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Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: "Dead Space 3" takes the series into new territory



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The recent release of Electronic Arts and Visceral Games’ “Dead Space 3” has been a polarizing event for fans of the series. It seems that the game’s fan base has been split in half, like so many Necromorphs, due to changes to core mechanics and elements of the series. The first two games in the series are tense, claustrophobic, survival-horror affairs. “Dead Space 3” trends decidedly more towards an action-adventure affair, including cooperative play, less need for inventory management and even microtransactions. I even bought into the fear-mongering, opting to wait until I could buy the game at a reduced price. 
After playing throughout the entirety of “Dead Space 3,” I’m left wondering how anyone could’ve complained about this game in the first place.  

By far, the most common complaint I’ve heard about “Dead Space 3” was that it “wasn’t scary anymore.” And, perhaps more importantly to serious gamers, wasn’t as much of a survival horror game anymore. In the original title and its sequel, the environments were crampt, enemies lurked around every corner and often in plain sight, playing dead, only to spring to life and attack the unaware. Ammo was scarce and required careful use of resources in order to survive the relentless, shapeless horrors wrought by the cosmos. Every step you tread in “Dead Space 1 and 2” legitimately felt like they could’ve been your last. 
 
And, honestly, those observations about “Dead Space 3” are mostly accurate. The atmosphere of this game isn’t as unnerving as past titles and almost all elements of survival horror have fallen to the wayside. That being said, “Dead Space 3” does manage to elicit cringes from its repulsive enemies and successfully replaces moments of taut suspense with intense, edge-of-your-seat action sequences. On top of that, the rhythm of combat has also evolved somewhat, with a tendency toward fast-paced action rather than careful dismemberment of enemies.
Isaac (left) now has the help of a co-op partner, Carver (right). (Pic - pcgamer.com)
“Dead Space 3” opens with a lengthy cinematic, explaining the events of the first two games, as well as backstory to help give perspective to these events. After the events on The Sprawl in “Dead Space 2,” Isaac has become somewhat reclusive. However, the Church of Unitology has continued to work ever closer to its goal of Convergence – spreading the Marker scourge throughout all human space. With their plans nearing completion, Isaac is called upon to, once and for all, stop the Necromorph plague – whether he wants to or not.
 
Contrary to the game’s advertising, much of the opening chapters are set aboard crampt spaceship corridors, rather than the icy planet, Tau Volantis. These locales recall the earlier games in the series while helping you get accustomed to the updated mechanics.
 
In past games, Isaac controlled similarly to early “Resident Evil” protagonists, in that they were not very maneuverable. This lack of maneuverability is what created some of the tension in earlier games, making you carefully consider every step. Isaac has apparently been doing some calisthenics in his time out of the spotlight because he is considerably more maneuverable now. Turning, looking, sprinting and changing weapons are all performed much more quickly than before. Isaac can even do a dive roll now with a double-click of the sprint button! 
 
Additionally, a cover mechanic has been added now that Isaac will be doing battle with human foes. The cover mechanic works better than I had anticipated, allowing Isaac to crouch as well as take cover behind objects. Isaac can even use Kinesis to pull objects closer and create cover on the fly.
Despite it's move toward action-adventure, "Dead Space 3" retains its macabre enemies and gore. (Pic - gamercheese.com
However, you might not even notice these increases to Isaac’s skills as the Necromorphs are deadlier than ever before. These unholy terrors are quicker and more resilient than before, prompting you to make good use of Isaac’s increased movement speeds and new evasive ability. And while being able to dive roll is useful, you won’t be doing as much running away from enemies as you will be blasting them into tiny bits, utilizing the new weapon crafting component.
 
From frequently found Benches, which were formerly used solely to upgrade weapons, players can now create their own weaponry to combat the Necromorphs. Using parts and resources found throughout environments, you can cobble together powerful weapons that can feature secondary fire functions as well as the ability to be upgraded with stat increasing circuits and other attachments. It’s fully possible to create wildly outlandish weapons like a Line Gun with an underslung Flamethrower or a chainsaw with an underslung grenade launcher. That second weapon is a personal creation of mine, which I affectionately call “Nades’N’Blades.” With attachments to protect myself from grenade splash damage, acid damage added to my chainsaw blades and circuits to increase overall damage, clip size and reload speed, Nades’N’Blades is one of my most powerful guns.
 
My favorite aspect of the weapon crafting is how you can create, disassemble and reuse weapon pieces as many times as you want, encouraging creativity when crafting a new Necromorph killer. With numerous options in terms of base weapons, tips (which modify a base weapon’s attack), attachments and circuits, the creation possibilities are nearly limitless. 
 
In past games, discovering a new weapon was a thrill and the new weapon crafting component does minimize this feeling. But this feeling isn’t diminished completely as discovering new weapon crafting pieces holds the same appeal. However, the need to carry weapon specific ammo is gone, replaced by generic, all-purpose ammo.
A new cover mechanic has been included to better deal with human enemies. (Pic- videogamer.com)
 
Speaking of the ammo simplification, inventory management is barely necessary in “Dead Space 3.” Ammo is all-purpose and, along with health kits, can be created at Benches using found (or purchased) resources. Also, any weapon creation parts, circuits and resources are automatically transferred to your Safe upon accessing a Bench, eliminating tedious inventory clean up. The inclusion of weapon crafting also encourages more exploration around environments to find hidden parts and resources.
 
Additionally, weapon parts can be found in the course of play as well as purchased from the Bench (using real money). Some claim this diminishes the game’s potential, essentially giving you the option to buy the best weapons right out of the gate. Others deride the title simply for including microtransactions at all. But the option to buy weapon pieces and resources are just that – options – and are never forced on you. 
 
You’ll definitely need all the armament you can get your hands on in this title, because the Necromorphs are more vicious than ever before. These unrelenting horrors are quick to overwhelm and only staying mobile with your finger on the trigger will prove useful in stemming the tide of rotting, reanimated corpses. In prior games, enemies were fewer and took more of a beating, prompting you to use careful aim to dismember them quickly. Dismemberment is still the best way to take down a Necromorph, though getting a kill will reward you with ammo and health kits no matter how many shots you fired to bring it down. So even though ammo and health are more prevalent than previous games, enemies are more plentiful and you’ll be using your resources much more often. 
 
Clocking in at just short of 20 hours, “Dead Space 3” is the longest game of the series so far, meaning you’ll have plenty of opportunity to amass a stash of weapons and weapon crafting pieces over the course of your playing time. Also, optional quests are present for the first time in the series. These missions will offer you the chance to find more crafting materials as well as discovering more backstory. Some of these quests are co-op only, encouraging you to get some friends if you want to find everything available. 
 
Though the Necromorph ranks do already have an impressive number of deadly foes, it would’ve been nice had more new enemies been included in this title. I also would’ve liked to see more boss battles. There are only a few, I think, (which shows how memorable they were) and they’re criminally easy to beat. I defeated the final boss on my first attempt with minimal effort – something that should just not happen. Whether it’s a shooter, a fighting game or a survival-horror game, a final boss encounter should be something that forces you to rethink ever playing video games in the first place and not something that can be breezed through and forgotten about the next day. 
 
Also, the pacing of this title could’ve used work as well. It starts very strong and very fast, hitting you with new characters and information over and over again, leaving little time to process it all. Then, as it wears on, the story grows a bit stagnant once you actually reach the planet of Tau Volantis and never quite regains its momentum from that point. In fact, my favorite part of the ending was the song played during the closing credits (“Ephemeral” by the instrumental rock band, Pelican), which should tell you something about how strongly the game finishes. 
 
Characters never seem to grow or evolve either. And Isaac, compared to the last game, is incredibly dull. The main antagonist, Danik, is used only sparingly. Isaac’s new co-op buddy, Carver, is a typical space marine anti-hero, the guy who does unpopular things because no one else will. Heck, one of the only characters I liked and who was useful only showed up when something needed to be explained and was killed off without hesitation. After the depth of character shown by Isaac’s diminishing mental state in “Dead Space 2,” the character arcs in this title are painfully thin to the point of nonexistent. 
 
But, despite its few flaws, “Dead Space 3” offers much more than most initially gave it credit for. The final product is much more polished and able to reach a broader audience than any previous game in the series. The removal of competitive multiplayer, replaced with campaign co-op, was a brilliant move by Visceral and EA, one that will no doubt help draw more people to the title. A downloadable content pack featuring new story missions was released recently to add even more reasons to check out “Dead Space 3,” and from what I hear, the DLC, titled “Awakened,” does an excellent job of upping the creepy factor.
 
Yes, “Dead Space 3” isn’t very much like earlier games in the series. But, would that have made the game better? Would that have added to the series as a whole? Yes, this title adds elements of action that wasn’t found in the first or second games but the change in direction only feels natural as the scope of the series is most definitely at its widest in “Dead Space 3.” None of the additions to this game – microtransactions, action-adventure elements, weapon crafting, etc. – take away from the overall product. Obstinate fans of the series will argue that it should’ve maintained its survival-horror roots – but they’re wrong. We’ve played those games before and this title proved that the series as a whole is strong enough to survive a change to its core. “Dead Space 3” is a solid title and while doesn’t quite eclipse the second game in the series as the overall number one, it’s an incredibly fun experience that provides more than enough content to keep you coming back for more.
 

1 Comments:

Blogger himanshi rana said...

A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration

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March 22, 2013 at 3:34 AM  

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