Friday, February 8, 2013

Dead Space 3: The Quasi Biased Review

So, I finished Dead Space 3 at 2:30 AM PST. It took me 15 hours of gameplay over 3 days. I died 21 times, which for me is a single play-through record high. Only a single death was caused by an enemy, the rest of my deaths could be chalked up to 'environmental hazards.'

It was a really phenomenal game, and ran longer than I expected (for non-rpg Shooters these days I sort of expect 6-7 hours). Rather than wax too poetic here (I did only get 3 hours of sleep, after all), let's jump straight into the pros & cons.

  • Gameplay improvements. Yes, people who have had problems in the past with the controls and camera control in the previous installments might be happy with the improvements in DS3.
  • Weapon Crafting. I was a bit worried about this, but it's actually a lot of fun to tinker around and make your own guns. My favorite guns, which I ran with through probably 80% of the game, were the Evangelizer, which I maxed out damage and rate of fire upgrades, and the Revolver, which I maxed out on damage and capacity upgrades. For a while, I used the upper tool/lower tool build to make it a double revolver, and while that was amusing, it looked ridiculous, so I switched it back to a single decker. I know, not taking a plasma cutter makes me a heretic. Honestly, the trusty cutter isn't that good of a choice this time around.
  • Story. I have seen several reviewers call this an 'iffy' story line. Did those reviewers play the first two games? This is Tolstoy compared to Dead Space, and compares favorably to DS2, which as many of you know, I am quite fond of. I actually understood the premise (unlike some of the things in DS1 & DS2), and at the game's "aha" moment, I was actually impressed with the revelation and agreed that it was an elegant story move.
  • Jacob Danik. Voiced by the excellent Simon Templeton/Templeman (Admiral Han'Gerrel from Mass Effect 2 & 3), Danik is really a superb villain. He is well written, and breaks the mold of Dead Space antagonists in that he has a 'motivation' as an actor would call it. He's not a 'the marker made me do it' kind of bad guy. Everything he does is for a well thought out reason. His radio conversations with Isaac in the later half of the game are really quite interesting.
  • Hard. When most game developers are making their games easier to appeal to a wider audience, or younger gamers, or whatever they're doing it for, Dead Space 3 remains H.A.R.D. See above notes about 21 deaths. In video games I am Hard To Kill.
  • Satisfying. This is a by-product of the difficulty, but when you get those hard fought achievements, you feel like you have really, well, accomplished something.
  • Breaks the mold. The 'twist ending' for Dead Space 3 seems to be that it actually has a decent ending. The boss fight at the end is incredible, and after a series of disappointing conclusions in 2012 games, just feels right to me.  
  • Chapter Titles! They spell something out again. Call me an old softie, but it really made me happy to see this back.
  • Save Game. The above glowing praise should in no way detract from the damning fact that Dead Space 3 does not have a working save game feature! What the hell Visceral? While I wasn't crazy about the antiquated save point feature in DS2, at least when you used it, you were pretty confident that you were going to be there when you resumed the game, and not some other point in time entirely. I only saved/quit three times in this playthrough, and none of them put me back where I saved at. The worst instance was aboard the Terra Nova, when, after escaping the regenerators, leaving on the tram, and starting a new chapter, I saved and quit. When I returned to the game, it resumed me in the middle of the fight against the regenerators at the tram station! Even the game's checkpoint system should do a better job than that! This was not in the same section of the ship, or even the same chapter as I saved. And don't even get me started on jumping in the game in the middle of one of the toughest, most nerve racking fights of the whole title!
  • Uncharacteristic. Without going into too much detail (here thar be spoilers, eh?), the relationship between Isaac and Ellie is weird. Anyone with half a brain knew from the promotional artwork that she was broken up with Isaac and with Captain Norton now, but they seriously made her as loyal as a starving cat. What happened to the Isaac and Ellie who were willing to do anything to protect each other? Dead Space 2 took place on the day they met, and they seemed more devoted to each other then.
  • Trigger glitches. This has long been one of the big complaints of the series, particularly on Xbox. While largely resolved, it's still a problem. The one time I died to an enemy (see notes above) was that same scene at the tram station. After waiting for the tram to arrive and running in circles to stasis/dismember not one, but two regenerators, when the tram arrived, the dang doors wouldn't open. I thought at first there was some step I had missed, or that I had to use the console to unlock the door, but nothing happened. Apparently, after a certain amount of elapsed time, a regenerator will get an animated instakill on Isaac if you have not left. When I reloaded from checkpoint, the darn doors opened by themselves.
In short, despite a few technical shortcomings, it's a great game. You owe it to yourself to play it. 

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