I can fix it!
In the Dead Space universe, things need to be repaired, repurposed, and generally reused. Recycling tool parts can make for a weapon that flat-out mows down alien monsters you'll find on derelict ships and snowed-over military bases. Cutting the blade off one monster, only to use it against the same monster plays to this theme nicely.
Fans should be thankful, though, that Visceral Games and Electronic Arts aren't satisfied revisiting the same ground they've tread in two previous games. Dead Space 3 looks to new locales, new gameplay mechanics, and new cooperative modes to keep the formula from growing stale. Still, you'd be forgiven for worrying that maybe Isaac Clarke and company have bitten off more "new" features than they can chew. Perhaps Tau Volantis's fresh terrain proves too frigid to handle.
Dead Space 3 opens on Isaac in another space colony lamenting the departure of Ellie Langford from his sorry excuse for a life. Following their escape from Titan Station, the Necro-stomping couple's brief affair quickly leads to heartache as Isaac's understandably reluctant to go search for a way to stop the spread of vicious space-monsters.
When Ellie goes missing during her mission, two EarthGov agents pull Isaac out of his space-colony hole for her rescue. Visceral stumbles out of the gate, failing to reach the suspenseful, measured opening of the first game and coming just short of the white-knuckle, in-your-face introductory sequence of the second. Instead, players are faced with human enemies. Early on, Dead Space 3 gives the extremist Unitologist sect a spotlight and these uninfected opponents fail to excite the player on any level.
Human adversaries drop from ships, run from their spawn points to cover, and generally try to pin Isaac Clarke down, none of which is entertaining to play through. The only joy I got from having human enemies in the game at all was when Necromorphs would storm the field and I could watch the humans flee and die. As a series, Dead Space has played host to an incredible fiction, but letting the Unitologist opposition dictate gameplay is a huge mistake.
Thankfully, these religious terrorists play a small role in the experience and players will find a wealth of now pitch-perfect action and tension. When you arrive on Tau Volantis and start meandering around in the violent snowstorm covering the planet's secrets, it's easy to get turned around.
That's because several sections of the game are actually expansive, explorable maps, complete with optional objectives and hidden loot. Patient, eagle-eyed players have always been rewarded in the series, but these hidden paths and alternative objectives lead to riches beyond your imagination.
Maybe on your way to a story objective, an elevator has multiple stops. Getting off on the second floor and poking around leads to a keycard, which opens another door, which winds up feeling like a trip down the rabbit hole. Co-op-only missions also extend gameplay, but Dead Space 3 is best played solo first.
That's largely thanks to the unimpeded sense of doom and fear that pervades the solitary experience. Having a partner to squish Necromorphs-with a boot works on so many levels, but players who are worried about the integrity of single player can relax. Necromorphs still jump out of vents or signal audibly that they're about to attack in force. Occasionally my flashlight would catch a blade or spare limb climbing into a vent, leaving a chill to crawl up my spine.
The sound and sights of Dead Space 3 are unparalleled. The soundtrack, effects, textures, and level design hit series highs and never let go. There's not as much variation from chapter to chapter, but the abandoned research vessels, military compounds, and penultimate environments make up for it.
Visceral's expansive universe crashes down on Tau Volantis in violent fashion. Everything from the marker's discovery on Earth, all the way through to Titan Station, is touched upon, whether it's through an abandoned text log or letters scrawled on walls. In a well-paced span of three minutes, you can solve an environmental puzzle, uncover another lost artifact, dismember a necromorph, and discover a new weapon engine for use at the bench.
Turning weapon parts into loot opens up an entirely different path of rewarding gameplay. Benches litter the landscape, meaning an opportunity to retool your gun is just around the corner. Longtime fans will get a kick out of discovering Zach Hammond's heavy frame, but even if you don't remember the character, using his upgraded frame as a base for an acid-infused rivet-firing minigun makes you feel incredibly badass.
Having a friend join your game so you can show off your hard-earned firearms and then proceed to look for more only extends the value in Dead Space 3. Longtime fans of the series shouldn't be scared. They should run to pick up the game. Multiple playthroughs are rewarded in force with alternative modes and unlocks. In particular, my time in Pure Survival mode (where all ammo, health, stasis, etc. is crafted, not found) made for a viciously challenging experience.
While human enemies detract and distract from the intense atmosphere and narrative, necromorphs still stand as the most entertaining things to shoot in gaming. Repeating some of the franchise's "epic" moments cheapens them somewhat, but nothing can deflate the sci fi-horror highs throughout Dead Space 3. This monster is well-equipped, even if there's one or two limbs I'd like to lop off.