Dead Space 3 Demo Impressions: Hope the Game is Scarier
Going It Together
When we got our first look at Dead Space 3 during E3 2012, our main reaction was simple: Bigger, Faster, Dumber. The content featured in the new demo is essentially what was first shown last June, and though some of what we didn’t like about it then has been fixed – particularly the way the game looks; it does in fact look gorgeous now – there remain lingering annoyances, in particular the new co-op multiplayer.
As depicted last year, the main thing Dead Space 3′s co-op brings to the game, aside from the chance to wade through necromorphs and human enemies with a friend, is the further exploration of series lore via dialoge and brief cutscenes that are only available in co-op. Further complicating the issue is the fact that co-op didn’t involve established character Ellie, who it must be noted was a major part of Dead Space 2 and who (spoiler) saved Isaac’s life at the end of that game. Instead, for reasons we will politely not attribute to bullheaded sexism, EA has opted to force Ellie into the damsel in distress box. You start the game separated from her, and one of your main goals is to find her. In her place is the completely new character John Carver.
The new demo obviously lacks a lot of what we’ll see in the main game, but if last year’s Mass Effect 3 demo is any indication, it’s likely it contains a fairly complete version of the very beginning of Dead Space 3. So, when you select to play co-op, Carver is just dropped into the game like it isn’t even a thing. Instantly, Carver and Isaac begin bantering as though they already know one another well, the problem being that, at least so far, nothing is provided that gives any context for that. It’s kind of like a dream in which you just magically know you’re a spy, or that the world is coming to an end, only in this case, you magically know you’re in a buddy comedy with acrid chemistry between the leads.
That, more than anything else, is what you’ll learn from co-op in the demo. Few significant plot details are revealed; instead, Isaac and John just bitch at one another about… stuff, and the player gains nothing other than a growing annoyance, compounded by the other elements that start to pile up like spam. Of course, this is separate from the fact that it’s absurd to remove a character players are already familiar with in favor of one never seen before, and it reeks of a cold marketing decision based around the notion that players won’t enjoy playing Ellie because she’s a girl.
We wish we could report that co-op did anything to enhance the game play experience, but other than the normal benefits of co-op – the ability to heal your partner, for instance – it adds nothing significant. We’re happy to be proven wrong by the full game, but nothing in the demo gives us any confidence.
But … It’s Still Just a Demo
Electronic Arts and Visceral Games have given us a snapshot of what Dead Space 3 is like, or likely to be like, with the demo released last week. But that’s all it is — a snapshot. And it’s one that’s likely to be markedly different from what we’ll actually be experiencing when the game is released.
With that in mind, there are a lot of things that have us optimistic, and a lot that have us still worried. While we’ve heard good things about the cooperative mode from colleagues, the demo hasn’t inspired any new confidence. The new systems added to Dead Space 3, like the emphasis on crafting, seem like they’ll be fun, but whether they’ll feel right for the series remains to be seen. Lastly, this brief glimpse of the game is missing a lot of the spookiness that we love about the franchise.
But you never know. Demos lie. Check back later this month for our full Dead Space 3 review.