Posted on February 12, 2013, Phil Hornshaw 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.