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Gaming review: Dead Space 3

Last updated on: February 24, 2013 10:07 IST

Gaming review: Dead Space 3

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Dead Space 3 puts on quite a show, says Murali Venukumar

Murali is a full-time marketing exec, part-time writer and a life-long gamer.

Review: Dead Space 3
Platforms: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC
Price: Xbox 360/PS3: Rs. 2999 / PC: Rs. 1499
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Distributor: Milestone Interactive Pvt. Ltd.
Genre: Action-Adventure / Survival-Horror
Age Rating: 18+
Rating: 7/10
 

Let's not fault Dead Space 3 for straying from its roots. Its slant toward big-ticket action set pieces over the more traditional (and methodical) survival horror of the last two games in the series was clearly a creative direction that was embarked on for whatever reason.

It is what it is. And judged purely on that, Dead Space puts on quite the show. The production values have been dialed up significantly, so much so that the copious set piece events the game is loaded with wouldn't feel out of place in a multiplex.

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Photographs: Visceral Games/Electronic Arts
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The game can be quite pleasing aesthetically. From apocalyptic cities to barren planets to decrepit flotillas in near-orbit, they all look chunky and lived-in. There's a lot of play around lights and shadows, and some lovely sun effects and skyboxes to be seen when you're planetside. Unfortunately a lot of the world detail can be low-res, which makes reading what looks to be a well thought out poster for instance, near impossible. The sound design and the score also stand out, especially when the action quiets down and the atmosphere really gets ominous. The cutscenes and voice acting also deserve a special mention, being mostly well directed and acted.

Sadly, the same can't be said about the story holding the game up. You're tossed into a contrived opening (after a quick prologue level) that immediately ratchets up the action stakes. Things don't get much better after, as you're stuck in a now all too familiar videogaming groundhog day -- bossed about and shuffled between locations. It doesn't help that the supporting cast is mostly an unlikable bore. The only upside is that the Dead space universe itself and the Marker lore that comes with it can be quite intriguing.

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Photographs: Visceral Games/Electronic Arts
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Where you'll feel the new focus on action most is in the pacing of combat encounters. Many of the necromorph enemies now move much faster than before, but Issac's character controls don't seem to have been altered to accommodate this change. So you'll soon start to notice enemies rushing you at light speed rather than at the pace they moved at in the older games. And since Issac's movement and aim speeds haven't changed, you may find it hard to come out of encounters unscathed. You've got to wonder what's up when strategically dismembering enemies (a series' specialty) is suddenly an issue thanks to you being swarmed by faster-than-usual necros.

Necromorph variety has increased a tad, with a handful of new variations. The game also does well in mixing enemies up, which necessitates you approaching each enemy in a particular encounter a different way. You also fight human enemies at certain points, which isn't as bad as most have made it out to be. They're a nice change of pace, albeit in a boring sort of way. Oh, and the new half-baked cover system is hilariously bad. There's also a dodge-roll now, which feels awkward in some of the more cramped environments.

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Photographs: Visceral Games/Electronic Arts
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The game world also seems to have been significantly opened up in places, to the point that there are now side missions that you can embark on which net you story snippets, raw materials and loot. Kinesis and stasis powers return, as does the occasional jaunt into gravity free space.

What also works in the game's favor is the excellent weapon crafting system. Its more flexible than you'd expect, and lets you cobble together new multi-use weapons from some of the series' staples. This aside, the other big-ticket addition to the game comes in the form of a co-op ready campaign. And rather than play a no-name cipher, your co-op partner takes on the role of John Carver -- a rather boring man with a boring set of problems that need fixing.

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Photographs: Visceral Games/Electronic Arts

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Co-op turns out to be a good and bad for the game. It's nice that the co-op partner experiences events that you don't, leading to some tense situations. There are a whole bunch of co-op specific cutscenes and dialogue you'll miss if you're playing alone. On the other hand, you may find that having a partner along for the ride significantly drops the scare quotient. On the whole though, the co-op mode is a much better addition that the ill thought-out competitive modes that made their way into Dead Space 2.

While it's a shame that the series clearly wants to be less survival horror, the real question is whether it's any good at what it wants to be -- a more generic third person shooter with some horror elements. With its legacy controls and bum-rush enemies, it's a hard sell. Also problematic is the ordinary story and the fetch-quest mission design. None of these issues may be game breaking, but there's a certain slack that's creeping in. And the universe that the first two games in the series built deserves better than that.

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Photographs: Visceral Games/Electronic Arts
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