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I may have made a bit of an inflammatory remark in my last blog regarding Dead Space 3, what with calling it "inevitably disappointing" and all. Regardless, I stand by that statement. After all the news that has come out thus far discussing Dead Space 3, absolutely none of it has made me want to actually play it; in fact, it's had the opposite effect, turning away what was once a loyal fan. This is saying a lot, considering that Dead Space used to be one of the only series I would ever admit to being a “fanboy” of. This is not because I merely hate change, however. Believe it or not, I'm not that closed-minded. I don't hate all change, I just hate change that's stupid.
I'm going to tackle my big issues with Dead Space 3 shortly, but I'd like to start of small to get warmed up. First of all, I don't like the new dodge and cover mechanics. These new mechanics were largely necessitated due to the introduction of new human enemies, but I don't like them either. Dead Space isn't Gears of War, and I know some of you are probably sighing about the fact that I made that comparison, but it's not and it shouldn't try to be. Dead Space has included human antagonists before, but it was never really up to Isaac to kill them by doing the standard “combat roll and hump the wall” routine. They usually died due to either convenient necromorph intervention (see Nicole Daniels) or with plain-old ingenuity (see the EarthGov soldiers in Dead Space 2, Chapter 13). All of these elements made sense with the fact that Isaac is not a trained soldier; he's just a 40 year-old everyman with the worst luck ever, and the fact that he had to rely on either his wits or his own indecisive fortune gave credence to the idea that Isaac was vulnerable.
Let me repeat that last word, maybe italicize it and put it in all capital letters: VULNERABLE. Vulnerability is the principle element needed to make horror – if Isaac has all the tools and abilities needed to face any challenge presented to him, he's no longer vulnerable. And if he's no longer vulnerable, it's no longer scary. And if it's no longer scary, it's no longer Dead Space. GameInformer called the addition of new human enemies and mechanics as “two games in one.” I call it “losing focus.”
Which brings me to my next point: EA's horrifying revelation that they intend to “broaden Dead Space's audience.” Let's take a look at a quote from EA Labels President, Frank Gibeau:
"In general we're thinking about how we make this a more broadly appealing franchise, because ultimately you need to get to audience sizes of around five million to really continue to invest in an IP like Dead Space. Anything less than that and it becomes quite difficult financially, given how expensive it is to make games and market them."
For sometimes, there are no appropriate words.
FIVE. MILLION. That's freaking insane, especially when you consider that Dead Space 2, in it's prime, sold around two million copies; a good number, undoubtably, but a number substantially lower than five million. So, more or less, this is EA's way of saying “LOL we're not making Dead Space 4.”
I'm starting to get really sick and tired of “broadening appeal” basically translating to “rip off Gears of War.” Yes, I brought up the Gears of War comparison again, go ahead and sigh about it. Dead Space is a horror franchise, and horror games, by their very nature, will always have a niche audience. Dead Space 1 was incredibly fortunate in the fact that it managed to break out and become as mainstream as it did, and I don't feel it necessary to “mainstream-ify” it anymore.
But enough beating around the bush, let's get to the heart of the matter, shall we? I hate the Dead Space 3's co-op mechanic. Hate it. Despise it. Detest it. Absolutely loathe it. If it were a person, I'd hit it with my car. I've heard people say that a co-op mechanic was originally intended for Dead Space 1, but it was cut. I've found no evidence to corroborate this claim, but if it is indeed true, then I'm glad they cut it and it should have stayed that way. Simply put, Dead Space is a horror franchise, and you can't have horror and co-op at the same time. No. You can't. Don't try and tell me you can, because you can't, at least not reliably. Yes, my brother and I were scared the first time we came across a Witch in Left 4 Dead. Yes, we pissed ourselves when we accidentally disturbed and it proceeded to attack. Then we killed it in about five seconds, patched ourselves up, and we were never scared of it again.
I have to wonder if EA really understands this, though. Another quote, this time from EA Marketing Executor, Laura Miele:
"People felt far more comfortable playing it with someone else than they did doing it on their own. Personally, I would rather go to a scary movie with my husband rather than sit at home with the lights out watching one on my own."
You have ten seconds to look through that quote and pick out the one word that nearly gave me a stroke.
If you guessed “comfortable,” then give yourself a pat on the back, because you've won. It should probably noted that “horror” and “comfort” are completely incompatible emotions by their very nature, and I was actually going to dedicate a few sentences explaining why, but come on, I think you know why. Yes, horror movies are something you watch with other people; usually another person who happens to be an attractive member of the opposite sex, and who you want to cuddle up next to you in fear while you pretend for once in your life to be a protective alpha-male, and maybe I'm starting to get a little too personal with this analogy, but the point is you don't go into a horror movie with the same mindset as you do a horror video game, for they are two completely different things. If I were to compare horror games to any other form of entertainment, I'd probably say the most apt comparison would be reading a horror book; an activity, by the way, you would most certainly enjoy alone.
Fortunately for people like me, it's still an option to play the game all by my lonesome. Unfortunately for people like me, we'll miss out on key plot details and character developments only available in co-op. I'd like to adequately express how much I am not okay with this, but doing so could cost me several hundred dollars and would probably be considered a felony in most states, so let me just reassure you that I'M NOT ****ING OKAY WITH THIS. Now, I'm usually not the kind of infuriating hipster gamer who quotes Benjamin Croshaw and thinks he's made a bulletproof point, but I'd like to, just this once, cite him on this, because he's phrased my thoughts on this issue better than I can.
“It's a matter of debate in my mind as to whether a multiplayer game should attempt any kind of story focus at all when the players will be busy talking amongst themselves or simulating sex acts to impress each other. It seems particularly unfair for the concluding episode of a thus-far single player trilogy to suddenly turn up its nose at anyone who turned up stag. Some games are good for socializing, but very few of them also try to immerse you in a linear story, because that's something people want when other people aren't around and they don't have to keep up an image of aloof disinterest to seem cool. Two people do not simultaneously read a book, unless one of them is under the age of five, and you wouldn't design a book to be read in such a manner.”
With all this in mind, I've come to the saddening conclusion that I will not be purchasing Dead Space 3. It pains me to do this because I have no qualms with Visceral Games. Visceral Games is a great studio, and their work with the Dead Space franchise has been commendable in the highest degree. But I cannot, in good conscious, pay money for this game knowing that any of it will be going to EA and further encouraging their deplorable practices with the developers they own.
Someone had to say all this.