There is a difference between thrill and horror, and Dead Space 3 is neither. I have to hand it to EA and Visceral Games, they managed to crush one hell of a stellar IP under their steel-toed boot of capitalism in order to make the game more mass-appealing.
But it’s a lousy excuse. Adding more explosions per scene and having Isaac dangling from a ledge every so often, with you button mashing to keep him alive, does not make it a more exciting game.
It’s good that they intend to wrap up the series proper (I hope) with this finale, because any more Dead Space might be overdoing it. The brilliance of the original Dead Space, also helped by the fact it was written by two of the greatest comic book writers in the industry – Rick Remender and Warren Ellis – was the entire mystery of the necromorphs. Who are they? Where did they come from? No one knows, and you don’t give a shit, because the only thing that mattered is that you wanted to run away before they tore your face off.
I’m cool with Dead Space 2; it expanded the universe and built on the lore in a believable way; about Unitology and about the freaky deaky mumbo jumbo that humans submit themselves to in order to find a purpose in their miniscule existence. Sure, there was a little more action-oriented scenes than straight up survival horror, but that whole bit where you’re creeping through the Unitology temple and morgue with all those wrapped up mummified bodies was just plain shit-your-pants scaredom.
Dead Space 3 finally brings us full circle to the origins of the necromorphs, filling in the last bits of info we need to know about why they are around, and how we can stop ‘em. That’s all fine and good, but the ice planet thing just doesn’t work as well as crawling around derelict spaceships. It was really poor level design and the end-game temples were actually dull looking. Even the early derelict spaceship bits got really boring by this third game, with uninspired set pieces mostly consisting of waves after waves of enemies swarming you in locked rooms. It wasn’t horror inducing, it was just frustrating. Monsters jumped out of vents in front of you, and occasionally behind you and you’re just like meh and fire them to oblivion with your overpowered weapons.
Oh, and that’s the other thing that pissed me off so bad. I bought Dead Space 3 on day one, and got the limited edition version, which means it comes with all these swanky “limited edition” guns. Here’s the kicker: for a game where the primary fun mechanic is collecting and customizing new, better weapons to kill the enemy with, I used the special guns I was given from start to finish, with just one minor adjustment to one of them. It appears all you need to win the game is a pulse rifle with shotgun attachment in one hand, and a bazooka in the other. It rendered the early game too easy, considering you were expected to go through a fair bit with the standard cutter, and it made the end-game too boring because it ruined the game customization mechanic, when you’ve got probably the most OP weapons in the game already. Also, fuck this universal ammo bullshit, bring back individual ammo types, and let us carry four instead of two guns.
Dead Space 3 went all Resident Evil 6 at some points, with the whole still-human-looking-and-capable-of-shooting-guns type zombies, which pisses the shit out of me because really, when I think about zombies, I think of the kind that have lost all motor skills required to handle complex machinery and weaponry. Don’t give me that bullshit about muscle memory. Since when did alien-infested humans suddenly know how to attack with wrenches or firearms instead of pincers?
Oh and there are actual alive humans who are shooting guns and rockets at your face – the excuse being these are Scientolo- I mean Unitology terrorists. Visceral Games actually had the gall to open Dead Space 3 with a dismal sequence like this, and I was shaking my head the whole way through. Fuck mass appeal man, that shit is not what will win you the love – it’s about making a game that’s true to its original concept through and through. Scare the shit out of us, why ruin that?
And oh my god, don’t get me started on the writing. The first and second game had a really strong premise of Isaac’s descent into insanity and his struggle to reconcile the loss of his love. But Dead Space 3 features a really shitty Twilight-esque love triangle between our emotionally stunted protagonist, the whiny Ellie who saved his ass in Dead Space 2 but dumped it before the beginning of Dead Space 3, and a really dull douche who, spoiler alert, dies anyway so that the two lovers can be back together and smooch face as the world crumbles apart around them. God, I had to literally throw my hands up in the air, and you know that when that happens, it means that the shit has really hit the fan. I think I’m also getting tired of the audio log thing that a lot of games seem to favour to tell stories – a lot of them in Dead Space 3 are lame, and don’t really say much more than either a) I am on the verge of some discovery, but I’m a really stupid scientist who doesn’t see that I’ll probably die because of my continual insistence on researching this stupid thing b) oh I am crazy, I am crazy, I am crazy c) man, there are so many crazy people around me.
This is my favourite dialogue exchange in the entire game: the other leading hero and co-op partner, Carver says “Wait a minute, how are we supposed to find this Rosetta person if she’s been dead 200 years?”
Two seconds later, Ellie replies “Oh it’s here, the Rosetta lab.”
BOOM MIND BLOWN.
Sure, Visceral Games did try a few things to keep the game fresh: the failed gun customization feature, an entire floating in space section, more zero-gravity bits, and a few moments in the extremely linear game where you get to decide which direction to head first, which optional missions to take on, but the entire narrative experience was so boring that I just wanted to get it over and done with. I never usually use the pathfinder but in this game, I really just wanted to rush through. The boss fights are not very smart or induced any epic feelings either, and I get the picture that if I were to play the game on co-op, it would have been an even easier (not necessarily, more fun) time than it already was playing solo (and on Hard difficulty too).
The only saving grace for this game is that if you like shooting grotesque aliens to bits, there is a shit ton of that. In fact, too much for my liking. I want to be scared, I want there to be moments where the thought of something jumping out at me freaks me out rather than actually having the thing up in my face. I am saddened that, just like Resident Evil, this is one survival horror-action video game franchise that has been flushed down the toilet.