Despite the franchise’s absence from the market for almost a decade, EA’s Dead Space series is still revered in high regard by fans of survival horror games – but it’s coom for any discussion around Dead Space to revolve around entries 1 and 2. The last game in the series, Dead Space 3 was released in 2013 and while it was still a good game by all accounts – the game is unanimously considered to be the black sheep of the family.
But is that the case? Was Dead Space 3 really that bad – or was it a misunderstood experiment that’s much better than series fans initially thought it was? Was it an underrated gem? Of course, the answer to that question doesn’t boil down to a single yes or no – and there are many things that need to be taken into consideration before drawing a conclusion. All that said, let’s dive in and take a look back at Dead Space 3 all these years later.
The scenario surrounding the development of Dead Space 3 was an interesting one. In spite of Dead Space 2 boasting rave reviews, the game failed to hit its projected sales numbers – and at one point, EA even had plans to outright cancel the third game as per multiple reports of the time. To avoid the same failures, the team felt that the game needed to appeal to the larger masses rather than the survival horror niche that the first 2 games targeted.
So the team took inspiration from the likes of Uncharted and Gears of War – both of which were raking in great sales figures with each entry, and the developers set out to create a game that would incorporate action elements into its survival horror formula with high-stakes set-pieces and shootout sequences among other new elements – and we got the Dead Space 3 that we know today.
But while Dead Space 3 upped the ante when it came to gameplay, it took a step back in terms of its plot. The first two games showcased a deeply disturbed protagonist as he does everything in his might to survive and learn more about the Necromorphs. Dead Space 3 flips the formula on its head as the story essentially revolves around him trying to stop a Necromorph infection from spreading on Earth, which could have been a nice change of pace from usual survival horror – but ends up feeling forced with many characters and events not contributing anything meaningful to the narrative proceedings which ultimately results in a padded-out experience. That said, it’s not all that bad since some of the newer characters like Carver are well-written with interesting character arcs that are worth seeing through to the end.
Over on the gameplay front, Dead Space 3 feels a lot better than its predecessors thanks to smooth animations that blend nicely into one another. The core gameplay revolves around shooting your way through Necromorphs as you strategically dismember their limbs by making judicial use of your ammunition, and it’s just as fun as it was before. You could also take cover to hide from incoming fire, since there are scenarios where you will come across fights against other human soldiers who would obviously use ranged weaponry.
The game features a decent assortment of weapons to choose from the likes of Plasma Cutter, EG-900 SMG, Evangelizer among others – and they all feel pretty distinct from one another. The ammunition is consumed from a common pool, so you always have a lot of options in how you choose to go about encounters. You also have special abilities such as kinesis which allows you to manipulate objects, and you also get Stasis which allows Isaac to slow down a target’s movement temporarily – allowing him to easily target weak parts to dispatch enemies.
Players can also upgrade their weapons during their travels, which was something that was presumably done with an intention of adding some RPG-esque character progression to the gameplay. Furthermore, Isaac can also undertake several side-missions at many points throughout the story – which would give you additional rewards that would go towards making Isaac stronger. Hell, there’s even a new game+ option that lets Isaac wreak havoc on his adversaries with his high-level endgame gear. There are also action-heavy cinematic sequences including but not limited to zero-g sections – and all of it culminates to make Dead Space 3’s gameplay loop more empowering than its predecessors.
Briefly talking about the visuals, Dead Space 3 also provided a noticeable bump in graphical fidelity from Dead Space 2 – which was also a pretty beautiful game for its time. But Dead Space 3 improved on those foundations with a thicker sense of atmosphere, beautiful vistas, and plenty of sprawling levels filled with great attention to detail. Suffice it to say, it was easily one of the best-looking games of the generation – and it did all that without sacrificing on performance.
Once you are done with your single-player adventures, you could hop back into the game with a buddy for some co-op action which lets the second player assume the role of Carver. Playing that way reveals additional story beats with alternative cutscenes, and you could also partake in special side-missions that wouldn’t be available otherwise. All in all, Dead Space 3 plays and feels a lot different from its predecessors despite having been cut from the same cloth.
Ultimately, the game’s tonal shifts and differences from prior entries became the most divisive factors when it comes to Dead Space 3 – and the developer’s attempts to capture a larger audience with these changes bit them back in the foot as it alienated series fans. Sure, there are some objective shortcomings with the experience such as repetitive encounters and uninteresting stretches of story, but taken on the whole – it’s a solid experience with plenty to like as well.
We also have to consider the fact that EA purposefully added microtransactions into a single-player game, which further added fuel to the fire – resulting in an audience that got frustrated with the publisher’s business practices and all of it ultimately hampered the game’s reception. EA once again failed to hit its projected sales numbers when it came to Dead Space 3, and any plans of a sequel were promptly dismembered and the developer was reduced to a support studio until 2017 when it finally closed doors.
Now that all that fuss is over and the smoke has finally cleared out, Dead Space 3 actually is a good experience – one that smartly trades the franchise’s survival horror roots for some high-stakes action, but makes sure that you put enough effort into a sense of power fantasy with upgraded weapons and abilities. The co-op and new game-plus modes are also great ways of re-experiencing the game from a fresh perspective. Sure, it’s nothing that will blow you away – and it’s by no means an underrated gem (a 78 score on Metacritic seems just for the kind of experience that it offers). But if you have a hankering for some more Dead Space action, entry number 3 might not be a bad option all these years later.
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