Visceral: Dead Space 3′s Priority is Quality, Not Survival-Horror

The Dead Space franchise started as a sci-fi take on the survival-horror genre, and gathered a big following among players for its tight spaces, heaps of foreboding atmosphere and great sound design. It could be argued that Dead Space is among the last true triple-A survival horror franchises.

That there are so few survival horror games available might be why Dead Space is so loved, and why many players reacted negatively to elements and changes in Dead Space 3 that pushed the game more toward action than horror. Many players lamented the addition of cooperative play and cover, seeing it as pushing the series away Dead Space’s core values and toward something decidedly more generic.

Now that Dead Space 3 is out, it has become clear that while the game maintains the atmosphere and tension, and some of the scares, for which it is known, Visceral’s latest outing in the series is decidedly more shooter than horror (read more about that in our Dead Space 3 review). That wasn’t a conscious decision, but the natural progression of the story, Dead Space 3 Executive Producer Steve Papoutsis told Game Front during an interview two days after the game’s launch.

“The way we look at it as game developers and the team that’s been working closely with the franchise, and love the franchise, is it’s an evolution of what we make,” Papoutsis said. “We really are conscious of our story and we try to make sure that the story supports the gameplay. We don’t just throw together mechanics just to have mechanics – we think about who is Isaac, how do these things work, and the story drives a lot of what we do.

“From an outside perspective, just trying to be objective about things, as a franchise, you look at what we’ve done, and you know, it can’t be the same as Dead Space 1. The fact that Isaac has encountered Necromorphs, now a third time, is going to change him as a person, unless he’s completely crazy or dumb, I guess, or just has amnesia I guess I should say — he’s going to remember what happened. So his reaction and his ability to deal with these creatures is going to evolve, and he’s going to get a little bit more confident, I guess you could say. He’s just going to evolve as a character.”

Papoutsis went on to point out that a number of other characters in the story at this point have had encounters with Necromorphs — including Ellie Langford, a character from Dead Space 2, and cooperative character John Carver, who’s backstory is detailed in the graphic novel Dead Space: Liberation. So Visceral couldn’t treat the situation as if all of the characters were new to the situation of dealing with the franchise’s mutated monsters.

New players, he said, may well find Dead Space 3 a lot more horrific than veterans of the series, as well.

“I think a lot of what makes horror so fun is it’s very subjective,” Papoutsis said. “You know, there’s always speculation: ‘Oh man, that’s not scary, you think that’s scary? No way.’ Those kind of conversations are what happens when people watch a horror movie or when people play a game. That’s kind of what makes it fun. And horror is a very intimate thing, right? The way that we react to it is on a very personal level.”

With the success of the Dead Space franchise, Visceral Games became something of a de facto survival-horror bastion. As other franchises, such as Resident Evil, were moving away from their core horror mechanics, Dead Space arrived on the triple-A scene and reinvigorated the genre in many ways — or at the very least, kept it alive.

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5 Comments on Visceral: Dead Space 3′s Priority is Quality, Not Survival-Horror

Tiagonal

On February 13, 2013 at 5:01 am

Why is the company that makes these games called Visceral? Now I understand it’s not because the horror…

dakan45

On February 13, 2013 at 4:11 pm

What quality? Most of the game is all over the place. So quality was making a game with better controls and less horror. Doesnt that defeat the point of the survival horror genre? So i ask again, waht quality?

The game is effectively a average shooter we played before and not a survival horror game, which the first was not much of but there was room for improvement, the second was action and now the third put the nail to the coffirn.

Wesker1984

On February 13, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Well said Papoutsis. Now i hope the idiots here will realise the fact that Dead Space 3 is a good sequel and not a letdown to the franchise.

And the Resident Evil franchise should take some advice about a better cooperative experience in a Resident Evil 7 on DS3.

TheDog

On February 14, 2013 at 2:54 am

I know all I need to know. If Wesker1984 likes it, then the game sucks. Nuf said.

The Defenestrator

On February 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm

And I still don’t buy it. The game or the spin.

However shiny the sheen, DS3 was a bloated, schizophrenic mess. Entirely too long with way too much backtracking and re-using areas and fetch quests. The story was terrible: from the one note Bond villain bad guy to the ridiculous love triangle. Ellie goes from interesting character to a princess in a castle that needs rescuing. And Carver is the worst, most cynical kind of lunkheaded, off-the-rack anti-hero.

It tried desperately to please old fans and new ones to decidedly mixed results, if the feedback from my peers who played the game are to be believed. They ticked off every item on the checklist of “What A Bunch Of 50 Year Olds In A Boardroom Thing A Game Needs To Be A Blockbuster” and people still shrugged. None of the changes they’ve made to the series are to it’s long term benefit… and now they can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

We know that devs and publishers like to play coy with exact sales numbers but it’s already been reported that DS3′s sales, despite being number one for the month, are down 26% in the UK compared to DS2.

That’s a lot of people not buying into Visceral’s spin.

Honestly, it boggles my mind that they overlooked the simplest and cleanest option that would have solved all of their problems: two entirely different campaigns. One solo, one co-op. Reuse certain aspects and levels in both but have the solo campaign be “classic” Dead Space and the co-op be action-oriented with whatever two moronic dudebros they wanted to use. Boom. Problem solved. Or was that not ambitious enough?

If “more and bigger guns” is really what Papoutsis thinks the series was always building to then I’m even happier I jumped off of the bandwagon when I did because it’s clear they’ve run out of ideas.