Dead Space 3 Review

Dead Space 3 screenshot
Dead Space 3 screenshot

I’m nothing if not positive. When EA showcased Dead Space 3’s action-focused new direction at last year’s E3, I steered clear of the dissenting voices and naysayers. Visceral knows what it’s doing, I thought. When coop was revealed, I chose to think about the ways in which another player could add to the horror rather than detract from it. I didn’t even get angry about microtransactions and 11 pieces of launch DLC. The proof would be in the pudding - the gristly, deformed, pus-spewing pudding.

Turns out, Dead Space 3 is pretty much the exact game everyone else said it would be. It is, quite frankly, a bit of a mess; a misguided, dull slog that’s so devoid of innovation and inspiration that it seems mad that it actually comes from the same people as its stellar predecessors.

When EA launched Dead Space, it felt like something new. Yes, the component parts had been seen before in both cinema and gaming, but it brought ideas to a stale genre and did so with rare style. The sound design, the limb-rending, the zero-gravity, the isolation. The game was far from perfect, but it was fresh and bold. Dead Space 2 then took those ideas, threw in some new ones, and polished the thing into a shiny Triple-A franchise; another string to EA’s ever-growing big-budget bow.

Dead Space 3, though, is none of that. In a 14-or-so hour campaign - playable on your own or with a coop partner (more on that later) - there are no new ideas, no innovations, no flair. The game has transformed from mid-paced horror into an action shooter with an eye for the grotesque, but has done so without relaying the foundations necessary to facilitate that sort of mutation. You can’t just make a Gears of War game because you fancy it - you have to build every polygonal cell to support it.

The first worry is the introduction of human enemies - soldiers of the mad Unitology leader Danik. They appear early, suggesting that Dead Space 3 is going to completely eschew its roots, but in actual fact their appearances are sparing and actually strangely welcome. Turns out it’s more fun to fight a group of reasonably smart humans than an endless, relentless tide of necromorphs.

Every combat encounter - and there are many - is almost always twice as long as it should be. Any time Isaac accomplishes anything, whether it’s solving a puzzle or just finding a new area, he’s assaulted by a small army of waggly-armed idiots that need to be sliced up in classic Dead Space style. Being overrun by Necros has always been the least appealing part of the series, but now it’s a fundamental part of the game - by the end of the campaign I must have slaughtered over 1000 of them, and did so with no real skill or tactical consideration, just aggression, hope and just enough Stasis to slow a few of them down. It’s a slog.

Dead Space 3 screenshot

Considering the new focus on combat, it’s maddening that Isaac is now limited to carrying two weapons at once, and that the old upgrade system has been replaced by a confusing and somewhat cynical crafting mechanic. It breaks the flow of the action and seems completely at odds with the immersion the (admittedly excellent) visuals and sound attempt to establish. Every five minutes, you’re stuck at a work bench trying to cram a new attachment onto your gun, wrapping your head around 5 different pieces of in-game currency and praying that what you end up with is actually capable of doing some damage.

It reminds me of a meal I had the other week. I went to a restaurant that served steak on hot stones, so you can cook it yourself. It sounded great; novel, exciting, just pretentious enough to make me feel a little bit cool. Five minutes in, though, and I’m sitting there with a slab of uncooked meat and some heat, essentially. I’ve paid a premium to do the chef’s job for him, and the steak ended up being average at best.

The idea of crafting your own weapons in Dead Space 3 might sound great. It certainly nods to the Minecraft crowd, and Isaac’s engineering background justifies it narratively. But in practice, you’re just doing the designers’ jobs for them. Nothing I built was ever as good as a powered-up plasma cutter, and more than once I built something that actually made the game much harder.

Later in the campaign you actually do get hold of a bespoke weapon, and that goes on to inform the design in the rest of that chapter. It’s one of the best bits of the game. There’s a lot to be said for having your choices restricted by artists and creatives who might just know better. Especially when the ubiquitous bench also carries a giant list of greyed-out weapon blueprints that can only feasibly be made on a first play-through if you’re prepared to lay down some extra dollar. It’s a pretty ugly affair.

Thankfully, the second controversial inclusion is probably Dead Space 3’s saving grace. In the absence of horror - and the game just isn’t scary, seemingly deliberately so - having a partner along for the ride does enhance the action. Certain sections are clearly designed for buddying-up, and your cohort Carver is a decent sidekick. He hates you, for one, which is novel enough, and he has his own personal tale to separate him from Clarke.

He’s much more than just a second Isaac or a bland avatar. Yes, he might look like a reject from the SS Normandy, but he has his own motives and backstory, and more interestingly actually suffers from visions that make his own journey through the campaign different to Isaac’s. It’s gimmicky stuff, yes, but still an interesting use of cooperative dynamics that does offer something more than just a friend to kill things with.

Dead Space 3 screenshot

The campaign does branch for each coop partner, too, and there are coop specific side missions which are about as exciting as the single-player equivalents (read: not). Dead Space 3 is definitely a better game when played together.

A shame, then, that it’s still not a very good game. When you’re not drowning in dead bodies, you’re carrying out bland menial tasks. Dead Space has always been a game about Isaac doing chores for other people, but this is ridiculous. Just getting to the snowy planet of Tau Volantis takes an age and requires a seemingly never ending succession of fetch quests, and even basic traversal is constantly halted by having to grab something to open a door or just wait while the damn things open. One chapter has five elevator rides in it. Five. The pacing is baffling at times - every time it threatens to keep things moving it yanks you back into some dull busywork.

The snowy planet doesn’t do much for the horror, either. Having the action step out of the darkness is no bad thing, but it doesn’t take much of a critical eye to see the frozen tundra and permanent snowstorms as just sexier versions of PSOne fogging - the actual levels themselves are cramped and linear. And while some sections and set pieces do shine - one open chunk in deep space is marvelous to look at, while a few Uncharted-style scripted sequences are genuinely impressive - there’s so much plodding and killing that it’s hard to enjoy them.

Dead Space 3 isn’t a let down because Visceral decided to turn it into an action game. No one can tell them what Dead Space ‘is’ - they decide to make whatever game they want. And there is enough lore and scope to make Dead Space an action game, even if that choice is probably a poor one. Dead Space 3 is a let down because it’s not a very good action game, and a really substandard horror game. It is devoid of ideas, hung up on laborious combat and obsessed with making even the exciting seem boring. In truth, it’s a bit of a shocker.

Version Tested: Xbox 360

Time Played: 14 Hours

5 / 10

  • Nice looking
  • Good co-op ideas
  • Amazingly boring and laborious
  • Neither horror or action

Click above for enlarged Dead Space 3 Screenshots

To add your comment, please login or register

User Comments

rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ ODESSA_Z

Quote: scored Gears of War 2 a 93...which had THE MOST BROKEN online of any game in the last 5 years and some of the most broken core mechanics ever made.

Posted 21:24 on 15 February 2013
ODESSA_Z's Avatar


"A shame, then, that it’s still not a very good game." And that sums up almost all of the idiotic comments in this hack review by Jon Denton, who is absent by the way. Hiding in his mom's basement I'm sure. Hopefully embarrassed by the exposition of lunacy on display in this ....."review".
This is how I see it. Jon Denton is just a hater, living in an echo chamber here on the web, pandering to those who "echo" his sentiments. He even goes out of his way to say that he was going to give Visceral a chance and microtransactions didn't bother him. If true....why bring it up at all?
Then goes on to ignore game media like Polygon who says that before playing Dead Space 3 they were very skeptical to the point of saying, "I'm done." Polygon turns around upon PLAYING the game and admits they were wrong. That is the EXACT opposite of what Jon Denton did.
You gave them a chance, played the game and hated it....and YOU are the ONLY one that I've seen anywhere on the web who came away with that view.
Now I'm sure not only Denton is hiding in his mom's basement, but he will also hide behind the one thing all haters hide behind here on the web....OPINION. So, its pointless to continue to bash someone who is so easily bashable.
I'll sum it up with this.... scored Gears of War 2 a 93...which had THE MOST BROKEN online of any game in the last 5 years and some of the most broken core mechanics ever made.
That pretty much says it all for me. To take these fools seriously is a mistake. Good ***** on your hater score of 5 for Dead Space 3, but I'll side with ICE-T, horror master John Carpenter, Gameinformer, Polygon, Jim Sterling, The Escapist, IGN and a slew of others who overwhelmingly see Dead Space 3 as the game of our generation.
Posted 20:45 on 15 February 2013
dav2612's Avatar


Finally got round to playing the demo of this. It was ok, nothing special.

Wading through the snow level reminded me of Uncharted 2's beginning and before I know it, I'm dangling over a cliff edge just like Uncharted 2.
Posted 09:01 on 15 February 2013
rbevanx's Avatar


Done about a third of the game so far on co-op, never a 5/10 game and I'm glad I ignored the review.
Posted 20:42 on 14 February 2013
Wido's Avatar


Replayed the demo and liked it more. Im liking it! I will be getting DS3. Aliens & DS3? Sci-Fi horror back at its best.
Posted 16:55 on 08 February 2013
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ FantasyMeister

I posted that the other day, very funny :)
Posted 11:59 on 08 February 2013
p0rtalthinker's Avatar

p0rtalthinker@ FantasyMeister

Hey EA maybe start making a better game rather than focus so damn much on micro transactions, eh? Pah

Never been a big fan of this series. I liked DS1, went through the paces in DS2 and now from the looks of it i'll be outright bored with DS3.
Posted 00:29 on 08 February 2013
Njeezy's Avatar

Njeezy@ rbevanx

Posted 13:29 on 07 February 2013
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ Njeezy

What's wrong with that?
Posted 11:23 on 07 February 2013
Njeezy's Avatar

Njeezy@ Rambolike

How come your only posts on this site are in the comments for a review that you disagree with? just wondering.
Posted 00:38 on 07 February 2013
Rambolike's Avatar

Rambolike@ pblive

You won't be disappointed, trust me. This review is extremely narrow-minded and jaded. Gamespot's is more objective, IMO.
Posted 23:13 on 06 February 2013
Rambolike's Avatar


Now playing it for a bit, I can conclude that this reviewer's assessment is pure rubbish. The game is intense, horrifying, and innovative.

It's quite simple: this reviewer doesn't like the franchise or the developer, perhaps both. A 5/10 for a great game like this is a travesty. Not even 7/10? I mean, come on.
Posted 23:08 on 06 February 2013
kark's Avatar


To me the thing that spoils games like DS 2 and now by the sounds 3 is that they shouldn't be multiplayer games, who wants to be a necromorph eh? Instead make the singleplayer puzzles more challenging and EA would be onto something. The complexity of puzzles in the Half Life series is what made it great and developer puzzle creating abilities are for me being lost.
Posted 14:48 on 06 February 2013
rbevanx's Avatar


Yeah a bit uncalled for fella but I agree with...

The old , you have to do it yourself to criticze it argument is about as intelligent as a rock

So true.
Posted 11:04 on 06 February 2013

Game Stats

Dead Space 3
Out of 10
Dead Space 3
  • Nice looking
  • Good co-op ideas
  • Amazingly boring and laborious
  • Neither horror or action
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 08/02/2013
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Publisher: EA
Genre: Survival Horror
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 479 16
View Full Site