One of the most anticipated gaming sequels of the year arrives to startle the mature horror survivalist in the third-person epic Dead Space 3: Limited Edition (Electronic Arts and Visceral Games, reviewed for Xbox 360, Rated M for Mature, $59.99).
With action now much more about survival, than the horror of its predecessors, the sci-fi fueled adventure delivers blockbuster, movie-style moments and a familiar load of mutated creatures dying to get stomped on in all gory glory.
A revealing prologue and series of combative events puts the player back in control of resilient engineer Isaac Clarke, a fellow who has gone from unassuming victim to a Bruce Willis-style action hero.
Eventually ending up on the desolate ice planet, Tau Volantis (think Hoth with really gross monsters), our hero must save his girl friend Ellie, understand the true mission of the alien species, the Markers, and stop a threat to humanity.
The 19-chapter story plays out through blood-stained corridors, abandoned research facilities, hanger decks, a supply room lit with strobe lights and hostile, outdoor terrain resurfacing some of the best emotions found in films such as “John Carpenter’s The Thing” and “Alien.”
For me, the most memorable part of the exploration, puzzle-solving and constant staving off and dismembering of the vicious variety of Necromorphs (reanimated corpses) were the exceptional visual moments highlighted by Isaac floating around in space.
These gravity-stifling missions look spectacular throughout and, along with some nail-biting escapes, keep the action from simply being about exterminating biological anomalies.
As per the other Dead Space games, Isaac continues to use intricately crafted weapons and customized space suits in tandem with the technology-infused powers of kinesis (basic telekinesis to move objects from a distance) and stasis (time slowing powerful enough to stop speeding vehicles).
Of course, the co-stars of the adventure remain the dozen or so varieties of Necromorphs. These Giger-esque and Lovecraftian marvels arrive complete with sharpened tentacles, bulbous bodies, oozing sacs and hair-tingling moans of anguish ready to jump out and attack at the least expected moments.
Now for the weapons invention geek, and more complex than ever, are a plentiful supply of workbenches that will keep him satiated for hours at a time as he collects raw materials and components throughout locations and builds powerful tools and armaments to fight off the Unitology soldiers and creatures.
The choices are staggering with thousands of combinations possible including tweaking upper and lower parts of the munions masterpieces.
Options offer military engines, plasma cores, pneumatic torches, rip-core blades, laser cutters, acid-tipped bullets, and circuits that will upgrade clips, reload speed and rate of fire.
Additionally, an online co-operative mode allows a second player to take control of EarthGov soldier John Carver in extended interactions and missions embellishing the solo campaign.
I highly recommend trying this route with a pal as its extra five hours or so of fun really demonstrate the joy and horrors of teamwork when placed in near chronic states of panic.
Co-op even includes using the Xbox 360’s Kinect attachment for vocal commands such as “find partner” and “revive partner,” for example, with about two dozen total audio cues available in both modes of the game.
Those purchasing the Limited Edition of the game will find a code to unlock a couple of stylish protective suits and the evangelizer and negotiator weapons.
Overall, Dead Space 3 delivers another round of harsh and visceral interactivity for the mature gamer, worthy of the franchise and often as bone-chilling as climbing the cliffs of Tau Volantis.
Parental advice: Hey mom and dad, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) took great pains to label this game “M” and that stands for mature — it’s advised that adults 17-years and older need only wield an onscreen Knee Capper here. So don’t let your 13–year old convince you that “I’m just shooting a bunch of monsters.” The volleys of violence and excessive levels of grotesque are a startling concoction that will make a lesser adult’s hair fall out from shock.