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Dead Space 3 review: EA's horror series abandons its roots - and suffers for it

Less tension, less scares, more guns

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So, while there are good, isolated moments, nothing comes close to turning the 18-hour adventure - all Optional Missions included - into the kind of masterpiece the original was.

Dead Space had real personality. Its combat mechanics and enemy types were genuinely different from everybody else's. Its puzzles were smart. It had plenty of scares. And even though it was primarily set on one ship, every level had a unique flavour, whether it was the bio-infested Hydroponics Deck with its giant space anus boss battle, or the Medical Deck and its unsettling remodelling later in the game - complete with its regenerating stalking patient.

Dead Space 3's personality, by comparison, feels whitewashed. A bombardment of semi-epic set-pieces set on a world with such a cohesive artistic overlay that it's hard to look back and differentiate between one level and the next. As a pure action fest there's boatloads of polished blasting to plough through - but that simply isn't good enough when set against Dead Space's unique exospheric standards. MP


CO-OP VERDICT

Three exclusive missions and insanity effects are the highs - but not everything's as good...

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First up, don't expect an entirely separate campaign. Apart from a handful of co-op-exclusive missions, puzzles and two-man switch sequences, these are, for the most part, the same hallways and mission objectives from the solo story, only with a second character - EarthGov Sergeant John Carver - tagging along for the ride. Because of that, co-op play comes with the same high and lows as single-player.

The higher numbers of tougher, sprint-happy Necromorphs ensure that combat is challenging and communication is important; spotting and firing stasis at a monster about to lob your mate's head off can save both of you a frustrating rewind to the last checkpoint. Plus, the lack of friendly fire let's you get stuck into the more intense battles without too much concern about stray bullets.

The exclusive missions and insanity effects are co-op's mode big highlights...

However, it's the three co-op-exclusive missions that are the high point of the two-player experience, alongside the 'insanity effects', where Isaac and Carver each suffer their own, unique hallucinations. (At one point, during one particularly tricky brain-fart, the Carver player will break down and venture inside his own head to, quite literally, battle demons.) To talk too much more about either would be to spoil one of the game's real highlights; moments that recall the scary smarts of the first Dead Space. Problem is, these sequences end up highlighting shortcomings elsewhere.

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Cut scenes, for example, are exactly the same for both players, regardless of which character you've suited up as. Having player two being forced to sit and watch what happens to Isaac from the sidelines destroys the flow of the game, the immersion too, something that again comes to the fore with BENCH and suit upgrade stations; very much designed with the lone player in mind, these lead to irritating situations where players have to stand and wait their turn while the other player customises their gear. (Would it have been difficult to put in two stations?)

In the end, Dead Space 3's co-op mode ends up mirroring the single-player experience: slick, entertaining, with the occasional moment of brilliance, marred by a lack of tension, pacing and pant-filling scares. CS

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The verdict

A technically impressive all-out action blaster, but one that betrays its roots and suffers for it.

  • Ultra-polished blasting
  • Early Optional Missions bring the traditional Dead Space scares
  • Fun, disturbing new enemies
  • Some great co-op moments...
  • ... but co-op isn't the game-changer it's been made out to be
  • It isn't Dead Space anymore
  • Universal ammo and mountains of guns destroy tension
  • Every level on Tau Volantis looks and feels the same
7.3
Format
PlayStation 3
Developer
Visceral Games
Publisher
EA Games
Genre
Survival Horror, Action

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