Human Resources: Dead Space’s Difficult Third Album

The first hour or so of Dead Space 3 is a terribly messy, uneven and largely unpleasant affair. I’m in a really bad cover shooter firing at humans! No! I’m sliding down a snowy mountain whilst bits of a spaceship explode around me! No! I’m watching puppet-like talking heads waxing on about another bloody Marker to anyone that’ll listen! Disjointed doesn’t cover it.

And none of it feels like Dead Space, and crucially, none of it is really clear. Never before in a game has it been less obvious when I’m supposed to be doing something and when the game is running yet another cut-scene and I’m supposed to just watch, with only a sudden splash of blood and a restart any sign of a clue that I was meant to be moving the analog sticks. Sorry!

It’s an apocalyptic introduction that appears to be trying to mimic a blockbuster movie.

In some respects – the visual spectacle and the sheer amount of things flying around – it achieves that goal, but it’s on a simple, rudimentary level that is free from scares, tension and suspense. The script is poor, but it’s the action itself that doesn’t really connect, and popping out from behind handily discarded bulletproof barriers isn’t my idea of what Dead Space should be.

Thankfully, this disjointed start doesn’t last much longer than it should, and a couple of levels later Isaac’s back doing what he does best: creeping around an old abandoned vessel in the dark.

[videoyoutube]It’s at this point that the Necromorphs are introduced properly (they’re there earlier, but without much circumstance) and with the lights down low, plasma cutter loaded and ready and constant, distant radio chatter from your counterparts, things slide into place.

Is this back to the series’ roots? No, not quite. Visceral have opted for turning every dial they could find to eleven, and by the third (main) game those creatures no longer shock or frighten the way they once did, especially after an already countless amount of Hey! Here’s Another! every time you walk past a duct or flick a switch.

The damned things are everywhere, and they’re still only a threat in number.

And, as before, there’s a certain rhythm in taking them down. Aim. Stasis. Aim. Dismember. It’s muscle memory, it’s familiar ground, and it still works just the same. The mechanics haven’t changed, then, they’re just ramped up considerably to ensure that there’s no stopping this train once it gets started. You’re never far from another major event, and – well – that’s the point.

You see, Dead Space and Dead Space 2 played the grimy, clanking heavy metal card twice over (and in the case of the latter, even repeating literal old ground) and these creatures wouldn’t fill another similar game. The player knows what to do and what to expect, so a change in tact was perhaps necessary. The problem is that the action is relentless, and the moments between – those spent skulking around in the pitch dark – feel like means to an end, just a conduit to yet another attempt at apeing something you’d normally see starring Nathan Drake, Soap MacTavish or John-117.

Then there’s the jolting, confusing love triangle that must only have formed whilst the game was installing. Dead Space 2 survivor Ellie and Isaac appear to have been dating, but that’s never checked until another male enters the scene with rather unpredictable effect. It’s the basis for a plot line, but it doesn’t feel fleshed out at all – at least as far as I’ve played.

Much has been made of the game’s crafting system and the fact that – for the first time – players can repeatedly purchase resources with real money. It’s possible to make your way through the game using just the elements that you’ve found on your travels, that much is true, but you’ll miss out on a weaponry collection that’s extensive (and expensive).

The BENCH system in Dead Space 3 is like a massively extended upgrade from the last one. It’s now capable of letting the player build their own weapons from scratch (as well as upgrading existing ones) and it’s as comprehensive as it is bewildering. The UI isn’t terribly intuitive, but the options are vast and you can, without much compromise, make anything you want.

[drop]The issue is those resources. By the time I’d reached the end of the 4th mission I had 75 semiconductors and 400 units of scrap metal.

That didn’t buy me a great deal – in fact the cheapest ready made weapon (from blueprints) was a shotgun, and that would have cost me 300 semiconductors and 700 scrap metal.

The cheapest resource pack (80 Microsoft points, or 69p) includes 60 tungsten, 200 semiconductors, 500 scrap metal, 100 somatic gel and 50 transducers.

You can do the maths yourself. So, yes, it’s possible to get through Dead Space 3 without spending an additional penny, but progress towards the upper echelons of weaponry is much hastened if you do. The choice, as they say, is yours.

From the first few hours with the game it feels like Dead Space 3 has turned out to be something that I’m guessing series fans weren’t quite expecting. Casting aside the tense drama in place of continued action set pieces and a much busier shooting quota might well cater for a slightly different crowd but those wanting more lurking horror might find the new tone off-putting.

It’s still a capable game, though, and it’s visually very pretty. It’s actually on par with other games of the ilk from what I’ve seen so far and Visceral can take away the fact that they’ve produced yet another great looking game with genre leading sound design (seriously, get some 5.1 headphones for this) and stretched it over a skeleton that’s new to the series.

Isaac doesn’t quite fit, though – he’s still that plodding, lumbering engineer that only quickens his pace when the plot determines he must. He’s less nimble on his feet (despite a couple of new tricks) than I’d like and his aim is tricky when you’re trying to take down rather more human adversaries. But he’s still a strong, likeable character – sure, he talks now, but that’s par for the course.

I’m interested to see where the game goes, though, and that’s a positive thing. I actually don’t mind the blockbuster approach with certain games – and whilst it doesn’t always fit here (jarringly so, at times) the developer has hit a few sweet spots that do give that impression of ‘awesome’ in the true sense of the word, but it won’t be for everyone. Dead Space 3 – the difficult third game in a series – will likely leave very mixed impressions.

Our review will follow soon. Dead Space 3 is out today.



  1. What an absolute crying shame.
    I won’t be buying it and strangely I feel quite proud that by trying to rinse as many pennies from me as possible they have actually cost themselves to £30-£40 I would’ve definitely originally spent.
    Hard lines EA!!!

  2. “waxing on about another bloody Marker”

    This was my gripe about the second game, but that aside it doesn’t sound too bad as I rarely expect necessarily the same game style/genre twice. But I certainly won’t be buying it for a long time, if ever with origin really. Meh, I’m heading for Bioshock Infinite to be honest.

  3. “The player knows what to do and what to expect, so a change in tact was perhaps necessary.”

    Indeed, this is exactly why I thought DS2 has a more action approach too. Sadly DS3 isn’t entirely the way I wanted the series to go, but it needed to change in some way. I don’t think I made the action too much, my main gripes are with the cover system and shooting people, but they are fairly minor. Since it is more action based, I think co-op fits the game much better and is rather enjoyable.

    I also like that the weapons require a lot of resources – since I won’t be buying any DLC this should make it much harder, if you’re having to wait a while to build a powerful weapon.

    One big plus for me is the various game modes though, like Pure Survivor, Hardcore, Classic and Retro, I’m looking forward to trying all of these. Does anyone know which ones are available from the start?

    • None of them, I think.

      • Thanks. That means I’m gonna need 4 playthroughs if I want to Platinum it :/ Was hoping I could start on the Pure Survivor or Classic mode to begin with.

        I think Retro is unlocked after Hardcore, and Hardcore isn’t unlocked until at least one playthrough (which may even need to be on the hardest setting).

    • Casual, Normal, Hard, Impossible are available from the start.

      • Cheers mate – will need 4 playthroughs then!! :O

        Since I’ll want to do Hardcore anyway, could just go for normal on the initial playthrough. However, I wonder if anything will carry over to New Game+ or other modes, especially if you are working towards upgrading all weapons.

      • I know new game+ is there as an option on main menu so I recon it’ll let you carry everything over from your play through not sure though.

      • I imagine it will anyway.

      • Cheers. Just as a prior warning though, I think it only lets you carry over to the same difficulty, well, that’s what it did on previous games.

      • No worries I started on normal cos that’s how I roll :D

  4. I hated DS2 at first but played it again on plus and quite enjoyed it when i accepted it as being more of an action game. I can see there’s probably enough there to make DS3 a decent game but i won’t be buying it because of the way the dlc is integrated.
    Having a seperate menu where you buy stuff is one thing but i really don’t like when included content and ‘to be paid for’ content share the same space. Content that you haven’t bought should not be waved about under your nose like that when you are trying to enjoy the full game you’ve just paid for.
    EA did the same with NFSHP, events on the map that you have to purchase. If they’re not part of the main game they shouldn’t appear in-game until after you’ve bought the dlc imo.
    I might pick it up at some point though, either wait to see if it’s added to PS+ or pick up a second hand copy when it’s really cheap.

  5. it feels like normal dead space to me especially when you get to the planet

  6. I downloaded and have been playing it since Wednesday as I love dead space 1&2 and have them on my hdd I wanted the 3rd on there to complete the trilogy. I’m enjoying this one just as much as I did the first 2 and have no complaints at all with it I haven’t had the need to spend any real world coinage my bot trots off on his merry way and fetches me the odd bits an bobs back just a bonus. I believe there are quite a few jumpy tense moments especially with the guys who just reform horrid buggers despite all the negativity it’s getting especially on TSA I’m happy with my purchase and glad I bought it and look forward to a bit of co-op possibly after my solo play through not usually a big co-op player but recon ill give it a bash.

  7. I’m glad it’s not just me seeming to be a DS fanboy, I have been disappointed at TSA’s approach to this game so far, although this article has been the most constructive. Others have been repeated articles about DLC and such, rather than focusing on the actual game details like the varying game modes – I’ve found out much more in one article from another site, than several here, and this was before the reviews were released.

    • This should have been a response to OA’s comment above!!

      • Oh I hear you with the fifa servers its become virtually unplayable for me every time I go to ultimate team an try to play a match even offline tournaments most of the time just as I kick off it signs me out of the severs bladdy thing.

      • Yeah, I’ve given up playing online, I always get kicked.

    • Other sites had access to the game weeks before we did. Not a huge amount we can do in terms of details when we don’t get access from the publisher.

      • Fair enough, although I can’t imagine TSA have done themselves any favours this week with getting access in future. The DLC issues don’t need to have any impact on the main game at all, so probably didn’t warrant the negative articles in my opinion. I think there are more concerning issues that don’t get the same kind of attention – like the state of the FIFA13 servers for one of the largest selling franchises; or the £11-£13 it’ll cost for a CoD DLC map pack with just 4-5 maps.

      • Our job is to write about what’s topical, not appaise a publisher.

      • I never suggested something should be given a good angle/review, just so you got access. But regardless, I’m clearly not the only person who thinks this whole DS3 DLC issue has been blown out of proportion here. I’ll just avoid such articles in future and try not to let them wind me up.

      • Anyone who has read my comments on all the DS3 rant articles will know that I agree with Youles on this topic and I get what he mean’t by not doing TSA any favors in terms of getting early access to future titles.
        It’s not about kissing a publisher’s ass to get access, but unfounded accusations that are founded on personal theories that were blown out of proportions surely aren’t the best way to handle these things.

      • “It’s not about kissing a publisher’s ass to get access, but unfounded accusations that are founded on personal theories that were blown out of proportions surely aren’t the best way to handle these things.”

        Oh, please. Unfounded how? The game has microtransactions for cash – show me where we said any more than that. =(

        “not doing TSA any favors in terms of getting early access to future titles”

        Don’t care. If a publisher holds back code because we’ve said negative (but true) things about it, then so be it.

      • I’m not going through every DS3 article again to make a point (sorry, too lazy and Ni No Kuni wants my attention back) but DS3 got so much more negative attention since the MT news came out, than anything I’ve read here on TSA since I started creeping around here. All because they opted for a system that Microsoft and Nintendo have been using for ages but they don’t get half the flak while in DS3 the system is entirely optional (which you never really tried to keep an open mind about in your articles).
        Look, I agree that this system is far from gamer friendly, and this is a site where the writers’ opinions are important, but I think EA deserved a little more impartiality. Suddenly everytime a bad trend was talked about (trying to raise RRP) EA was mentioned. I don’t know how much they charge for BF3 but as far as I know Activision has been pushing RRPs with COD much longer. It felt like EA was used as a valve to release some frustration… I don’t know, maybe I’ve read too much into it. :D

  8. Not surprised DS3 has turned out like this as EA wants all of their games to either be a Gears clone or a COD clone. :( The first 2 games had reasons for Issac being involved but from what i’ve seen of DS3, he is there for no reasons. DS1 felt like an Alien/Resident Evil game, more Alien in fact but here, it seems they’ve turned it into a Micheal Bay game. EA had the horror market covered with Dead Space but for some reason, they decided to not continue to conquer that market and instead, make Dead Space, less of a horror game. I can’t believe they said that the reason why they scaled down the horror was because people would find it too scary to play. Isn’t the whole of Horror to scare you?

  9. @Youles. If it was FIFA or CoD coming out then it would be topical enough to talk about (correct me if i’m wrong but especially CoD DLC is criticised every year). Dead Space is out this week so that’s the focus. the DS3 DLC is not quite ‘pay to win’ but it’s certainly ‘pay to have the full (or fuller) DS3 experience’. If I’m paying £45 for this game new I expect the full package. If I don’t then i’m not bona be happy (1st world problems…I know), and I’m glad TSA is focusing on this. They should as most other game news and opinion outlets are. Anyway, i’m renting it coz this DLC is getting ridiculous.

    • My point has been the number of articles aimed at DS3, when this kind of thing isn’t exclusive to it – surely they’ve got to berate every developer then? As for being this weeks’ focus, why have other games with various DLCs not had the same level of criticism then (perhaps with the exclusion of FIFA and CoD)? Perhaps if TSA had access to the game earlier in the week, there might have been something informative and worth reading about the game.

      DLC is getting stupid with most games, and I too am someone who feels that for £40 I should get the entire experience. However, the fact that the majority of DS3 DLC is only a “time saver” (in theory) probably makes it less annoying, since not buying it doesn’t mean you miss out on something like an extra weapon, or suit/rig, level/mission, no?

      • Dead Space 3 is the first action adventure on consoles to have that ‘smartphone’ IAP model fundamental to the game.

        It’s exclusive in that respect, and absolutely worthy of discussion, IMO.

      • We clearly have differing opinions, and I apprecaite that the model is something slightly new, but I personally don’t see it too different than the repeated purchasing of FUT packs, which can also be avoided or purchased/earned in-game.

        Worth discussion – yes. But once is enough. Perhaps it was a way of TSA talking about something current, since they didn’t have access to the game.

      • Discussed too much? Perhaps. I’ll keep that in mind.


  10. This game is far from perfect, but i still feel compelled to play it.

    I’m a big fan of the presentation of the game and, cover shooting aside, the gameplay too and i want to see what unlikely and unlucky situations Isaac finds himself in this time.

Comments are now closed for this post.