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I completed Dead Space 3 without paying a single penny. There, its been said and confirmed.

Let’s get on with it.

Publisher: EA
Developer: Visceral
Release Date: February 5th (NA) February 8th (EU) 2013
Format: Xbox 360/Playstation 3/PC
Version Tested: Playstation 3

Dead Space 3 is one of the most confused action/adventures i’ve played in the last few years. What we have is a solid game with a decent narrative, gorgeous environments and pulse-pounding set-pieces. We also have a game that feels more like a poor imitator of its heritage, rather than a natural successor.

Dead Space is one of the few games this generation that genuinely intimidated me. I found myself dreading turning corners in fear of being eviscerated or incinerated by skin-burning puke. The necromorphs were unlike anything i’d ever encountered, and Visceral clearly relished scaring me from start to finish.

With Dead Space 3, however, the necromorphs have become like old friends. They’re still rancid to look at and their treatment of Isaac – as well as Carver – remains callous and cruel, but they’ve become familiar to me. In essence, I feel like the kid that finally overcame his fear of the boogeyman. The result, I don’t feel tense playing a Dead Space game anymore.

That’s not to say the necromorphs can no longer surprise you. Human corpses can be horrifyingly reanimated by head-crab like creatures, turning them into a new form of zombie that can fire guns. There are also crowbar wielding maniacs & oversized ancient abominations that tease the unspeakable terror the franchise is renowned for.

However, the game is more about surviving impossible odds in the face of environmental disasters. Piloting plummeting space ships, climbing crumbling mountain faces, and surviving blisteringly cold conditions are just a few examples.

Frankly, I felt like I was playing a futuristic Uncharted.

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DS3 is glorious to behold. Whether you’re exploring the wider regions of space in Clarke’s spacesuit, or attuning to the isolation of long ruined planets still blessed with nature’s purest glories. Where previous Dead Space games have found comfort dwelling in the dark, Dead Space 3 is unafraid to be eye-catching.

The story also humanises its cast much more than any other Dead Space game. Visceral have given new depths and perspective to the Clarke character. Rather than making him a hawking, screaming crazed mass of humanity, you will see raw emotion and a will to survive as never before. This also works well building into the co-operative element of Dead Space 3. Rather than the loneliness previous games have shown, Dead Space 3 is more open and interactive with its audience. Visceral have made these new aspects work in context of the game, and I genuinely believe co-op is one of the resounding successes of Dead Space 3. In fact, it creates a lot of scope for both game & series expansion.

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Then there’s the micro-transactions.

As I’ve already established, these are completely inessential to the game. The model has been implemented purely for booster gamers or those who are especially impatient about getting from A to B. I’d even argue that Dead Space 3 is played better naturally. That said, if you go at it without the slightest bit of change in your back pocket, the game will punish you, even on the lowest difficulty.

The Workbench, however, is a fantastic tool that has been implemented perfectly. It makes sense in a Dead Space game, and much like the co-op, offers rich opportunities for expansion. In theory, developers could add to this on a weekly basis by churning out new blueprints, adding in new resources, giving opportunities for further upgrades and offering unique attributes to the various suits Isaac or Carver can change into.

Visceral clearly aren’t concerned about balancing the game if they’re enabling players to buy resources and kit themselves out ahead of schedule, so why not make it more enticing for people to invest in the microtransactions. Make stonking new weapons or iron-clad armor that feels apt and appopriate in the universe, and let people have some sandbox fun on higher difficulty settings.

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Unfortunately, Dead Space 3 isn’t exempt from bugs and glitches. There are a few inexcusable ones that have sneaked into the game and need to be stamped out as soon as possible. Walkway glitches cause the AI to act in irrational, unpredictable ways. If players move toward a certain area of the map, the AI will turn and run away from them, causing the scripted event to start all over again when the player moves back into their original position.

You’ll also get stuck on the scenery far too easily. Whether it’s a rock face, a dip in the ground or an even-walkway. In a game like Dead Space where enemies charge you from all sides, this creates some imaginably frustrating scenarios.

There’s also a horrendous glitch on some of the game’s climbing scenes. I was regularly getting clipped by debris (sometimes when I wasn’t even close to it) while climbing a mountainface. There was also an occassion when I struggled to reach the top because the rope got tangled and lost all of its slack.

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Dead Space 3 acts bold with its vastly different concepts, but to offset that, its attached itself to the comfortable barriers other action/adventures have put in place. Rather than being the niche survival horror it used to be, Dead Space clearly wants to hang out with the big boys, and now it has the budget to do just that.

From this point on, it’s clear Dead Space is going to morph into a very different series. Dead Space 3 is a game of experimentation, dabbling and developing, so, essentially, it can be described as a bridging point between two ends of a franchise. While DS3 gets the balance mostly right, I’m worried that the further the series is allowed to grow, the further away from its core principles it will stray.

Still, there’s a lot to like here. Clarke is still in the fight of his life and players will come to understand his warped, inner-psyche in whole new ways. The action is fast, furious and unrelenting. I was entertained, enjoyed the game throughout, and have identified plenty of areas for expansion. With four additional modes on top of the existing campaign, new interactions in co-op and various difficulty settings, DS3 will definitely keep you up all night, but due to the wealth of the content on offer rather than the horrors contained within.

Dead Space 3 is available now