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Underrated Game: Dead Space 3
Dead Space 3 was met with both praise and skepticism from the gaming community at large. Many critics enjoyed the action components combined with the story, while others hated the lack of stopping power in combat and the further departure from survival horror. This translated into an early opinion of the title, affecting sales. Less than a few months after release, Electronic Arts decided that it would not be rolling forward with a 4th title at this moment in time, and the franchise currently sits in limbo. Dead Space 3 didn’t do a great job of standing on its own as a single-player game.
Perhaps this is where the marketing team should have invested more effort. It is true that going the story alone makes for a more-than frustrating experience, and a game promoted as such will have limited success. But Dead Space 3 should have been marketed as a co-op oriented experience, as it not only plays this way, but is best experienced with another person you know.
Admittedly, much during the beginning and end of the adventure is cosmetic: Carver by no means is a character of substance in the single-player romp. However, it’s still nice to see him pop up at key moments throughout the campaign. The changes they make are noticeable enough.
[Disclaimer: I have only played the coop version of this game. This is also a spoiler alert.]
Take, for example, the landing on the marker homeworld. Things get a little sticky, and entry does not go as well as planned. With Isaac at the helm and Carver on guns, the ship appears to be clear for a fatal landing. Keep in mind, the franchise is Dead Space, so this is the best case scenario. As complications arise, Isaac must make a repair on the go, leaving Carver to navigate the flight course and blast away incoming debris. This actually turned out the be stressful, albeit the good kind. Isaac is an engineer after all, and it was an entertaining idea to have one player try to make a last ditch effort to keep the ship together while the other is now tasked with getting it to its destination using the borrowed time player one has given them.
My other example is the strongest possible case for the game. Throughout the game lies several optional coop objectives, adding additional story and supplies upon completion. It is here that Dead Space 3 introduces divergent experiences at the same points in the game.
As you learn early on, Carver is having problems coping with the loss of his wife and child, who were transformed into Necromorphs before the start of the game. Just like Isaac and his guilt towards Nicole, Carver assumes full responsibility for losing them. The marker manipulates this guilt, tormenting Carver for the duration of the sidequests.
Veterans of the franchise should recognize the idea, as the entire second game was based off of this. This big difference is that most of the time, the person playing as Isaac does not suffer the same hallucinations, not even in cutscene form:
That’s right: Carver begins to see Nutcracker statues scattered about the marker homeworld. To Isaac, the most he’ll see in these spaces are containers for the recently departed. As things grow more intense, Carver even begins to enter his mind to confront his marker-wife, much in the way Isaac did before. Only after facing the marker’s projection of Damara does Carver strengthen his resolve to see the marker’s destroyed, viewing it as his last remaining task in life.
I’m not sure how many games have created different interpretations of a level, but Dead Space 3 really does do it well. Visceral Games created an experience that neither myself, nor my coop player had expected, and the results felt rewarding. I for one, want to see more games create a divergent event within the same space. With the increasing emphasis on graphics, I’d at least like to see that since split-screen is now the exception and not the rule.