Sequel-itis: Dead Space 3

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I have to be honest with you – I was particularly excited for E3 this year. Among a number of anticipated games, including Resident Evil 5, Borderlands 2 and the Devil May Cry revamp, the reveal for the newest addition in the Isaac Clarke saga known as Dead Space might be the most polarizing game to consider for the next 12 months. It might be a rash decision to strike while the iron is kind of hot, but a closer look at the initial details of Dead Space 3 reveal some slightly disturbing ideas in the mindset of the developers from what we know up to this point. The question is, despite the fact I am just as unapologetically giddy about this third chapter as I am about a new Resident Evil game, why does it seem like this might be the game to derail the series from its almost pedestal-like spot in the survival-horror genre?

Dead Space 1 and 2 both had their pros and cons. After finishing a run on the original recently, it is apparent to me that while DS1 is a stellar debut, I would almost concede that the second goes blow for blow with it in terms of execution and story. The mystery and sheer suspense of the original is replaced with subtle trickery and chilling explanations in the second installment, all while finding a way to make the game both more difficult and mechanically fine-tuned. The Nicole character is arguably one of the most mentally stressful ‘enemies’ in the horror genre, toying with your emotions to an almost predictable point to where you’ll feel helpless as she reigns terror on poor Isaac’s mind.

As long as we’re playing spoiler though, the ‘drilling’ machine in the second installment is the most adrenaline-pumping, terrifying thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.

But aside from that, DS2 saw the addition of a multiplayer element, something that has pretty much plagued every shooter-ish game since COD and Halo started a cycle of cash-cow rehashing when I was in high school. Dead Space needed an online multiplayer like Bioshock needed an online multiplayer – it didn’t. But that’s for another time. The point is, the multiplayer experience might be the scapegoat for what seems to be the most interesting thing to surface about Dead Space 3 – two player co-op.

What bugs me particularly about the addition of co-op is that at its core, Dead Space is a horror game. The shooting is just the way you dispatch with the Necromorphs, just like in Fatal Frame you use a camera. When you add a second person, the ability to suspend someone in a world and create terror is extremely difficult. Look at the Resident Evil series – the shift towards action made the game a bit less scary, but has resulted in a much better overall experience for the player. Dead Space has to tap that same idea if they want this two-player version to succeed. But RE decided a long time ago, and rightfully so for a series over a dozen games in, that the tension was in the development and explanation of the continually unfolding story of Umbrella taken to strange, yet oddly entertaining heights – not in a rehash of pop-up zombie attacks or having to fend off dogs with a knife.

The addition of gameplay mechanics akin more to Gears of War such as cover and evasive maneuvering also suggests a much more action-based experience. Further additions of human enemies suggests this will be less of the preserve and survive nature of the earlier games, where at times ammo and health was not exactly at every corner. Again, if the game is banking on cranking up the action, where do they plan on making that up in the horror department?

The story of DS3 seems well-placed enough though, even so that it might be safe to consider this the final chapter of Isaac’s tormented story – considering they are supposedly going after the source of the markers. Putting us in another completely new setting is enough to spark interest considering where we are in the overall arc of things, much like DS2 put us in a rather vulnerable position post the Ishimura disaster that seemed like more of a time bomb waiting to happen. Our third chapter though takes us to a new planet of ice, seemingly the site of Unitologists and necromorphs alike. Color me interested, but it makes it seem like we’re getting nearer to some sort of apex, arc or finale – Nicole seems out of the picture, Ellie is the main ‘interest’ and the addition of a new character suggests something is in store for us this time around. The question is: what is it?

It might have been the perfect time to make a sequel if there was going to be one in the Dead Space franchise. In terms of interest and progress, I can’t be the critic of how many people like this game. But from the standpoint of someone who truly enjoys the game and the genre of survival horror, giving us something that undermines the original attraction and enjoyment of a series is a bit questionable. Dead Space 3 might not come out until next year, but here’s to hoping the folks working on it can dial it in to deliver another grand scale assault on our psyche – and not a gun-happy, watered down ghost of a horror game.

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Author: Jason Gardner View all posts by

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