Let me open this review with a paragraph or two about why straight off the bat I feel comfortable to admit Dead Space 3 is not as good as the original title in the series. Silent Protagonists are not nearly as popular as they once were, owing to the fact that most of the time people are actually technically able to give all of their characters proper voices in games. Nevertheless, a couple of titles each year hold out and still employ this mechanism, allowing for either more immersion by the player; or as it was used in Dead Space 1, to ramp up the tension, by making the only sounds be the heavy breathing of Isaac Clarke as he runs away from some unknown horror. This also made him far more badass, as anyone able to silently take down the hordes of beasties the way he did without a single word was as worthy of praise as any force on Earth. He was in many ways, a different form of fan favourite Gordon Freeman, a silent; badass intellectual, who manages to outperform the trained military at every step. So what happens when Isaac Clarke has a voice?
Turns out he complains a lot. At every step. About everything. “The Ice Planet is too cold; my ex-girlfriend doesn’t like me any more, wah wah wah.” While he is of course only human, it was a little bit like meeting your favorite childhood actor and having him tell you to “bugger off you brat.” There may be reasons for it; but it ruins that person for you from that point on. Bizarrely enough, Isaac doesn’t even seem that bothered by the Necromorphs anymore; seemingly being one step away from shouting “Do you mind, I’m trying to argue with my Ex here, can you give me a minute?” as another slavering monstrosity leaps towards him, fangs bared.
I am also fully aware that Isaac was voiced in Dead Space 2, but it was to a lesser extent, and the emphasis was still placed on the terror felt by the Necromorphs invading. I think the clearest indication here that this game cares little for embracing the Necromorphs as strongly as they should is that at stages of the game, you shoot for long periods at regular human enemies. Yes, thank you developers, because what I really wanted was a poorly made Gears of War rip off, not a toe-curlingly tense horror game.
Dead Space 3 starts off with sections held in orbit above the ice planet of Tau Volantis, and at this stage you can feel properly scared like you used to; the dark corridors and silent solitude that were the trademarks of why this game was called “Dead Space” to begin with are all present. From there, you descend to the planet’s surface; and while a hostile ice planet can still be plenty scary (see: The Thing), the fact remains that once you realize hordes of identical Necromorphs will ALWAYS burst from below the ice with talons extended, it becomes a game of taking a step forward, then a step back to fire at the newly spawned monster; before moving on. Adding to this, the game loves throwing about 5 too many monsters than would be reasonable in any horde; with ammo being extremely plentiful as well, this turns the game into a boring wait-a-thon where you just plug as many monsters as is needed to progress, without any sort of feeling like you might run out of bullets and be swarmed or flanked, as you might have had in the other games.
As for gameplay innovations, the weapon crafting mechanic is interesting, but it damages another aspect of the game. Before; when shooting a Necromorph, there was no indication whether it was dead or not at times, so that you wander over it, only for it to leap and attack you unexpectedly. Now, when a monster dies, it invariably poops out an item for weapon crafting, leading you to just shoot a corpse until it does so. Tension=gone. There is also a co-op feature that is nice in that it ties with the plot well, but unfortunately I wish it could have been over LAN as well; but that is a small grievance.
Dead Space 3 still feels like a Dead Space game; but one that’s phoning it in and missing the mark. Dead Space 1 was a game I was too scared to finish; I literally stopped playing for a long time. Dead Space 3 I rushed through to just see what happened to the end of the plot.