One step forward, two steps back? Or is all well with Dead Space 3 – Isaac’s third physical and psychological battle against the necromorphs? At least he has a friend to support him through the nightmare this time, eh?
In the latest edition of Dead Space, Earth and the universe are in peril as you fly into the galaxy once again as a moody necromorph stomper, Isaac Clarke. Just like the previous two games, hundreds of pointy-armed, bile-spewing and spike-chucking monstrosities are just waiting to get their limbs shot off in a gory fashion by an impressive array of weapons – often in the zero gravity of space or the tight corridors of a space station – but this time around you have human adversaries gunning for Isaac’s head as well.
As the third game in the series, Visceral has tried some new things here. While building on the heavier action elements introduced in Isaac’s second nightmare, there’s also a more focused story and a comprehensive co-op mode, as the suited engineer and company set out to finish what others have started on a ruin-covered, creepy, alien planet that they believe to be the marker homeworld.
In a series (or perhaps even in a genre) where we’re used to watching characters we hardly know systematically die moments after meeting them, Dead Space 3 offers a surprising number of other humans to interact with – and that’s not just shooting them, either. Most notably there’s Isaac’s co-op buddy, Sergeant John Carver – a gruff soldier full of empty threats and harsh words who tags along with you through this insane and somewhat horrific adventure.
If you play the game alone then the relationship between Isaac and Carver doesn’t really grow until the last portion of the game, but there’s a great deal of unique content related to him in co-op. He really shines as a character here when he’s given more screen time and there’s a chance to explore his backstory.
I see dead people?
One of the most intriguing things about co-op, though, is the bizarre visions that plague Carver and the player controlling him. While playing as Carver you get to see many unique events that question his sanity, like a boy’s voice that can only be heard in your ear, while your partner is oblivious to it.
I’ve never been in a game before where I had to explain to my partner what is going on from my viewpoint, especially when they are shouting at me to help them with the horde of monsters pouring out of vents and crawling towards us. Yet, when I am in control of Carver, all I see is a nutjob and all I hear is an incorporeal boy nattering away in my ear – that is until I snap out of it and jump back into the fight. As someone who tires of over-the-top action quickly, I cherished moments like this and it was a shame they pretty much only existed in co-op.
For all the pre-release hoorah, co-op is not something that drags down Dead Space 3 either, instead it is one of its most admirable features. Either way you play, Carver is a welcome addition as he helps take Isaac from a broken man and turns him into a hero, all the while trying to deal with the insanity of this suicidal adventure himself.
The story does pack quite a few punches and twists, some of which are genuinely unexpected, while others are very typical of a game of this genre. The voice actors are top-notch and really help sell the characters too, especially for Isaac, Ellie, Carver and for the antagonist Danik, who is the leader of a crazy religious group that believe the alien markers will lead to the bloody rebirth of mankind.