Dead Space 3: Where It All Went Wrong

I feel like I would warn everybody, spoilers will abound for Dead Space and Dead Space 2 in this article and there’s also a bit of a NSFW warning to the trailers in this article as well. That said, looking at the screens, it’s hard to see how Dead Space 3 is connected at all to the rest of the series. Gone is the isolation, the madness, the claustrophobia that made the series enjoyable in the first place. Instead we have wide open spaces and a snarky, generic space marine companion. How did it come to this?

One of the first things I noticed from the trailers is that the characters seem completely different. In the first game, Isaac Clarke was an engineer, desperately fending off space zombies with mining equipment. He’s no swaggering hero, he’s an everyman just trying to get to his girlfriend. In the second, he’s a clearly insane, tortured human being just struggling to stay alive. In three…he’s a confident man wearing a leather jacket, acting like the token good-cop space marine. Somehow…he’s gone from ‘utterly broken person who literally collapses as Titan Station blows up around him’ to ‘utter badass’. The things that defined him as a character disappeared- he was an engineer who used common mining equipment, improvised weapons and engineering skills in order to survive. Now, he’s just another space commando armed with space rifles and grenades. Ellie, your companion from the second game, seems to have been effectively removed as a character- gone from hard as nails miner girl to another version of Nicole from the first game. She would have been a great co-op choice- someone familiar, as damaged as Isaac, and a strong female character to play.

He...doesn't look like an engineer.

He…doesn’t look like an engineer. Or act like one, for that matter.

The very nature of the previous games was one of claustrophobia combined with normality gone awry. With few exceptions, everywhere you went in the first two games felt like close quarters. The knowledge that any vent or duct could conceal a necromorph made everything suspicious. The intense normality contrasted against against the blood and gore was fantastic- especially in the second Dead Space. Fighting through a mall, a school, apartments…it all gave the entire situation the feeling that it could have been anywhere, and the people dying were just like anyone else. Fighting through an elementary school was particularly chilling, with blood splatters across bright colors and the knowledge that the necromorphs had been through there.In Dead Space 3, you’re treated to the setting of…Lost Planet. An open, vast ice planet filled with monsters and the odd outpost. And while the scale of the monsters is bigger…that doesn’t mean the game has the same elements of horror as compared to buddy-cop action with zombies. Even the space-bound sections of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 felt claustrophobic as you kept an eye on your air meter, always trying to keep where the nearest supply of oxygen was visible. Being essentially deaf compounded the problem, causing you to be constantly scanning the vacuum for creeping enemies.

The game looks and plays a lot more action-like than horror or survival horror. The action sequences, the awful banter between Carver and Isaac, even the trailers speak of a game unlike the others. Compare:

One of these things is not like the other, as you can tell. It’s a thematic mess; one of the core concepts of the Dead Space games has been ‘survival’. Isaac arrives on the Ishimura, and has to survive. Isaac wakes up on the Sprawl, has to survive. It’s a great scrambling struggle, and he’s never more than a step ahead of imminent death. Now, in this game, he’s just sort of meandering around a forsaken ice planet with his new buddy in tow.

It all seems like a disaster in the making, doubly so with the addition of microtransactions and the continual lack of PC support for anything save the bare-bones game. There is no PC demo, and almost certainly any DLC will be console only (following in the footsteps of the previous games). The microtransactions may seem benign, but whatever ‘survival’ aspect is left in this game dwindles to almost nothing when you can simply buy resources. Imagine Resident Evil giving you the option to buy bullets when you’re running low- it sort of takes the edge out of the game and seems like a naked cash grab, doesn’t it? But, then again, when corporate mouthpieces admit that the game has to sell five million copies (equivalent to roughly the total sales of the previous games combined) to break even, things look grim.  I really want this game to be good. I really do- I’m a fan of the series for sure. But frankly, given that it’s thrown up every warning signal short of shooting my dog, I can only expect the worst.

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