Gears of War 3 - 360 (hardcore difficulty) 5/5
Mass Effect - 360 (hardcore difficulty) 5/5
Aliens: Colonial Marines (Soldier/Hardened/Ultimate Badass difficulties) 4/5
Far Cry 3 - 360 (normal difficulty) 4/5
Dead Space 3 - 360 (Hard difficulty solo) 3/5
Dead Space and Mass Effect are probably my two favorite game franchises in existence, and I always bring up Dead Space to colleagues as a great example of perfectly focused and harmonious design. It's a bit of a shame then that this is a bit disappointing.
There are moments that are truly epic, set-pieces which are Dead Space at its absolute best, but it falls apart whenever there's an enemy encounter. The problem isn't that it's an action game, it's that it's a very poorly thought out action game. DS2 was action-packed, but the encounters had been meticulously put together so that even when you were being rushed, the environments allowed for tactics and just the right amount of pressure was on to keep things thrilling. In 3 there doesn't seem to have been any thought put into these (frequent) moments beyond just spamming you with as many enemies as they can render, regardless of the location. Most fights began with necros appearing in front and behind simultaneously (making it impossible to not get cheap-shotted) before being jammed into a corner so tight your health bar isn't even on-camera and then hitting you with appalling stun-lock attacks while you mash the buttons until death, or miraculously (by virtue of hammering B to use every health pack you have) make it through. For a series with so far impeccable design values, these are some of the most poorly designed fights I've seen in years. I was on Hard, so playing it on Normal will likely make for less deaths, but they'll still be horribly thoughtless encounters. Also, the generic ammo and reduced weapon slots was a bad choice, as it meant there was none of the resource management that came from running dry on a gun and being forced to switch to another weapon. With this you just pick or manufacture what you think is the best all purpose weapon and use that for the whole thing, and I hit on battle late on which was almost impossible with the loadout that I had. It was the equivalent of an RPG hitting you with a fight you could only win if you'd put all your XP into a particular skill, without making you aware that would be important.
I'm looking forward to re-appraising it in co-op, as standing back to back in those tight corridors would at least stop you getting blind-spotted constantly. As it stands I've got mixed feelings. I loved so much about this game, but the one thing that the majority of the gameplay hinges on is badly crafted, so I've finished the trilogy with a bit of a sour taste.
It's not awful (sometimes it's fantastic) and it's possible I'm just feeling more negative because the benchmark was so high for me with the first 2, but the fact that it spends a lot of its time being an awesome Dead Space game makes it that much more frustrating when the next round of beasties attack and the annoyance/boredom sinks in again. I have all the cheevos on the first two, and the hardcore cheevo in 2 was one of my favorite gaming moments, but the thought of doing this on even harder difficulties so that all those cheap encounters get even cheaper just puts me right off.
Bah, I don't really know how I feel, maybe I'll love this 2nd time around, who knows. All I do know is I spent about 30% of my playthrough feeling that proper Dead Space awe, and the other 70% groaning and moaning and wanting to put the controller down. Blarg.