The Dead Space games have historically been badass as badass. You run around with the space equivalent of a power tool in the space equivalent of hell and cut the limbs off of the space equivalent of the reanimated corpses of the space equivalent of dead people.
They’re the space equivalent of terrifying, as well as the regular equivalent of terrifying, due in no small part to its undeniable influences, sci-fi horror flicks like Alien and The Thing. The environments in Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are dark and claustrophobic, they’re loud as hell and quiet as death at just the right moments, and they contort the human body in ways that are, like, way gross. Like faces and arms and butts all over the place gross.
It’s a masterful and proven horror aesthetic that fleshes out a game world where in everything and everyone wants to kill the shit out of you until you’re dead like nobody’s business.
Then Dead Space 3 came out.
If Dead Space and Dead Space 2 were brilliant homages to Alien, then so is the first act of Dead Space 3. Protagonist Isaac Clarke hops from derelict ship to derelict ship playing peekaboo with all kinds of nasty monsters popping out of vents and closets and cabinets. It’s all very Alien, until around a third of the way through the game when Isaac lands on the ice planet Hoth planet Tau Volantis.
From there the homage to Alien expands (for better or worse per your tastes) more into Aliens, and even Prometheus, territory – a facet of Dead Space 3 that plenty of fans are no doubt less than thrilled about. There are uncomfortable corridors here and there and plenty of loud and unsettling necromorphs – which balls so hard – but there are also a fistful of shootouts with heretical terrorists and all sorts of (two or three) Cliffhanger Stallone mountain climbing exhibitions – which also ball so hard, but in a different way, like with a different ball or something. Like if all the creeps and crawls are like a football then the shootouts and the Cliffhanger are like a basketball – but so far as I’m concerned they both ball so hard.
But as bloodied, bleak hallways give way to frozen expanses and subterranean ruins so too does the pallet of claustrophobia and dread that has been such a staple in the Dead Space games give way to something a little more accessible and classically minded.
Dead Space is sci-fi horror at its best and while Dead Space 3 is going to leave horror fans wanting, science fiction enthusiasts are going to find a lot to love in the games more adventurous tone. With the larger set pieces and human enemies Dead Space 3 ends up feeling less like the Thing meets Alien and more like a demented survivalist Star Trek.
These games have always involved uncovering deep dark secrets, but while the first two games see Isaac Clarke peripherally discovering what he can as he works his way toward escape, Dead Space 3 sees the protagonist, at gunpoint and predictably reluctant at first, set out on an expedition with the express and primary purpose of discovery, and it’s this about-face that makes this third entry feel so different.
If you’re looking for a game to make you cry and quake with fear Dead Space 3 will probably get you to first base. It’s not all that frightening and after the first eight chapters it doesn’t even try. But if you’re down for a more classic sci-fi adventure, complete with ample amounts of eye-rolling narrative leaps, you’re in for a good eight hours of gameplay.
However, for those of you who fall into the as yet unnamed third category of people who assume that when some lady gets her godamn eye shanked out of her face with a screwdriver she probably shouldn’t have that eye anymore – stay away from Dead Space 3 entirely. There’s nothing but pain for you here. Pain and one more eyeball than the amount of eyeballs you expected would be here ([x+1] + pain = Dead Space 3, where x = amount of presumed eyeballs in Dead Space 3, or, Dead Space 3 ≠ x, where x = literally anything in agreement with the reasonable expectation of individual eyeballs given the amount of eyeball related fisticuffs in previous entries of the pertaining franchise).
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely expected there to be some eyeballs in Dead Space 3. I even suspected there could be as many as a bunch of eyeballs in Dead Space 3. But I never in a million years could have dreamt that there would be one more eyeball than I ever in a million years could have dreamt that there would be eyeballs in Dead Space 3. I mean, I don’t want to get on a soap box here.
Dead Space 3 is plenty entertaining and still packs the same slice-and-dice gunplay the first two entries in the series delivered, but when faced with the inevitable choice between sticking with a carbon copy of a tried and true formula only to get bashed for being stagnant or tweaking said formula to get something new and being bashed for dabbling with something that wasn’t broken Visceral Games chose the latter. There will certainly be critics of Visceral Games’ tweaking but they tried something new that plenty of gamers and fans can enjoy.
Plus one eyeball.