Dead Space 3 Logo - We Know Gamers

Survival-Horror is a dying genre. When Dead Space came along in 2008 it heralded the return of big budget horror games, but to increase its accessibility to gamers who would prefer less skulking around in the dark in favour of plowing more bullets into more heads, Dead Space 3 has gone down the route many horror games tend to in order to broaden its appeal. The most prominent difference that sets Dead Space 3 apart from its predecessors is a feature that the developers are very eager to show off - the icy planet of Tau Volantis but is this brand new alien setting enough to carry on sending chills down our spines, or are fans of the sci-fi horror title going to give this one the cold shoulder?

Story
Dead Space 3 takes place 6 months after the second game, with protagonist Isaac Clarke once again as the reluctant hero pulled into a fight that he feels is much bigger than him and almost refuses to step back into the fray, until a few explosions outside of his home signals he's a wanted man and is forced to defend himself and take on the mission. The Unitologists, who are after Isaac for his ability to create and destroy 'Markers'. The main gist of the plot as you find out within Chapter 1 is that the main antagonist, leader of the Unitologist cult, plans to turn the entire human race into the zombie Necromorphs because his twisted mind believes that in doing so, he will be the saviour of the planet and it's your job to stop him. If it's your first time playing a Dead Space game or you simply forgot, there is a brief recap to get you up to speed, although if it is your first time, then I don't expect you to actually understand most of it as the explanation flies by so quickly.

All he wants is a hug Isaac, give it to him!
Ultimately I didn't feel anything particularly new here. Past the opening chapter, the story is mainly played out through the radio conversations between your team mates and actual cut-scenes are quite sparse. You can go through optional quests which give you some of the finer details in the game, but sometimes these are just added flourishes and side stories which don't necessarily make the main story anymore satisfying or revealing. The story picks up a lot more by the last quarter of the game, but there just isn't enough going on to make this a game where you really care about what's happening in the world around you, and it's pretty safe to say the atmosphere is far more important than the actual events.

Gameplay
Right from the beginning of the first chapter it's easy to notice the pace of the game has been ramped up compared to the last two titles and it suddenly feels a bit like an action blockbuster rather than the slow and steady horror fans might expect. This gradual change in dynamic seems to be a pattern in the survival horror genre, with the most famous example being Resident Evil, which switched to a relatively action-orientated game by Resident Evil 4. After the initial stages, we are once again welcomed back to the familiar setting of dark space corridors with Necromorphs hiding around pitch black corners, broken up with several moments of flying around in space itself which isn't something you get to do often in games and as long as you don't get a bit confused with what is too far away in the distance and where you can actually go, these sections are pretty fun.

Shhh... don't let him know I'm here.
The second half of the game finally sees us exploring Tau Volantis which opens up a less linear environment for a while, before having us go through underground tunnels which feel extremely similar to the corridors of the spaceships. However, resources are a lot easier to come by and the action becomes increasingly faster paced, so the suspense of making sure you have enough ammunition for any approaching six-limbed monstrosity is lacking in favour of more trigger-happy run and gun mentality. Which is fine and actually works pretty well for the type of game that this. You can also now create and modify your own weapons using blueprints and resources you find around space, which has quite a lot of depth to it and should have you spending a lot of time thinking about the best possible combinations. Adding an electric surge to my shotgun? Don't mind if I do.

Online Gameplay
Dead Space 3 also boasts the feature of co-operative multiplayer. An interesting new feature which lets you play the entire campaign with a friend (or stranger) that can drop in and out throughout the game. There are also co-op only missions and this is just one of the many signs that indicate that the game was possibly intended to be play two player, particularly as in certain cut-scenes Isaac's in-game partner John Carver, aka Player 2, will spontaneously appear which threw me off quite a bit throughout the first half as I was a bit unsure how this other guy kept suddenly joining me for a chit chat about our progress or next mission even though I'm playing through what is otherwise an extremely solitary game.

Why don't you go and talk to that Necromorph!?
Don't get me wrong - I love when games allow for co-operative play, especially when it means you can play the whole main story. The only issue is like many other current gen games, the multiplayer is online only. I would come up with a few reasons why this might have to be, but Far Cry 3 had split screen co-op and since it's such a huge feature to this game I fail to see why it couldn't have been implemented. The several scary jumps this game can give you would have been twice as fun had it let you play with friends in the same room rather than on completely separate computers.

Graphics/ Sound
While completely top notch for current gaming standards, it's not so much the graphics I want to praise in this section but more the visual styles implemented. The realism in Dead Space is something the developers clearly really aimed for and I can't deny that they did exceptionally in their efforts.

Realism is not specifically something I care about in games generally, but if you are going to try to make a game look real then it's better if you actually pull it off properly. One of the ways it does this so well is there is no on-screen clutter or HUD. Your health, for example is signified the same way as all characters in the game's world - the Resource Integration Gear. Shown as a blue bar physically attached to the back of each character, this is how you know how Isaac is doing, with it dropping into yellow and finally red zones the weaker he gets. This means no typical health bar stuck in the corner of the screen and the in-game item menu screen is possibly even more clever - this is because, due to the sci-fi setting of the game, Isaac can get away with having a real-life menu screen in the form of a hologram he can project while he picks which weapons to choose or to check out his mission riefing. This attention to detail as well as the almost silently quiet nature of the music gives the game the right amount of immersion to make those creepy encounters feel all the more threatening.

Final Verdict
Dead Space 3 is a strong, engrossing title that, although being essentially a scary action game, isn't one to just blast through mindlessly and will take longer than the typical third person shooter. If you're looking for a game to give you nightmares and really make you think however, it's probably time to start looking for a new franchise. If you fancy a horror game without painfully slow puzzles and want the feeling like you're running around in the latest blockbuster Hollywood movie (In a good way, aside from the cheesy love triangle sub-plot!) then you won't find more depth than Dead Space 3.

Story = 6/10
Gameplay = 7/10
Graphics/ Sound = 9/10

Final We Know Gamers Score = 7.3/10  
Had a chance to play the game? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below!
Dead Space 3 Review
Reviewed by Matt Millward
on Feb 04 2013

Rating: 7.3/10