With "strategic dismemberment" still front and center of the action, Dead Space 3 continued to impress me with its variety of enemies. Of any shooter series I've played, the Dead Space series has always been one of the best examples of moment-to-moment variety. Each enemy exhibits a variety of behaviors, and as before, removing different limbs will change how the creature pursues and attacks. Maybe it's just me, but even the standard "vanilla" Necromorphs in Dead Space 3 seemed a lot more aggressive. It seemed like improved versions of each member of the entire Necromorph cast from the previous games made at least one appearance in Dead Space 3 (though some, like the Pregnants, are woefully underutilized), but despite the already impressive roster Visceral Games has added even more types of terrors. The Feeders--quick, skeletal baddies that attack in large packs, once disturbed--really creeped me out with their propensity to try and back me into a corner. Not all of the enemy additions were welcome, however. There are some new Necromorphs (you've probably seen in the screenshots), which basically look like axe-wielding, garden-variety zombies with glowing eyes. I couldn't help but wonder how the shadowy demons from Alan Wake had invaded my sci-fi shooter. They're not horrible, but they feel incredibly uninspired when compared to the rest of the monsters. Dead Space 3 is also the first game in the series to ask Isaac to battle human enemies on occasion. I found that these sections made sense to the narrative, but were a bit of a letdown from a gameplay perspective. Strategic dismemberment isn't at all important when battling humans, and I actually felt a twinge of disappointment (or maybe it was relief) when I realized I'd be fighting humans for a bit. Some later sections that mix in both human and Necromorph enemies are a bit more interesting, but thankfully, during the vast majority of the game's combat, Isaac is the only human involved. Speaking of firsts, there are a few minor improvements to the game that I really appreciated. The first is the inclusion of 10 optional missions (a few of which are co-op, only). These feature completely new locations, and add several extra hours of gameplay, and the couple that I played through felt more like they'd been made optional to streamline the critical path, rather than because the content therein was of lesser quality. Dead Space 3 also gives players the ability to replay missions they've completed, so if you miss or skip an optional mission on your first playthrough, you can always go back and see what you missed later, even if it's just to jump to one of these specific side missions. The firefights in Dead Space 3 are chaotic and explosive, but I also encountered a few AI quirks carried over from the previous entries, such as the rare instance where an enemy would get caught on the environment. The most egregiousness and immersion-breaking of these issues is that the "enemy triggers" for some rooms were easily manipulated. For example, there were several times where I'd trigger a wave of enemies, and fall back to the room's entrance, only to have the enemies pull an about-face and retreat once I'd crossed the door's threshold. I'm pretty sure the practice of luring creatures out and dispatching them, one at a time, isn't a result of intentional design. From a story perspective, things eventually escalate to a level that's pretty ridiculous, but it all somehow fits within the context of the series' over-the-top lore. Playing solo, the game does a great job of capturing the solitary feeling of the first two games, though some of the single-player cut-scenes that feature John Carver (the game's other protagonist in co-op) are a bit odd in the sense that there's a hint of the "buddy movie" dialogue going on, only to have Carver disappear when the player resumes control. Thankfully, you won't be doing battle alongside a shoddy, AI version of Carver when playing solo. As far as the single-player experience goes, Dead Space 3 hits most of the high-notes the series is now known for. The ice planet location ends up providing some welcome change of pace, even though it's not as psychologically compelling of a setting to me as the claustrophobic vacuum of space. Isaac's third outing is definitely his most ambitious yet. Provided you're not allergic to snow, Dead Space 3 is another wild ride and great addition to a series that still has some of the most interesting shooting mechanics and enemy design out there. Shacknews' Ozzie Meija is diving back in with me to play through the game in co-op mode, so stay tuned for our assessment of how Dead Space 3's campaign plays with a buddy.
Feeders swarm in packs, when disturbed.
This Dead Space 3 single player review is based on an Xbox 360 retail copy of the game, provided by the publisher.