No scares to be found in “Dead Space 3”

Daniel Woodhouse

I remember, during my freshman year of high school, hearing about how scary this new game Dead Space was. Feeding my curiosity, I picked up a copy. Though I found it entertaining, it lacked the level of horror I had been led to expect. Dead Space 3 is no different, and fails to produce the scares that make you jump out of your seat.

Picking up two months after the destruction of the Sprawl space station in the year 2417, we find our old friend Isaac Clarke in hiding, wallowing in booze and still haunted by the events of the first two games. Two soldiers then burst into his apartment and restrain him. Identifying themselves as the last remnants of EarthGov’s military, they persuade Clarke to come on a mission, informing him that his estranged girlfriend Ellie is in danger. The trio travel to the ice planet Tau Volantis, which is believed to be the homeworld of the alien Marker devices, and to hold the secret to ridding the galaxy of the Necromorphs.

Courtesy of Dead Space Facebook Page
Provided by Dead Space Facebook Page

Dead Space’s always enjoyable limb-slicing gameplay returns in all its splendor. As with the previous games, you must defeat enemies by cutting off their arms and legs with a variety of weapons. This time around, you can only carry two weapons, but this is compensated by the ability to now customize and build dozens of different weapons. It’s a nice addition, but this, coupled with the ability to slow the speed of enemies, is a bit too much for a horror game.

If American horror shows us anything, it’s that a big muscular guy running around with a chainsaw, decapitating hordes of zombies, is scary. I disagree. But, to stay in line with this notion of horror, the makers of Dead Space 3 have given Isaac Clarke characteristics and abilities that don’t fit. He is supposed to be an engineer, yet he can wield guns like a pro; plot hole, anyone? Isaac does some “engineering,” like repairing engines, assembling machinery and hacking electronics. Unfortunately, these activities in the game are so simplistic a lobotomy victim could figure them out.

The zero gravity sections of the previous installments return, but only for the first three hours of the game — then it’s back to boring old gravity. I was upset about this because I really liked using Isaac’s jet boots to coast around the vacuum of space. It made me feel like an astronaut.

Dead Space 3 has also slacked a bit in the enemy variety department. Most of the enemies have been recycled from the first game and covered with snow. The only new enemies are Necromorphs, who wield pickaxes and have glowing red eyes. What the developers tried to do with these enemies — to make them look like mutated abominations of the humans they once were — was not achieved. Are we supposed to be scared of a mountain climber whose contacts look to be irritating their eyes?

A co-op mode has been integrated, allowing you to play with a friend, making Dead Space 3 even less scary than it was before. According to publisher EA, this was added to give the game a “broader appeal.” The real reason this was added, though, is because EA has been experiencing losses recently and is doing anything it can to attract more customers.

Dead Space 3 seems to be going the same route as the horror series Fear — both started out with creative premises, but by their third installments they’ve devolved into generic action shooters. In a horror game, you should feel vulnerable — at any moment you could die and there’s little you can do to stop it. It needs that sense of fear that keeps you on your toes and makes you jump at the sound of a creak in your house. There’s not much reason to be scared when you have an arsenal of futuristic weapons at your disposal and a buddy fighting by your side.

Dead Space 3 is fun and even a bit intense at times, but it fails to elicit the type of terror that it prides itself on.

3 out of 5 stars