I missed out on Dead Space and Dead Space 2 when they first launched in 2008 and 2011, respectively. When I learned Dead Space 3 was going to support cooperative play I decided to get acquainted with the series. In the last few weeks I faced the horrors of the Planet Cracker Starship, Ishimura, and escaped the depravity of Titan Station, familiarizing myself with Issac Clarke and his particular... troubles. Having just completed his latest adventure I can say that I really enjoyed the entire series, and cooperative play is a welcome addition.
Dead Space 3 begins with our reluctant hero called to battle the Necromorph menace (again). Clarke has fallen on hard times. His ramshackle apartment betrays what is left of his frayed mind and ruined personal life. But there's no time to dwell on the past. Rough-looking men are at the door, and Issac's trusty plasma cutter is in hand. We're quickly introduced to John Carver, our cooperative partner for this adventure. He's a hard-as-nails soldier with a bad attitude and a scar on his face that looks like it was stitched together with slightly smaller, angrier scars. The world outside is starting to explode in fire and panic. Time to go out into the mean streets of the New Horizon Lunar Colony and shoot people. People? Yes, people. I know, Clarke usually uses his MacGuyver-esque weaponization skills against rotting space zombies. Things change. Don't feel bad. I'm sure these agents of the Unitologist cult have it coming. Besides, they won't be dead for long.
Carver suits up. Clarke approves.
So begins Dead Space 3. The trappings of the horror genre are still present, but this is much more of a third-person shooter than a horror experience. If the first Dead Space was about survival, and the sequel was about escape, then this third entry is about extermination. The creeping confines of the Ishimura are long gone. Clarke seems more like a soldier now, rather than an engineer. Don't fret; Dead Space 3 is still a very good game.
By now we know some dead bodies will get up, sprout giant claw-tipped tentacles, and amble toward us menacingly. We know every vent and air shaft is just waiting to belch forth the latest iteration of some zombie-blender hybrid. When we see a huge cache of supplies laying around we know something bad is going to go down in the next room. We know this enemy. We need not fear it. That doesn't mean we can't have fun shooting, cutting, stabbing, exploding, and stomping Necromorphs to pieces. Why not do it with a friend?
The game really opens up once we enter the orbit of Tau Volantis. That's the icy planet believed to be the home world of the Markers, the alien monoliths responsible for the horrors of the Dead Space franchise. The game hits a steady pace of find-it/fix-it missions, sending Clarke on several perilous quests through zero gravity wreckage, with grumbling Carver in tow. We're introduced to a few
pieces of Necro-fodder support characters which breathe some life into what has been a very isolated world. As Clarke and Carver explore the wreckage of space vessels a few side missions open up, giving our heroes access to more supplies, weapon parts, and upgrades. There are even a handful of missions that are only accessible when playing with a partner. More on those later.
The zero G space exploration is one of the highlights of the game.
Dead Space 3 has some great ideas when it comes to cooperative play. John Carver is a gruff, fun character. When playing with a partner, the dialog between Carver and Clarke brings some levity to the ludicrously grim story. Sure, they're on a suicidal mission to save the galaxy from becoming walking cutlery. That doesn't mean they can't have a laugh. It's not quite that light-hearted, but their relationship keeps things entertaining and doesn't feel forced.
Environmental puzzles adapt for co-op, most of which involve players using their telekinesis powers on two moving parts at once. Some puzzles require players to cover one another as enemies attack, whereas Clarke would be left alone to finish the task if you were playing solo. Purist will be glad to know that Carver will not accompany you as some sort of brain-dead AI if you decide to go it alone. He'll be around as an NPC, but his role is greatly diminished.
Co-op is easy to access through the main menu and in-game pause screen. The game has been touted as having drop-in/drop-out co-op, but that's not really true. Players will have to either reach the next checkpoint or restart their game from their last saved checkpoint before the second player can enter the game. Thankfully, the antiquated save system of the past two titles has been replaced by an autosave feature, but it's not without its faults. Personally, I had my chapter 17 game save kicked all the way down to chapter 11. I was able to make up most of the lost time with the handy chapter select feature, and my inventory was intact, but I was more than a little perturbed. Don't mess with someone's save file.