There has been a lot of hype and discussion ahead of the third installment of EA’s popular FPS horror franchise. With the new game incorporating outdoor environments and co-op play does it still manage to capture that Dead Space feel?

Story

When you start up Dead Space 3 you will be treated with a recap of the Dead Space storyline. It’s a pretty good summary covering all the key points leading to the start of Dead Space 3. As a newcomer to the series you would still get a good feeling of the meta story and be more than happy to get stuck in without having played the original or the sequel. As the narrative ends, gameplay immediately kicks off by taking users back some 200 years before the original Dead Space, to the icy planet of Tau Volantis. Players are thrown into the driver’s seat for the duration of this short backstory, first time players will enjoy this as a great little tutorial.

Fast forward 200 years to the present day, we assume the role of protagonist Isaac Clarke who is almost instantly forced out of hiding to seek out and rescue a loved one, Ellie Langford. The story is pretty much more of the same, continuing the narrative around the Markers – the giant objects that were meant to deliver unlimited power for mankind but instead turned everyone into deadly space zombies. No major surprise there, it does a good job of holding all the necromorph stomping goodness together.

The game starts off with plenty of traditional Dead Space environments and gameplay which feel as though you have just come straight through from Dead Space 2 without missing a beat. As they game progresses though, you will start to be pulled outside of your comfort zone as you start to explore different environments and challenges. DS3 undoubtedly has a more action orientated feel to it, with less survival horror than the previous two games. Don’t expect a walk in the park, Dead Space 3 still has plenty of creepy atmosphere and scares, but it is more understated than in previous games.

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The inclusion of a co-op mode is done really well when it comes to the story – you don’t feel like you have to play it alone first in case you miss out on something (say like in Diablo 3). The ability to continue right where you left off in single player is great. Way better than waiting for your mate to get his act together!

Presentation

The game is undoubtedly a Dead Space title. EA have kept the same creepy art direction with plenty of old tunnels, space corridors and air locks. The graphics are solid with some great lighting and an overall well optimized performance. While it’s not pushing the technical boundaries in a Crysis way, it provides a deeply immersive environment that allows the suspense and atmosphere to build. The game developers have done a fantastic job in the initial stages of the game, while you are still in space, by incorporating obstacles and sometimes-tricky puzzles to solve. Players are made to take painstakingly frightening detours that force return trips down the same dark corridors past the same scary relentless waves of necromrphs. These rich, dark and often quiet environments are beautifully constructed and will definitely keep your heart ponding in your chest the whole way through.

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The graphics really start to show in the second half of the game as you begin to explore new environments that feature some amazing lighting effects. Take a look at some of these screenshots I took while playing to see what I mean with regards to the lighting:

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I was playing on my aging Nvidia 460GT which managed to run on a full 1920×1080 resolution with all the settings turned up full. In fact it cruised along with frame rates ranging from mid 60’s through to triple figures. So you can be sure to get a decent experience regardless of your graphics card.

Gameplay

Dead Space 3 takes the best of DS 2 and tweaks rather than reinvents the experience. You will find all the usual gameplay elements from plasma cutters to Statis abilities. The introduction of a more advanced weapon customization system is a welcome addition and provides a nice creative break from the hordes of necromorphs continually trying to rip you spine out. The system takes a bit of getting used to, with no introduction or tutorial you will have to explore and try stuff out yourself. At the basis it’s a simple system with several key building blocks for weapons and a range of accessories that customize the weapon further. What this allows you to do is create weapons that suit your style of play, something that comes in handy when playing co-op. Unfortunately players are limited to only carry 2 weapons throughout the game, meaning you are going to want to conserve your ammunition wherever possible so as to avoid the unfortunate possibility of running out of ammo whilst surrounded by Necromorphs.

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Another cool feature that the developers have incorporated into Dead Space 3, is the ability to swop out or modify your suit. Players who pre-bought the game are gloriously rewarded upfront with 3 super-cool environment suits to swop out with the standard suit when they get to the first Suit Mod station. If you did not pre-order the game, the standard suit is also fully customizable and additional suits can either be constructed based on items players find throughout the game or collected in game for accomplishing challenges. Some of the items players can upgrade are things like Kinesis range and damage, hit points, armour, Statis and air supply. Again, players will enjoy a great breakaway from violent, flesh eating necromorphs, and a resting heart-rate of 85 below while interacting with the suit upgrade module. Unlike the Weapon Bench Customisation system, only one player can interact with a suit upgrade module at a time, meaning if you are playing co-op, your mate will likely be standing around with little else to do but watch in anticipation and curiosity while you suit up.

The Co-op experience is a great way to experience Dead Space 3. The voice over communication is quick and lag free, the ability to swap ammo and cover each other’s back adds a nice dimension to the game. Having someone to chat to during those tense moments can also help keep you sane. The story line remains the same regardless of whether you tackle the game on your own or with a mate, but if you do go co-op you can expect to play through some nice two player puzzles that require both players to work together. While the puzzles won’t be to everyone’s liking, I enjoyed trying to solve a puzzle as quickly as possible while my mate tried to hold the necromorph hordes at bay.

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At the end of the day it’s the alien ass kicking that provides the backbone of the Dead Space experience. It is fun to slice limbs and stomp creatures into the ground and there is no shortage of that in Dead Space 3. While the overall game does have a more action orientated feel than previous titles, it’s heart is in the right place and its full of warm  slimy goodness.

Dead Space 3 was developed by Visceral Games and published by Electronic Arts. Our review is based on the PC version.