Release Date: February 5 (North America), February 8 (Europe)
Platforms available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action horror
Much has been made about EA's decision to make Dead Space 3 more action-orientated, a decision that has divided fans and didn't work out very well for the Resident Evil franchise.
However, while the addition of co-operative play, a new frozen planet and an updated weapon-crafting system may seem like a departure from the norm, Dead Space 3 is built on a solid foundation and isn't particularly short on scares.
The story once again revolves around Isaac and his quest to stop the Markers, only this time he's got company, not to mention a deadly cult on his trail. The game begins with Isaac in hiding, before moving to an abandoned space station and, finally, the planet of Tau Volantis.
The plot is largely what you'd expect from a science-fiction horror game, continuing to explore the mysteries of the Markers, their origins and how they can be destroyed once and for all.
With Ellie Langford in a relationship with another character, however, there is a love triangle side story, the sort which you'd expect to find in a soap opera, but then Dead Space has always dealt with Isaac's relationships, so it doesn't feel too out of place.
Text and audio logs reveal more about the people, the enemies and the planet, while side quests shed extra light on the effects of the Markers and introduce some interesting new characters (alive and dead, but mostly dead), all of which contributes to the Dead Space lore and provides some interesting insight.
- "Undoubtedly the biggest question on everybody's lips, however, is whether or not this feels like a true Dead Space game or another misguided Gears of War clone."
Undoubtedly the biggest question on everybody's lips, however, is whether or not this feels like a true Dead Space game or another misguided Gears of War clone. While there is a definite and noticeable shift towards action, the answer is a resounding "yes" to the former.
Right from the off, the game tries to make you jump with Necromorphs bursting through windows, grates and doors.
In fact, minus a brief spell in which Isaac uses rifles and cover to fight off cultists, the first third of the game takes place in the confines of a space station, as Isaac and his new friends search for Ellie and a way to get to Tau Volantis.
It's like playing the original Dead Space all over again, complete with claustrophobic corridors and zero-gravity sections where nobody can hear you scream.
However, while this may please Dead Space purists, it feels a little too familiar, and it isn't until you reach the frozen planet of Tau Volantis that the game really starts to grab your attention.
The more expansive environment actually provides a new type of tension, particularly in the opening sections when Isaac must hurry between interiors to stop him from succumbing to the cold.
Likewise, the lack of visibility from the snow means that you're often fearful of strange noises, which inevitably leads to frantic confrontations with new creatures.
Interior sections reintroduce classic Dead Space scares, with new enemy types that must be avoided when possible for fear of being overwhelmed. It's a nice balance between traditional and contemporary horror.
Set-pieces resembling traditional run-and-cover third-person shooters, as well as the dreaded quick-time events, also crop up from time to time, and while they don't evoke the same sense of dread, they're infrequent enough to offer a welcome sense of pace.
We would have preferred less ammo if we're being particularly critical, not only to give the game more of a survival horror feel, but also to encourage experimentation with telekinetic powers and environmental hazards, something which feels lost in the latest sequel.
Instead, experimentation comes from the new weapon-crafting system, which sees Isaac scavenge for parts and create new weapons and items.
Using a scavenger bot to find items, Isaac can put together guns with multiple properties by creating differing upper and lower chambers.
Considering how satisfying it is to shred the limbs of scurrying Necromorphs, weapon crafting provides lots of interesting new alternatives, which adds a few levels of enjoyment to combat.
It will take players a couple of playthroughs to unlock everything - unless you go in for the day-one DLC - but it's definitely one of the more welcome additions to the series.
While we agree that the downplay of survival horror is a worrying trend in the gaming industry, the introduction of online co-op has been unfairly criticised.
- "The co-op mode justifies at least one more playthrough and the weapon-crafting system makes destroying Necromorphs more satisfying than ever."
First of all, it must be pointed out that co-op is an optional extra and a much better fit than the competitive online play that was experimented with in Dead Space 2.
Games like Dead Space have always had a hard time justifying a second or third playthrough, and even though the sense of isolation is lost and the focus on action intensifies, co-operative play does just that, even if we would have preferred a local multiplayer option.
Beyond co-op, Dead Space 3 also includes a New Game+ option, a classic mode for purists, a survival mode focused on crafting, and a one-life Hardcore mode for masochists.
For all the game's perceived flaws, you can't fault the development team for trying to give players more bang for their buck, something which is successfully achieved.
Though we were unimpressed with Dead Space 3's abundance of ammo, and we could take or leave some of the more action-orientated set-pieces, initial concerns about the series's new direction are largely unfounded.
The frozen planet of Tau Volantis introduces a new kind of tension, the co-op mode justifies at least one more playthrough, and the weapon-crafting system makes destroying Necromorphs more satisfying than ever.
As fans of the series we're happy to report that Dead Space 3 offers familiar thrills in unfamiliar territory.