I still remember when Dead Space came out very well. All during the development process I was very skeptical that EA could launch a new IP that was worth a damn. They’d built up a reputation of rehashing the same content over and over in existing IPs and anything new that came out was generally crap. Really? An action-horror game set in space? How good can it be? Then I played it and like many others out there I was, caught off guard. It was actually a very well made and fun game. Next came the inevitable sequel and while not as great, it was still a very enjoyable game. And of course, as EA is, now there's a third one in the pipes. I recently got to tool around with the demo on Xbox for a while and I definitely have some thoughts on it.
First and foremost, it's still a very beautiful game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely beautiful in a very different way. It's nowhere near as dark and foreboding this time around. But rather there are now neon-lit areas. Parts of it feel very non-Dead-Space-esque. But even those parts still look amazing. The sounds and voice-overs are still as superb as they were before.
Now, that being said, if this were any other franchise, that’d be ok. But this is Dead Space. One of the main reasons I loved the first game was the dark and foreboding atmosphere. Some of the settings in Dead Space 3 just break the immersion for me. I think this will be remedied when you actually get to the icy planet surface. While not dark, there’s still something very tension-creating and foreboding about a desolate icy winter landscape.
Another thing that ruins the atmosphere of the game is the ever increasing number of characters. In the first one, it was just you. Which greatly ramped up the tension and immersion. There’s this huge ship, full of these horrible monsters, and there’s no one to count on to save you if things get bad. You have no idea what’s going on, there’s all these things trying to kill you and your only thought is survival. The second Dead Space game added a couple more people, which broke down that aspect of the game somewhat. And now with the third entry in the series, there are even more people. And I never get the feeling that any of the characters are particularly worried about or scared of what is going on around them… Everyone is very nonchalant about it all: kill some monsters, go back to pointless banter, rinse and repeat.
Another great immersion builder in the first title is now little stood between you and the action as far as the screen went. There was little to no UI to distract you from what's going on in the game. Health and such were incorporated into your character’s model in a very cool and useful manner. You didn’t need to take your eyes off of the center of the screen and what was trying to eat your face to see how close you were to death. With Dead Space 3 I definitely find myself spending a lot more time in assorted menus and systems, which takes me out of the action and tension and definitely breaks the immersion.
Admittedly I’ve only been able to play the shortest bit of the opening of the game, and there is a lot more to see and do, especially once you reach the planet surface. I have some fears that the high level of immersion from the earlier entries in the series will be lost here. There has been a lot of talk and hype spread around by EA and Visceral about how amazing the co-op will be. Supposedly that’s where the real horror will come into play as the different players will experience things differently, hallucinations and whatnot, but we’ll see about that. It’s still a fun game, and it’s still on my anticipated games list, but it’s no Dead Space 1 from what I’ve seen so far. Time will tell though.