Videogames aren’t always logical, nor should they always be. One of the most successful video game franchises, and one of the highly rated as well, involves a cheery red-hatted Italian plumber venturing through lands of domesticated dinosaurs, side-strafing muffins with grimaces on their brown faces, and murderous, giant turtles at every turn. However, video games are not always solely about sheer fun and play. Sometimes they try to tell you a cohesive story that you could relate to, and, even if it’s 500 years in the future, you could maybe see it happening. That’s because they try to base the narrative and world itself within rationality. This allows the gamer to feel more connected to the game, some times. Now, of course, developers must not base their games in what is possible to immerse gamers. Incredible pieces of gaming like Journey and Limbo are very abstract, and obviously aren’t meant to be taken as literal. They’re artwork, and they are creations of a collective team of human minds, crafting an experience that evokes from the gamer emotional responses, goose bumps, chills, etc. But there is a very, well, vague line between these extremes.
What if it’s a game that has tried to sell you its logic, tried to be believable, and indeed almost relied upon such foundations to pull you in and terrify you? Well, Dead Space 1 and 2 did this very well. They told stories that, though featured this horrifying alien parasite, were able to relate to. Isaac is no Master Chief; he started off as an engineer with no intentions on facing the unspeakable horrors that filled the USG Ishimura or the planet that lay below its receding orbit. In Dead Space 2, we see him less as an extension of the payer, but more an actual individual, tormented by the death of his lover, and still scarred by the psychological damages of the marker and fighting against, well, everything he killed in the previous game. It was something that no normal man could simply live with and be okay about. We saw a man plagued with schizophrenia, hallucinations, and the deep, subtle psychological manipulation of the Markers.
In Dead Space 3, we blur the line. Isaac is now an empty man, hiding away his days on a lunar colony. His girlfriend from the second installment is now with Norton, the captain of a fledgling team trying to thwart the efforts of a certain Unitologist leader and his followers. Carver, the new second playable character, is Norton’s right-hand man, of sorts. He has a dark past, and the optional side missions that explore his life, morality, and family. During these missions, the players are usually put into situations that depend on each other. The cooperative aspect of Dead Space 3 is one of the greatest implementations of coop I’ve seen in this generation, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a great game. As I said earlier, the lines between telling a believable story, and something that’s simply not logical, are blurred in this game. There are myriad logical fallacies and inconsistencies that I simply could not help but notice and scoff at. I’m not trying to say every game must make perfect sense, no, but the first two Dead Spaces did, and Dead Space 3 rides its narrative off of the developments of these two incredible games, yet ends up being much more about having fun and getting into the action and survival rather than the story being told. Characters die, drama unfolds, and hard decisions are made; it’s about to be the end of a galactic civilization, you know. Some of it is awesome, but it’s hard to find some of it capable of investing yourself into when the miraculous is normal. I won’t spoil the last level, but I will say that it simply ruined the story for me. Up until that final level, I could go with the game. There were a few incredulous points that were beyond me, but I cared anyway and could make these slight suspensions of disbelief. But there is a point where I can’t handle it anymore, and the final level crosses it for me.
It’s disappointing, really, because Dead Space 2 had one of the most heart-pumping, adrenaline-inducing endings in my gaming experience, and I loved it. The combination of you running through dozens of lethal enemies, solving puzzles, stabbing yourself in the eye, and all the while running from a massive, lanky, horrifyingly unsettling invincible monster that runs faster the farther away from it you are. It was awesome, and if you died, there was an actual cut scene dedicated to you dying, rather than just a “You died” screen. Alas, Dead Space 3’s ending was massively disappointing.
Regardless, it was constantly fun to play. The weapon crafting system is truly deep, and allows for an incredible depth of customization. There are always several types of enemies requiring several implementations of death-giving, and each encounter is a joy and a thrill to play. With a partner, of course it isn’t really scary. You may jump a few times, but the conversational discourse of you and your partner will put you both at ease and lessen the terror. Alone, it’s still the least scary of the trilogy. This concession was made, yes, but the developers gave us a superior combat system, improved shooting mechanics, deep customization options, and a more agile, mobile player.
Speaking of which, the headshots on the human opposition in this game are incredibly satisfying. I know it sounds a bit dark, but if you’ve ever popped a head in Gears of War and loved it, you’ll love the sharp crunch and pop of your enemy’s heads as you pump it full future gun projectiles.
Dead Space 3 really is a joy, and it is also by far the longest installment. The fact that the whole time is fun and never boring is awesome. Though there are some silly, and down-right unbelievable, fetch-quests, there are also great moments of brotherhood with Carver, clever game design implementations like the areas in zero-G, scaling the sides of cliffs, and a few other surprises I won’t spoil. It maintains its freshness throughout, and even if it didn’t, the gun system would keep it fresh anyway, so since it’s here, it just makes everything better. It also gives you massive incentive to keep playing the game, going into new game+, and even another cooperative playthrough as Carver, as he and Isaac experience different things at certain points in the game, even to the points where Carve is inside massive hallucinations while Isaac is fighting a non-stop onslaught, all the while keeping his convulsing and non-responsive friend alive. It’s at these moments where the game forces both of the players to rely on one another for survival that I believe Dead Space 3 shines the brightest. It’s a very underexplored mechanic in video games.
I really do wish more games implemented sophisticated, deep cooperative play, like what we see in Journey, Dark Souls, and now Dead Space 3. It’s not just two people thrown into an experience that is the exact same thing, only together. No, it’s two different perspectives on similar circumstances, where each view has its own views, opinions, and haunting past. I was very impressed with this, and it became my favorite part of the game.
Dead Space 3 is definitely the sheer most fun entry in the series, but it’s also the most unbelievable and emotionally detached. The logical fallacies, inconsistent character development (mostly Isaac’s motivations near the end), and slight tedium of side-quests does hurt the overall package, and it makes this the worst overall iteration in the three main games. But that’s still not saying much, because Dead Space 1 was such a refreshing and terrifying thrill ride, and the second was better in almost every way, and has one of the greatest endings in gaming, but Dead Space 3 is simply remembered as a very fun, satisfying adventure that, though is the most flawed of the three, is also the largest and most replayable.