Ah, how I love trilogies. I also love sci-fi. Thats why from now until the end of time, even with Disney holding the reins, I'll have my fingers crossed for a Knights of the Old Republic 3. Its also why I love Dead Space 3. As with all trilogies, the truly great game developers find something new to glue you to the screen each and every time, even when you've seen it all before. Dead Space 3 does this, and does it well.
No beating around the bush, the original Dead Space was an epically horrifying gaming experience. The atmosphere, the claustrophobia, the sound effects, the environment, the hopeless sense of isolation - they all combined sublimely to produce a survival horror that must surely go down as one of the gaming greats. With this in mind, recreating it was never really an option with Dead Space 3. At no point was I in any great state of nail biting suspense or at all worried about what might be around the next bend. But damn was I excited to get around that bend!
This is down to the excellent co-op integration. I've played through the game with a buddy on the hard difficulty, and its an absolute blast. With a huge campaign (about 20 hours or so for two thorough players) which includes co-op exclusive side missions and optional missions to pick up extra resources and tech, there is plenty here to work with. Add to that the stunning graphical beauty of the environments, from the haunting space faring missions to the slogs though the icy tundra planet-side, there's a lot to be admired throughout.
What I love most is the replacement of credits and stores with resources for building items and weapons. And we're not talking generic weapons here, we're talking fully customisable weapons with everything ranging from acid or electrically coated ammunition right up to rocket launchers and medic/stasis support boosts to help out your partner. There are innumerable ways to craft these things, and you can simply blueprint them (and share them too) so that you can re-live the glory later on should you get nostalgic about an old favourite you foolishly dismantled for spare parts! There is no better feeling than carefully assembling your own brand of necromorph tenderiser, and seeing it purr into life as you emerge from an upgrade bench. Its magic, and it makes for a unique Dead Space experience.
There's also a few new enemies to enjoy dismembering. From skinny little critters that relish trying to pull your head off in insanely large groups, to matrix-esque necromorph soldiers who move at lightning quick speed and hack at you like its going out of fashion, there's some pretty cool battles to be fought from start to finish. The sort of battles that have you mentally high fiving yourself at the end whilst apologising profusely to your abused stasis module.
And of course, there's the usual logs and artifacts and audio recordings to be collected for all you magpies out there - myself included of course.
But, for all its delightful action, DS3 has numerous pitfalls that bring it up shy of five stars. To be honest, the story isn't great. I'm not going to get into spoiler territory here, but let's just say I wasn't really sold on it from the very beginning and little occurred during the game to assuage my growing sense of confusion and incredulity. That said, it's not awful given the circumstances but there's very little within the game that genuinely moves you or compels you to care particularly for any of the characters. Not for me anyway. It was all about the crafting bench for me.
I haven't played as Issac's new partner in crime (Carver) yet, but I'm told theres a distinct absence of a certain objective locator function that proved debilitating at points, particularly in a blizzard. I'll give it a go on the second playthrough and judge for myself.
Another issue others seem to have is with the general run and fetch mission types that were prevalent in the first two games. Unoriginal and uninspiring they may be, but I really don't mind them to be honest. What else am i going to be doing to get myself into some more unfortunate and chaotic shenanigans other than charging around as everything systematically goes wrong, I ask you?!
Theres also the matter of human gunfight encounters which occur sporadically throughout your time on Tau Volantis. The less said about these the better. Suffice to say, I wish they didn't exist.
That said, I do feel that the co-op could have been spiced up a little by a bit of separation. There isn't really a moment where you and your partner aren't joined at the hip, and I felt at points the horror aspect would have benefitted from a bit of lone wolf action, or at the very least a few more instances where one team-mate must rely entirely upon the skills of the other. I digress.
So, to wrap things up. This is a very cool game. No, its not scary. Its not a great story. I wouldn't even say its an improvement on its predecessors. Despite this, it remains an utterly compelling experience and the co-op is truly a joy to behold. But the main thing for me is its re-playability. I really do want to do it again. I want to build new weapons, wear new suits and put down scavenger bots in all new corners of the Dead Space world. That, for me, says it all.