If you watched my video “I suck at Dead Space 3” a few weeks ago, you certainly would have noticed that I hadn’t played the previous Dead Space games, that I had no idea what was going on, and that I was absolutely TERRIBLE at the game! For these reasons, I wasn’t all that excited for the full game to be released. I had trouble controlling my character, understanding what my abilities were and how to use them, and everything was just kicking my ass. Well, my opinion has changed drastically since then as starting from the beginning of the game put a new perspective on everything.
Dead Space 3 opens with a sequence called “Previously On Dead Space”, which quickly tells protagonist Isaac Clarke’s story from the previous two games and then throws you waste deep into the action. The Church of Unitology has essentially overthrown EarthGov and is hell bent on activating a bunch of Markers to evolve all humans into Necromorphs. They know that Isaac holds they key to stopping them, so they set out on a manhunt to find him.
Isaac is recruited by a few EarthGov soldiers including John Carver, to hunt down Isaac’s love interest Ellie Langford who has discovered a series of 200-year old ruins on an Ice Planet called Tau Volantis that she believes holds the key to destroying all of the Markers for good. Things go sour once the team arrives on the planet and find it’s a deathtrap filled with Necromorphs of an ancient alien civilization that used to inhabit the planet. The remainder of the game is spent discovering the secrets the planet holds in regards to stopping the Markers, all while dealing with the Unitologists who are hunting them down.
Having not played the previous games, I was instantly caught up on the story and felt like I hadn’t missed a thing. The sci-fi story is pretty decent and mixes in lots of emotion to keep things interesting. I also found there to be a good mix of story and game-play as to not let this become an interactive storybook.
The PC version of Dead Space 3 has some settings that should make the game look better than the console versions, but for the most part, this is a straight port and is fixed at 30 frames per second to match the console. It’s unfortunate that this had to be such a shitty port and that higher quality textures couldn’t be thrown in but luckily, a SweetFX mod, which I’ll link below, can be installed that will give crisper textures, higher contrast and enhanced HDR.
Initially I thought the graphics were just all right for a PC version of a game, but once I installed this mod, everything looked beautiful. The soundtrack combined with the sound effects, especially those of the Necromorphs, really made things scary at times. With the mod, I found the presentation overall to be top-notch.
Running the game in full screen prevented me from alt tabbing but changing that to windowed full screen fixed that. Playing the game with a keyboard and mouse really emphasizes the lack of effort put into making this port for the PC. While the general game-play mechanics are great with a mouse, the UI, menus and puzzle systems in the game were CLEARLY designed for a controller. No effort was made to make it more efficient for a mouse, which is a big let down considering how often you use the menu system.
Dead Space 3’s 19 chapters, 7 optional missions and 3 co-op missions took me roughly 20 hours to complete on the Normal difficulty setting. A New Game + option is unlocked upon completion in addition to the 4 difficulty settings to allow for some replayability. The real meat of the game of course is exploring the levels, looking for clues to stop the Markers, and kicking Necromorph Ass! This game is all about precision fire and shooting enemy limbs. I thought it was interesting that it was more effective to shoot enemy arms and legs than it was to blow their head off. Isaac can also roll to avoid attacks, though I found that I didn’t need to use it a single time throughout the game.
Isaac has a bunch of tools at his disposal to tackle the various challenges in his way. A stasis tool can be use to freeze or slow enemies to give him enough time to line up shots on the enemy weak points, or to simply give him enough time to run away. A Kinetic tool can be used to solve puzzles, move heavy objects around, open doors and even pull limbs from enemies and launch it back at them. The puzzles for the most part are pretty basic and easy to solve but get pretty intense when you’ve got to deal with enemies beating on you while you do it!
At various benches throughout the levels, Isaac can use parts that he has scavenged to modify, upgrade and even craft his own weapons and consumables. You can select the frame, top and bottom tools, weapon tips and attachments for each of your two guns. Placing a tool on the top or bottom of the weapons, or even on different frames will give you different results. This is a game in and of itself and I spent a good chuck of time here trying to perfect my weapons and fine-tailor them to be useful in as many situations as possible. I had a lot of fun doing this. There are also a bunch of different suits that you can change in to, though they are merely aesthetic.
There is some DLC that you can purchase that will give you access to more powerful guns early in the game without having to find the parts for them, and there is other DLC that upgrades the bots that collect your components for you. I understand offering aesthetic options and additional levels for purchase, but by making things that should be essential parts of the game as an option to purchase, well that’s just stupid.
The level design is great in that you get a good mix of missions that take place in anti-gravity space, on the frozen planet surface, and inside ships and buildings. A variety of enemies are found throughout the game that each have their own unique attacks. Enemies grouped together in different combinations force you to alter your tactics quickly to stay alive. Even on the normal difficulty I found myself dying quite a few times as I got overwhelmed with foes. This combined with the constant threat of running out of ammunition and consumables kept my blood pressure high. This is what makes games scary!
A co-op campaign mode is also included where your partner plays as John Carver. There are 3 side-missions that can only be accessed in co-op mode, which I have mixed feelings about. I support the idea of playing cooperatively with a friend and when I played a few hours this way it was quite fun. In the single-player campaign Carver makes appearances, but for the most part is not present.
The co-op mission objectives don’t require two people, so the mechanics are essentially the same as the single-player game. But, the co-op campaigns gives an interesting dynamic between the two characters as Carver kind of goes crazy and sees things that Isaac doesn’t. To me this is pretty neat but you can’t get 100% completion of the game without completing these missions. That is a design decision that I feel is pretty stupid.
Now, it’s important that you take this review for what it is, or rather, from the perspective of a guy who hasn’t played the previous Dead Space games. There was some controversy that the game strayed from its roots and focused more on action than it did horror. While I can’t confirm or deny that, I can say that it was damned fun to play as is. Dead Space 3 certainly is not a great port to the PC by any means, but the game itself, especially with the SweetFx mod, was amazing!
***Correction – disabling Vsync removes the 30fps cap.
Dead Space 3 Review (PC) – ZGR
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release Date: 2/5/2013
SweetFx Mod for Dead Space 3: http://gsngaming.com/topic/8344-dead-space-3-sweetfx-v13/
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Intel Core i7 3770k @ 3.5ghz
16Gb DDR3 1600mhz
ATI 7970 3gb
1 120gb SDD – OS and Fraps
1 7200rpm 1Tb HDD – Games
1 7200rpm 2Tb HDD – Recordings
Asus Xonar DX 7.1 Sound Card
1920×1080 – Maxed Graphics – Vsync On
**This title was provided to me free of charge from the GamersGate.com to review for you.