Third instalment of survival horror series is bloody good fun, writes John Walshe.

I have a confession to make. A fully grown-up member of the adult world, by dint of years if not mental prowess, this reviewer had to stop playing 2008’s original Dead Space game about half way through because it was just too scary for his faculties to deal with.

There, I’ve said it. The second instalment was just as jumpy as the first and so it was with no small amount of trepidation that I set thumbs on the latest intergalactic survival horror story from the EA team. And with good reason: the Dead Space trilogy is probably the most frightening games series ever created – and this from a man who remembers practically hitting the ceiling during the first Resident Evil adventure on the good ship PSOne.

The latest adventure sees the player reprising the role of Isaac Clarke, the unwilling hero who just can’t catch a break. One minute, he’s happily living a quiet life away from the spotlight, the next he’s been dragged from his apartment and sent off into deep space to rescue his ex-girlfriend and her current beau, who are missing in orbit around the planet believed to be the home world of those nasty necromorphs from the preceding games. No sooner can you curse your luck than you’re suiting up and investigating more bloody spacecraft than Sigourney Weaver, with all manner of undead beasties to keep you company, before, horror of horrors, getting up close and personal with their frozen home planet – think Hoth from Star Wars with more snowstorms and less tourist traps.

After three games, the grotesque, blade-limbed necromorphs have perhaps lost their shock value, but they’re still amongst the most horrific enemies ever committed to video game and they remain extremely inventive in terms of ways to make you history.

The atmosphere isn’t quite as cloying or bone-chilling as the two previous Dead Space titles, but there are still more jumps than a weekend at Cheltenham, as these grim leapers tear through walls, hop up from snowdrifts and generally surprise you at every turn – sometimes, the first you know of their existence is when one of their blade-like limbs severs an artery. They’ve even introduced a regenerating necromorph, who re-grows missing limbs like weeds in summer: all the better to skewer you with, my pretty.

Thankfully, Isaac has a range of weapons at his disposal, and the game introduces a neat element of customisation, allowing you to build, upgrade and play around with a pretty impressive arsenal of weapons as you progress through the levels, creating new ways to dismember the bad guys. The ability to play the entire campaign with an online partner also adds immeasurably to the enjoyment and detracts, thankfully, from the sense of unbridled terror at being alone in a world full of scissor-limbed psycho-beasts.

Mixing survival horror with shooter to stunning effect, Dead Space 3 is frightfully good fun: just not for the faint of heart.

Platform: PS3, X360, PC
Publisher: EA
Cert: 18
Score: 4/5

John Walshe