Developer: Visceral Games / Publisher: Electronic Arts / Release: February, 2013 / ESRB: Rating Pending
‘Creepy'; ‘dark'; ‘freaky'; ‘gross'; these are just some of the words of praise used to describe the Dead Space franchise since its inception. And yet, amid all the grisly things that should simply not happen to the corporeal form in any sane universe, it nevertheless sometimes seems that one element still hasn’t been touched on quite as much as it probably should have been: Namely, all that grody, unearthly wrongness finally taking a measurable toll upon one’s marbles…and hence one’s ability to, literally, Play Well With Others.
Well fellow space-travelers, hold onto your entrails and SAN rolls, we got a shot at the forthcoming Dead Space 3 and, well, let’s just say it was good thing there was an open bar at hand.
Dead Space 3 marches onward in the survival-grue bootsteps of its predecessors all right, but takes the new (and, arguably, risky) step of introducing a drop-in/drop-out co-op scheme to the proceedings. It is a valid point that a large part of the fear generated in self-proclaimed ‘horror’ games comes from the practical fact that the player is playing alone. Correctly or incorrectly, our evolved brains reason that, if we’re with our buddies, we are, ergo, inherently ‘safer’. Developer Visceral (if ever a game’s developer were aptly-named!) has…something to say about that; as it turns out, that oft-comforting co-op mechanic is something of a gun that shoots both ways.
To put it bluntly, one of the only things worse than going up against a bunch of Necromorphs in a hostile environment is going up against a bunch of faster Necromorphs in a hostile environment, in the company of a heavily-armed ‘ally’ who very likely might just be losing his shit.
To wit: What you’re seeing may not be what your gaming-buddy-over-yonder is seeing. So yeah, that’s…a problem. On your brother/sister-in-arms’ screen, maybe he’/she’s seeing an inexplicable pile of deceptively innocent-looking toy-soldiers that aren’t there for you—and that should set your Creep Meter off, right there!—but later on, maybe he’s/she’s frantically chasing a mind-vapor all around what you perceive as a bare metal corridor…obliging you to singlehandedly gun down all the rampaging Necromorphs (that he/she clearly can’t see) just to keep him/her from dying! Wow—good thing that they at least definitely, totally see you as YOU and not some imminent threat to their survival, and that they’re totally not packing dangerous, lethal-output gear, huh? ‘Cause that would suck.
And oh, hey, just to keep things interesting: The bad news is, the Necromorphs are faster.
We’re talking 28 Limbs Later faster.
Even though Necromorphs in the past perished quickly if you managed to amputate what passed for their arms, legs, heads, etc., ammo was always at something of a premium. It’s not clear at this point if Dead Space 3 is going to be a little more generous in the available-ammunition department—but just from the general tone of things so far, we’re going to hazard a guess at ‘no’.
But perhaps there is a glint of silver lining: Dead Space 3 will boast some considerably enhanced weapon customization via the ‘Weapons Bench’, a new construction/upgrading system wherein you cobble together new armament from parts that protag Isaac snags throughout the game (this includes Franken-forging impromptu hybrid weapons—magnetic rivet-guns, plasma-torch/launcher combos, and so forth.) If you’re not quite ready to alchemize your homemade weapons then pre-made blueprints will help (including bits of weapons from the first two games)…and yes, weapons can be shared between co-op players.
Something else: Newcomer character Sgt. John Carver (get it?) will apparently have a new ability, namely that of being able to roll/take cover to avoid being attacked. Isaac Clarke is also somewhat more responsive. In both cases, the new streamlined movement/defense schemes are dubbed ‘organic’—in other words, it is not necessary to execute an awkward walk up to some arbitrary designated ‘cover spot'; Carver or Isaac, upon your control-press, are enabled to execute the reasonable, context-appropriate action.
Dead Space 3 is prepped to launch in early February, 2013 (just in time for Valentine’s Day). In the meantime, here’s to you and your prospective co-op comrades: on the ground or in space, may you always see the same threats.
Because seriously: God help you if you don’t.