by Michael Wense
When it comes to once again seeing a multi-limbed, reanimated Necromorph, fans of the excellent Dead Space series are the only ones thrilled. Well, the crazy Unitologist fanatics in the game are pro-Necromorph, but that’s another story. Dead Space fans like being put into the position of facing off against these horrific creatures with all the constraints of limited ammo, dark settings, and the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.

Dead Space 3 picks up a couple of years after the second game, with protagonist Isaac Clark having settled into a reclusive life trying to avoid the monster-causing Markers littering the galaxy. But, of course, it wouldn’t be much of a game if Isaac was able to keep laying low. Instead, we get to see Isaac and the survivors of a doomed expedition to the ice planet Tau Volantis face off against Unitologist (Marker-worshipping) soldiers, reanimated 200-year-old corpses, giant Necromorph beasts, and more. Along the way, bonds are tested, tables are turned, and secrets are revealed, just as in any engaging story.

Visually, the graphics haven’t evolved a whole lot since the last entry. In terms of console life, both the 360 and the PlayStation 3 are coming up on retirement (maybe sooner rather than later), and so there probably isn’t a lot left to eke out of these two machines. But, that’s not to say that the game’s swirling snowstorms, zero-gravity space levels, and monster-infested hallways and corridors don’t look impressive. The series has always had a high level of polish, and that aspect remains.

One of the big changes to the franchise is the ability to construct new weapons. This time, instead of finding blueprints for already determined weapons, Isaac is able to collect pieces to build his own weapons. At first, I missed the old way of slowly uncovering new weapons to use, but then I started to dive into the deep well of options available. Once I got used to the mechanics, I started to have fun experimenting with all the different flamethrower-rifles, revolver-javelin guns, and pulse rifle-grenade launchers I could piece together.

The other big addition is the ability to have a friend jump into the game for two-player co-op. Although I haven’t tried it myself, I’ve heard that it’s handled well, with the drop-in/drop-out aspect working much smoother than in some other games. Secondary players get to experience the game from the perspective of John Carver, a military man who’s able to team up with Isaac to “take down the terror,” as the game’s marketing department likes to say.

 Dead Space 3 continues the series’ push toward more and more action. Even comparing it to Dead Space 2 (which, in my opinion, struck a great balance between creepy tension and pulse-pounding action), this newest game feels more like a mainstream shoot-em-up. For fans of the first two entries, Dead Space 3 will still take care of all your gory Necromorph limb-severing desires. There are even a few scares and a heck of a lot of tension. But, don’t expect it to be quite the same experience as that first terrifying game.

Still, if you liked the first two games, you will probably enjoy once again stepping into the RIG suit of engineer Isaac Clark. The controls, the visuals, and the overall smoothness of the game make it pleasure to play. For the most part, I had a blast working my way through it.

And, if replay value is a concern, the adventure will continue; the game’s developers have already announced a DLC pack, “Awakened,” which will be available for purchase in March for around $10.

Dead Space 3 is available at Slackers now for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. Go check it out.