Dead Space 3: Bigger, Faster, Dumber
“We intend to answer as many questions as we can about the necromorphs.”
One of the things promised in the demo presentation was that the questions many fans have asked about the universe of Dead Space will be answered by Dead Space 3. This means explaining the necromorphs, of course; the frozen planet in the demo was implied to be their homeworld. This also means addressing the Church of Unitology’s obsession with them (more on that shortly). Presumably none of these questions will have anything to do with Isaac, whose story was mostly concluded in Dead Space 2, but it isn’t clear because that promise is about all the information we were given.
However, we did get a detailed look at precisely how they’ll be delving into the series mythology, and while it’s a cool idea, it also bodes ill for the single player experience.
Drop In, Drop Out Co-Op As Storytelling
Dead Space 2 featured competitive multiplayer, but no one really bothered to play it, largely because of the fact that the series in no way lends itself to the idea of competitive multiplayer. Which is why it’s been jettisoned for Dead Space 3. In place of competitive multiplayer is possibly the most interesting change made to the Dead Space series’ conventions, and simultaneously the most troublesome, drop in, drop out cooperative 2-player mode.
As I said, during the Demo we were told that this game would set out to answer a lot of the lingering questions players have about the Dead Space universe. This was hinted at with certain lines of dialogue during the single player portion of the demo, but after fighting through several enemies, the demo then showed how co-op works, at which point it became evident that to truly get the full story of Dead Space 3, players are probably going to have to play with a friend.
When joining a game, a companion player takes on the role of a scripted character named John Carver. When Carver joins the game, not only do new strategic options for defeating enemies open up, but unique cutscenes and in-game dialogue become available. Cutscenes and dialogue that aren’t part of the single player narrative. Carver, it seems, is not really present in the single player campaign as an NPC, he only shows up in Co-Op. And that means a significant – though still unknown – amount of content in the game is available only if you play with a friend. That’s going to be a problem for people who want to get the whole experience, but would like to do so without having to work out a play schedule every time they do it.
And let’s not forget, putting critical content into co=op is just another way to force players to use Origin whether they want to or not. Lame.
There’s also another problem. Dead Space 2 introduced Ellie Langford as a fairly significant character. So significant that she saves Isaac from certain death at the end of that game. However, as mentioned above, she and Isaac have become separated, and your job is, in part, to find her. It’s frustrating that, handed a perfectly good opportunity to use a female for the co-op campaign, the developers have instead relegated her to damsel in distress status so that Isaac can go on a bro adventure. What a waste of a good character, a waste of opportunity to expand an already rich story, and frankly, a slap in the face to the female Dead Space fans. John Carver is a wholly new character. There is absolutely no reason Ellie couldn’t have filled the role they chose for him. Doing so would have been a cool way of expanding the gendered experience of the series without compromising Isaac as a protagonist. Instead, it’s a brodown, whether you want one or not.
Hopefully, as more details become available we’ll see that they have a way for players to get the full experience without the co-op. Perhaps we’ll even learn that they didn’t waste Ellie Langford, or the chance to give their female customers something more than yet another dude to play. We’ll see. And besides, the co-op isn’t as much of a concern as the sudden departure from the series’ conventions.
Change for no reason?
When I sampled Lost Planet 3 a few weeks back, I noted that it seemed like a rip off of Dead Space combined with Red Faction: Armageddon. What’s ironic is that Dead Space 3 seems to have ripped off the first Lost Planet. The ice planet on which the action in the demo took place seemed ripped straight out of the Lost Planet series. Worse, the sudden switch to action shooter guts what makes the game unique in the first place. Now Isaac, rather than a determined and terrified survivor, is an action hero.
And if you don’t believe me, then wait until you hear the banter that happens when you have a friend join you as John Carver. At one point in the demo after a particularly grueling battle, Isaac quips “fuck this planet”, to which John responds “yeah, let’s get out of here”. That kind of nonsense is better suited for something like Bulletstorm, which wears its hackneyed brilliance proudly. In Dead Space it just feels jarring, and kind of stupid.
Furthermore, the scene mentioned above in which unitologists were battled? They appear to have been
indoctrinated infected by necromorphs intentionally. I have no idea why the Unitologists are suddenly very similar to Mass Effect 3 incarnation of Cerberus, but it seems to suggest that Electronic Arts plans to treat their science fiction properties the way Activision treaters their shooters (which is to say, make them all like CoD). Sooner than we’d like, Mass Effect won’t be a distinct game, it will be a genre, and Dead Space 3 is the first step.
This does indeed look like the same path the Resident Evil series has had, with the core gameplay removed bit by bit until we have nothing but a brand. That’s a damn shame.
Of course, what we saw in the demo is just an early build, but the changes on display almost seem to remove the series from its own genre. This is in addition to the frustrating missed opportunities present throughout what was shown. Frankly, early or not, Dead Space 3 looks like a mess, and that’s a bad sign for a game that should be among 2013′s most anticipated. Add another title to the “EA destroyed it” column, because this series looks dead.