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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dead Space 3 REVIEW - Spaced out? Does EA’s survival horror keep true to its roots? 

Dead Space 3
Publisher:          Electronic Arts
Developer:        Visceral Games
Platform:          PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release date:    February 5, 2013

Five years ago, our concept of outer space was shattered.  It was clawed, ripped and brought down to ghoulish earth with Dead Space’s nightmarish speed and circumstances.  Gone was the stars’ safety of treks and even wars.  We were now exposed to a darker enemy that did not burst from chests or hunt us for skulls.  Gamers met the Necromorphs.  They reminded us that anywhere humankind went, horror and terror were sure to follow.  The Necromorphs also reminded us that the flesh we leave behind is easily resurrected and sent against us.  Now, Dead Space’s angst-ridden hero Isaac Clarke returns and so do the shambling dead.

Dead Space 3 (DS3) picks up with a down-and-out Clarke thrust back into the world of twisted religion and the ominous Markers fans have come to fear.  The game begins with a refreshing if albeit doomed tutorial as players control an exploring soldier on an ice planet; the same alien tundra that Isaac will be facing soon enough.  The tale twists and turns and thrusts into the future where Clarke is sent on a rescue mission to find Ellie, his ex-girlfriend (poor Isaac, wasn’t his ex-girlfriend Nicole trouble enough?)  From there on, you must navigate the engineer through a death-squad filled city, zombified ghost ships and mined filled space just to land on an in hospitable planet filled with ice-adapted Necromorphs and zealot shock troops.  At times, you may not be sure exactly what is going on in DS3 as the story turns this way and that way but it will keep your attention.

Visually, DS3 is a majestically good looking game.  From the beginning squalor of a city to the alien planet, to the EVA suits and the twisted corpses attacking you, DS3 is beautiful.  You can often just let Isaac stop and watch the background and environments behind him.  The only complaint is that some of the NPCs look half-done compared to all of the amazing graphics around them.  The looks of the Necromorphs from the tentacled-canines to the emaciated Feeders to the mammoth bosses later are top notch and leave little detail behind.  DS3 pushes the graphic power of today’s consoles and it pushes them well.

Guns fire with appropriate strength.  Space has an eerie vacuum.  Clarke grunts and groans as he should.  But the true stars of Dead Space 3’s sounds are the resurrected creatures out for your flesh.  The Necromorphs hiss, roar and scream as they should and often the sound is right behind you.  It is so well done that you will jump repeatedly.

Controlling and maneuvering in DS3 is laid out exactly as it should.  Fans will quickly fall back into familiar finger moves in order to grab objects kinetically or freeze enemies in mid-air or fire and reload quickly.  The setting of real-time digital inventory and objective-checking adds to the realism and terror feel of Dead Space’s universe.  In addition to being able to control Isaac, get a friend and they can take the role of John Carver, soldier and fellow corpse-killer.  Together in Co-op play, Carver and Clarke defend themselves against the hellish infection of the parasitic Necromorphs.

If there is any drawback, it is that the story gets convoluted and there are times when Isaac feels like an armored errand boy.  But it is refreshing to see that Dead Space has not lost the survival or the horror in the survival horror genre.  They’ve ramped up the action but EA has done a great job of keeping the thrills and chills of the original.  Some fans may also find themselves missing the original silent faceless Isaac as opposed to the more recent vocal and exposed version of the engineer.
Zombie Factor / Conclusion
Dead Space 3 is a game with zombies and zombiefied creatures in outer space.  It is science-fiction meets horror and it is a meeting worth attending.  With plenty of chances to build weapons and upgrade your armor, DS3 gives zombie fans what they want – the shambling dead, the running dead and a world ending around you all with a gun in your hand and a slim chance at survival.  The Necromorphs are ready for one last go.  Are you?

by Chad Hunter

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