“Dead Space” shares more with “Resident Evil” than either would be comfortable admitting.
The two games are both middingly interesting horror franchises. They are third-person shooters designed to mildly frighten the player while spiraling into safe but profitable mediocrity. Marketability over integrity; sales over curiosity and exploration of the medium.
Admittedly, “Dead Space 3” is certainly a well-crafted game. And although that’s more than can be said for the recent “Resident Evil” installations, it does not prevent the off-putting more-plastic-tupperware-than-art design.
There are certainly good moments, and the ending manages to outdo a lot of other gaming fiction in terms of sheer scale and stakes combined with the absolute intimacy of the situation. With squishes, bangs, rumbles, crunches and groans of wrenching steel, this game warrants a proper sound system to bring the desolation to life.
The game’s smallest pieces hold slivers of excellence, but as the scale increases, so does a creeping sense of being too refined. Something seems too clean about the game, and stalking around the dankest corridors can bring to mind equal parts interest and familiarity.
The evil Necromorphs must have undergone some kind of ancient martial arts training and memorized Sun Tzu, because they are so intensely gifted with cunning. Other games have had monsters hiding in stairs, tunnels, doorways, vents and so on, but Dead Space 3 has a saturation of them. There are probably more Necromorphs in the snow than there is snow.
“Dead Space” has relied on tension in the past, and although there is more tension here than in “Dead Space 2,” which tried much too hard, it still isn’t anything that resembles that great helpless, terrified feeling that can come from a proper horror game.
The co-op exists, and although it is immediately enjoyable, it limps along at times, missing the essential element of actually scary content.
What is scary? Small children; cramped, dark spaces; the unexplainable, utterly alien and unreasonable malice; hatred with no explanation; the prospect of dying alone and unloved; responsibility; snakes.
What isn’t scary? Stomping around a planet with a friend and massacring anything that moves suspiciously with increasingly impressive means of laying waste. Nothing is scary when you have a grenade launcher.
Half of the press coverage that surrounded the launch of “Dead Space 3” was slinging insults about the slew of “microtransactions,” or purchasing resources with money if the player is impatient.
Electronic Arts will make offensive amounts of money from the game. That’s just how they do. There’s nothing wrong with making money as a publisher; they’re in the business for a reason. These are troubling times we live in as excellent, daring, well-run companies like THQ file for bankruptcy and the shadiest, safest possible corporations such as EA and Activision prosper. Woe is us and all that.
“Dead Space 3” is so well-oiled, it oozes grease. But although the extreme safety of the campaign design is certainly a step back up from the middle child, “Dead Space 2,” it still lacks a lot of the intensity and groundedness of the original game as it tries to one-up itself in scale. It’s trying so hard, and it really should stop.
Nevertheless, the ugliness cannot outweigh the major success that the rest of the game provides. The fact that the game (and the process of making it) was so safe, comfortable, and mundane hollows out the success. But there’s something acceptable here.