapons crafting, which enables you to make your own bespoke firearms out of parts scavenged during your missions, is similarly a mixed bag. In isolation it works well: you can tailor your weaponry to your playstyle (I ended up with a Plasma Cutter with an underslung flamethrower, and a hugely powerful Ripper that fired additional Stasis), and once you get the hang of the system it’s fairly easy to use.
However, it can cripple the game’s challenge. Using the Scavenger Bots (little robot helpers who scuttle off and return with supplies) enables you to create guns that could shoot holes in the Moon, nerfing the challenge of all but the toughest enemies. Also, by the game’s end you’ll likely have enough goodies to make yourself a hospital wing’s worth of painkillers, again taking away most of the sense of peril – not to mention the universal ammo system making resource management (such a survival horror staple) a thing of that past.
Dead Space is no longer what it was. If you’ve played the previous games you’ll be able to spot the scares a mile away (“They’ll burst out of that panel, then I’ll hit that switch and that ceiling vent will collapse.”) and you’ll likely pine for the panic and purity of the original in the face of so many changes. But taken in isolation, Dead Space 3 is still an enjoyable and worthwhile experience: well-produced, polished and with enough narrative ups and downs (emphasis is very much on the downs) and set-pieces to sustain its ten-hour duration. But if we’re going to get a successful fourth instalment, this ET- killer definitely needs to phone home.