Feb 1, 2013 By Shujaat Syed @shoejaatThe latest Dead Space game, Dead Space 3, is hitting North American store shelves on February 5th.
That day is fast approaching, but there is a disturbance amongst the fans of the series. Is the game still a Dead Space game? These concerns arise from what EA and Visceral are promoting about the game, which make it feel that it is going towards a much more action-heavy route. This is a big no-no for a horror game, especially for one as big as the Dead Space franchise.
Cooperative play is the big new feature in Dead Space 3, and EA is putting the spotlight on it. This part of the game headlined last year’s E3. However, we must keep in mind that Dead Space 3 is a horror game. The Resident Evil franchise first tried co-op with Resident Evil 5, which was criticized by fans and critics alike as it took away from the game’s frightening atmosphere. Now, Dead Space follows in RE’s footsteps, and it looks like nothing new was added towards the co-op experience, or at least that’s what was believed at first.
The co-op found in Dead Space 3 is not mandatory – this should have been the main focus of the demo. In fact, the E3 demo should have started out as a single-player experience, and then have taken a shift to co-op play. Simply doing that would have calmed some of the fears of Dead Space going co-op, as fans would have seen that the single-player experience stays intact.
Nobody would look at this screenshot and call it a horror game
The E3 demo also presented a stronger emphasis on a shooting action comparable to Gears of War. Now, Dead Space has always been a horror franchise with moments of empowerment, fortunately those were always few and far in between. However with Dead Space 3, Visceral is bringing the action elements to the forefront – maybe even ignoring the horror pillar that Dead Space is based on. Showcasing action heavy set pieces can puts wrong impressions on series veterans as they might expect the game to go further towards the action genre. Would they be wrong in thinking that? No, absolutely not.
Visceral reminds us that the Dead Space DNA is still unscathed, through multiple interviews and the like, but can gamers believe them? I don’t think they can…especially when the previews and the demo seemed like they were directed at the action-heavy crowd. Dead Space 3’s box art pretty much spells out what kind of target audience they are trying to reach. It shows the main protagonist walking towards the viewer holding a gun (plasma cutter). It’s reminiscent of the type of covers we see in first person shooting games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield 3.
One of these is not like the other
By spending the game’s marketing budget exclusively on multiplayer and action, EA is doing a disservice towards much of the positive changes Visceral has added to the Dead Space formula. For instance, to make Isaac feel more like an engineer, players can now craft their own weapons. This is not some tacked on feature. This is actually a very deep weapon building mechanic where players will have to scavenge for items to build unique weapons.
Visceral has also expanded on the scope of the game by making the environments much open to exploring by introducing non-linearity. You are free to explore the environment at you own pace and discover side quests and collectables. Making a game much more open is nearly always a major plus with the gaming community, as well as critics. It shows that the developers are prepared to take risks and add more content to their games. Visceral is doing all of this with Dead Space 3, but EA’s marketing campaign shows none of that.
Visceral also left out another important aspect of the game from E3; psychological horror. While playing co-op, it is possible for your partner to go through dementia. Your partner will be seeing and attacking necromorphs, while all you see in front of you is a crazy person shooting at the air. This is the kind of step forward I was expecting Visceral to make, and I am glad they have done something like this. But why was such an important feature like this not something the marketing team would want to exploit? Why was this hidden behind press interviews?
This is the Dead Space 3 EA and Visceral don’t want to talk about
EA’s marketing department is presenting Dead Space 3 to a broader audience by putting an emphasis on action and co-op. This isn’t the right message to send to gamers or fans of the series. What they should have done, is emphasize the horror aspects of Dead Space, rather than diminish them. The message that EA is implying is that co-op is there to make the experience less frightening and more accessible, when the message should have been that the co-op is there, because people like getting scared together.