Dead Space 3 Co-Op is a gamers’ game. It’s rare these days to sit down with a buddy and have a fun, high-action, shoot’em up experience. With every developer trying to either wow or impress us, it feels like every game is hitting us over the head with a sack full of set pieces and dramatic cutscenes. Visceral Games has struck a really nice balance with the DS3 Co-Op gameplay of drama, action, horror, and pseudo-RPG. The scares are scarce enough to not make them feel bland or predictable (beware the pinball machine). The controls handle quite well, though my two left hands seem to like pulling out the stupid scavenger bot in every panic-inducing boss fight. Speaking of boss fights… DAYUM SON! Honestly, I’ve never looked forward to a boss fight like I have in DS3 Co-Op. Not only do the boss fights require teamwork, they’re easy enough to not be annoying but hard enough to be challenging. They also look cool as hell, so there’s that.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, I thought I’d share my playthrough of the game that I’m doing with WingsOfRedemption. We’re old school gamer nerds that have a lot of fun playing games like DS3 and I think that’s a sharp contrast to the other people doing “let’s plays” these days:
This is probably the one thing DS3 could do better. Rather than giving you and your partner enemies that require two minds (and guns) to defeat, the game more or less just throws an extra set of enemies at you. Making a partner a requisite more for survival and progress then creative “problem” solving, except for the boss fights, where two guns seems like barely enough. There are of course some puzzle moments where it seems like flipping a switch wakes up every necromorph in the universe and you’re stuck rotating space junk while your partner has to fight the fires of hell itself just to keep you from getting killed. But overall, it feels like your partner is just backup and not an integral part of the experience. The gameplay is fun enough to make up for the lack of depth in this regard though and the game takes great care in reminding you of how dead you would be without someone to cover your ass.
You’d think people would have figured out by now that derelict space ships are nothing but trouble and just end up exploding anyway. Thankfully, there’s a planet in this one! Lapses in judgment aside though, every room in this game is fantastic looking and each set of levels feels very unique. Visceral Games really put a lot of thought into each set of levels, giving them their own distinct place in time and matching the wear and tear to it. Some levels looks brand-spanking new, others look like burned-down crack houses. All of them look fantastic. The planet you end up on about ⅓ of the way through the game is like Hoth 2.0, and that’s ok. When you first land, staying alive is more dependant how long you have until you freeze to death than how fast you can take down necromorphs, but the two combine to make for some of the most frantic and fun gameplay I’ve had in a Co-Op game to date. Being a big “The Thing” fan, this planet made me super nostalgic for Kurt Russel’s alien-ass-kicking. Thankfully, I get to kick plenty of ass in DS3.
I don’t have much to say about the weapon customization built into DS3 other than while I’d rather just be given pre-built guns, being able to make a flamethrowing shotgun with an assault rifle and medkit sharing device built into it is pretty freakin’ sweet, especially once you have the right parts. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself building useless pea shooters or super-powerful death-bringers that have the fire rate of a musket, but putting together your latest experiment in munitions absurdity has it’s novelty. Though I wish DS3’s weapon building system had more in the way of a guide to making the “right” weapons, overall I find it to be more of a background annoyance that’s easily overlooked than anything else. Weapon building is more of a “two rednecks shooting fancy guns” than it is an intuitive and simple experience, but it gets the job done and helps pace the game quite nicely. There’s nothing like knowing you’re going to be safe until you leave a room too.
It’s funny. I caught myself complaining that the game wasn’t messing with my mind enough, then it started throwing creepy hallucinations and birthday gifts at me. Honestly, DS3 isn’t as scary as it’s predecessors, but I think that has more to do with how stone-cold of a badass I am than it does that they’re aren’t scary. Co-Op is really challenging to make scary because you know your partner is always right there with you. Splitting us up more would have made the horror more immersive, but I find that getting split up typically just alienates me from the game as I always want to go back and replay the game as my partner to experience their side of the split. Generally, despite maybe not being a horror-ride like DS1, DS3 is eerie as hell 99% of the time and Visceral knew going into it that we’ve played this game twice already, so the jump scares are subtle and as infrequent as possible.
Let’s be real, the objective marker in Dead Space is the best obj. marker of all time. It’s simple, always works right, and is really cool. The level design lends itself to leading you in the right direction, so getting lost isn’t really an option, but because each level’s environments all have the same look and feel, getting turned around while trying to complete the side missions will happen every now and then. Don’t get me wrong, the environments don’t get bland, and when they’re about to, a giant monster tries to eat you, destroying the level in the process. But I found that all the doors in an area being the same left me wondering if I was going the right way, then I hit the B key.
All you really need to know is that the characters of DS3 have just enough substance to not feel invisible, but they’re never going to feel “well-developed,” which is fine to be honest. I want to shoot creepy abominations, not commiserate with the people they’re trying to eat. The storyline is, well dumb. I mean, not that it doesn’t make sense and isn’t interesting, it is, very much so, an engrossing and fun story, just for people that haven’t been playing Dead Space since the series started. It feels recycled, but not in a distracting or boring way. That’s not to say it isn’t good, just that we still have no freakin’ clue why the markers exist and someone’s always either trying to blow them up or worship them. I WANT ANSWERS DAMNIT! I just wish everyone wasn’t so obsessed with repeating the mistakes that they’ve been making since DS1. Maybe the storyline was a missed opportunity to do something interesting in DS3’s Co-Op, but I’m too busy kicking ass to care.
DS3’s Co-OP does right what every other DS game did, albeit a slightly less “interesting,” but that’s only because we’ve been on this ride before. A lack of freshness is inherent to the concept of the sequel, so I’m not going to throw a hissy fit for getting the same polished experience DS has been known for since DS1. Overall, the game plays well and is just downright fun to play. The Co-Op is engrossing, well paced, exciting, and doesn’t feel like a side note. Regardless of whether or not you played any of the other DS games, If you’re looking for a solid 2 player experience and don’t mind blood-covered hallways and corpses with tentacles trying to maul your face, Dead Space 3’s Co-Op is well worth the $60, plus you get a whole other game!
This review was based on the PC version of Dead Space 3.