A little while back I gave my impressions of the Dead Space 3 demo, which I think gave some cautious optimism. Just recently, yesterday actually, I finished up my first playthrough of the game and I have to say that my experience was better than I expected. The games setting is majorly split between 2 locales. For about the first 40% of the game you will be in space among the various ships in the flotilla above Tau Volantis (I think that’s the name of the planet. I really need a fact checker.) The cool thing is how you can actually maneuver around outside the ships in zero-g with your space thrusters. Trying to find secrets while making sure you don’t run out of oxygen or get shot by dog necromorphs is exhilarating. To get between the different ships you take a small shuttle, which looks neat but is essentially a loading screen. There are 4 ships in the flotilla, but one is only accessible if you are playing co-op. When I think about it, I actually wouldn’t mind if the entire game took place in space among the derelict ships. It would have kept the vibe of the original games and just been really awesome. It kind of feels like a missed opportunity.
The other 60% of the game takes place down on the ice planet, which is pretty cool at first when you are thrust into a white-out snow storm, but soon you forget as you spend most of your time in old abandoned facilities and ruins. The change of atmosphere isn’t necessarily bad, and a lot of players seem to like it, but I prefer the bleakness of space. Most people’s concerns with the game seem to center around its shift into more of an action game rather than survival horror. This is true in some respects, but it really isn’t that big of a transition. Sure you do fight some regular soldiers aside from the necromorphs, but it really isn’t that often at all. There seems to be only a handful of encounters with humans, the rest of your fights being against the various forms of necromorph. Really my only complaint is the lack of necro variety. It seems like in past games you would face several more types and more often.
The gun play feels the same as it did in DS2, at least as far as I can remember. Things do seem a bit faster paced, however. I seem to remember the necromorphs lumbering towards you, whereas here they straight up run you down. At least on the highest difficulty, which I played on because that’s just how I roll. As for the guns themselves they are both similar, yet quite different. Rather than just finding or purchasing specific weapons you get to make your own. First you pick a base component, either large or compact, and then you add up to 2 different gun components such as military, plasma, rivet, tesla, etc. I might have gotten some of the names wrong, but you get the idea. A basic military attachment gives you something like an assault rifle, but if you add a tip onto it you can turn it into a better assault rifle, or shotgun, or sniper rifle. This gives most all of the weapon components a good deal of variety. The combinations are almost limitless, especially when you factor the additional side add-ons you can use like scopes, co-op boosting items, fire/acid/electric bullet coatings, auto-reloaders, etc. I heavily favored a sniper rifle/rocket launcher with fire bullets and a shotgun with a force gun attachment. The latter being almost a requirement for keeping necros out of your face.
There is co-op in the game, but I have so far only played through by myself. Supposedly in co-op it actually integrates the other player into the narrative pretty well, so I’m excited to see that. Also throughout the game you will come across special co-op only side missions. Still, I’m glad they made the game fully playable by yourself. It would have been unfortunate to lose the lone, isolated feeling from the past games. As far as extras go, there seem to be quite a bit. Not only are there several difficulties but a new game + as well. Also several additional modes like classic, where it’s singleplayer only and you can only find and buy the classic guns. Pure survival mode really cuts back on the resources, making surviving harder. Hardcore mode makes a return, but you can save and exit this time around rather than only getting 3 saves. However you still go back to the beginning if you die even once. Each of these modes also provides a special unlock upon completion.
So if you are a fan of the series then I really don’t think you will be disappointed. If you haven’t played any then you probably won’t have any idea what the hell is going on, but you should still have fun. If you haven’t played 1 and 2 you really should. They are probably pretty cheap now. As far as the story goes it advances some things, explains others, but in the end leaves more questions than gives answers. If the additional story DLC doesn’t wrap things up then you will see me back here for Dead Space 4.