Electronic Art’s “Dead Space 3” hit the shelves this Tuesday, giving players the fear-induced heart palpitations the series is known for. Although some minor details detract from the overall quality of the game, “Dead Space 3” is a highly enjoyable conclusion to the trilogy that will satiate casual gamers and rabid fans alike.
For those new to the series, jumping into the third installment of “Dead Space 3” might be as disorienting as navigating a zombie-infested spaceship without a flashlight. The storyline picks up quickly from where it left off in the last game, so it may behoove players to run through the last two games or at least read a plot summary beforehand.
Nonetheless, gamers will return to the familiar role of Isaac Clarke, a spaceship engineer coping with the effects of post–traumatic stress disorder — sci-fi horror edition. With the human race in shambles and the Unitologists, a group of religious fanatics, bent on turning everyone into bloodthirsty Necromorphs (an alien-human corpse hybrid), Isaac and his team will head to the only place that can end the outbreak of chaos once and for all — planet Tau Volantis.
With or without a thorough understanding of the story, players will still find “Dead Space 3” entertaining. Gameplay centers around the use of improvised mining tools to hack, dismember, impale, explode and burn through waves of different Necromorph enemies. Weapons, as in previous iterations of the game, can be upgraded at designated kiosks and crafted to become more lethal purveyors of gore. Navigating the upgrade menus is now more efficient, making it easy to quickly enhance a weapon attachment or Isaac’s combat suit.
Even on the easiest difficulty, enemies are sufficiently challenging, and gameplay can last anywhere from 12 to 15 hours. “Dead Space 3” is also one of the few games that actually nails interactive cutscenes, causing cinematic sequences to be more immersive without becoming needlessly complicated or frustrating. Mashing a button or pushing forward to guide Isaac on perilous descents, last-minute escapes or atmosphere entry is always epic and engaging.
In terms of graphics, “Dead Space 3” is one of the most beautifully rendered games available for the current generation of gaming consoles. With the “Havok” graphics engine, the ice-encrusted planet of Tau Volantis adds a dynamic new setting to the series, lined with crisp textures and immensely detailed landscapes. Slicing off Necromorph limbs has never looked better in high definition. And despite the continuous flow of graphically-intense environments, the frame rate is a steady 60 frames per second at all times. Unfortunately, Xbox 360 owners will still have to split the game between two discs like in “Dead Space 2”, but this does not cause any major disruption of the story.
Of course, “Dead Space 3” is by no means free of error. The biggest gripe that players will have with the game is Isaac’s status as an engineer. When the game developers refer to Isaac as an “engineer,” they mean it. Broken doors, dismantled power generators and jammed pistons; Isaac stops just short of fixing the plumbing along the way to saving humanity. Presented in the format of puzzles, these “fixes” can either make for an amusing couple of minutes or an aggravating half-hour of backtracking. After dozens upon dozens of these missions, puzzles seem more like an overused gimmick than a creative component of the game.
Although “Dead Space 3” has no loading screens, the elevators, ladders, and transport systems disrupt the pacing of the game and compensate for the lost tedium that loading screens once provided. Similarly, scrounging for spare parts and upgrades adds fillers to the gaming experience because there’s no real reward for exploring, other than ammo and health.
While “Dead Space 3” has a handful of noticeable drawbacks to its gameplay, the quality of the storytelling and seamless action will stifle the complaints of more critical fans and attract newcomers to the series.
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