This was not the claustrophobic, frightening adventure that the series was once known for, I thought. Isaac Clarke and his combat buddy, John Carver, exchanged witty banter as they unloaded round after round into their Necromorph attackers. Carver chuckled and dropped an F-bomb. Gears of War-style machismo was in the air.
After the conference, I got to play a bit more of Dead Space 3 solo, and in coop mode, to find out what EA is driving at. Yes, Dead Space 3 is inherently not as scary when you’re playing with a partner, but alone, it’s still a solitary adventure. There are no AI teammates in single-player, so players can still skulk around by their lonesome if they want to be spooked. And the co-op serves its own purpose: With Carver in tow, players can witness a bit more drama between the characters and see cutscenes that they otherwise wouldn’t.
But what about the relentless gunplay in the co-op demo? After all, a hallmark of the series was the need to conserve ammo and pick your shots with care, and the fact that you couldn’t let bullets fly increased the fear factor.
In an interview, John Calhoun, one of the game’s producers, said EA focused on big battles at E3 because it makes for a more bombastic presentation. EA does want to include big battles, and will ramp up players’ stockpiles accordingly, but he assured me that resources will still be scarce at times. Either way, expect to see a bigger emphasis on action in Dead Space 3.
In the demo, Isaac and Carver fight a spider-like boss who charges at players when agitated, a massive drilling tool that spins out of control and threatens to slice players up, and an even bigger beast who eventually swallows Isaac whole. (The demo cuts away just Isaac slides into the creature’s digestive system).
Along the way, players blast away Necromorphs and trade bullets with human opponents–members of the Unitarian church who think the Necromorphs are a higher evolution of mankind. To make the action a bit faster, players now have the ability to roll away from attacks.
Calhoun defended the direction of the series. Isaac has been fighting the Necromorphs for a while, Calhoun said, so he’s more capable than he was as a lowly engineer in the original game. “Isaac is now less afraid of his opponents, so we have to make a game that makes sense for his character,” said Calhoun.
I’m still not convinced that adding more white-knuckle thrills is the answer. My concern is that the need to accommodate co-op in the same campaign as single-player will have an effect on the game’s design. It’ll require more open areas and bigger battles instead of drawn-out psychological scares. Also, the simple fact that you can call in a buddy to help you with trouble spots can feel like a security blanket.
After hearing EA out, I haven’t given up on Dead Space 3 yet, but I’m still worried for its future.