dead space is very similar to the Fast & Furious movies. Aside from Vin Diesel starting out stealing DVD players and eventually drinking Coronas for the family, Isaac Clarke started out silent on a dingy spaceship and eventually grew wise shooting cultists in the face with a shotgun-mounted toaster. The point is that both franchises were far from what they once were, but only one of them survived to tell the tale.
Dead Space came to life as a horror title inspired by Resident Evil 4 and morphed into a co-op action shooter over the course of its own trilogy to meet EA’s sales expectations as the company wanted Necromorphs to go mainstream.
The series’ mechanical and thematic changes are at their most dramatic in 2013 dead space 3. As a third entry, it has so many overlooked ideas that it was set up for what was canceled dead space 4and with the reboot due out next year and the entire trilogy on EA Play and Xbox Game Pass, there’s no better time than now to give the maligned – but inventive – title a try.
Dead Space 3 eschews pure horror and isolation for an action-oriented narrative with co-op gameplay and weapon crafting, and upon revisiting it becomes clear that these mechanics are quintessential Dead Space. At first glance, the design might feel a bit uninspired for the time – with co-op and survival mechanics trending – but upon closer inspection it’s clear that they were a great fit for the franchise.
In co-op mode, two players control the series’ protagonist, Issac Clarke, and new character, John Carver. You can plan attacks together and hunt down Necromorphs to Hell in a simple drop-in-drop-out version of Dead Space where action replaces fear.
However, what made this co-op variant stand out was the separation of the two players; Those who controlled Carver often received different audio and visual quality, especially during the exclusive co-op missions.
Having both players working together but separating their perception and interaction with the game itself was an ingenious way to break the fourth wall. The in-game hallucinations forced both players to communicate about what they were seeing – and not seeing – at any given moment. Most co-op modes in games become a shooting gallery with an extra pair of boots on the floor, but Dead Space 3 added a co-op layer that felt like something only this franchise could pull off.
That the Carver player was the only one seeing these hallucinations left the Clarke player in the dark and created an interaction outside of the game itself, with players having their own dialogue about what’s happening on one of their screens. It’s a simple yet effective co-op design, and emphasizes the unique isolation Dead Space is known for.
The hallucination mechanic unfolded its true effect during the three co-op missions, occasionally raising its head elsewhere for a brief cutscene. Dead Space 4 could have integrated a co-op player even further into the game, as there are minor moments that drive the two players apart, rather than confining most of it to a couple of missions.
Carver is present in the story whether he’s played co-op or not, and while his inclusion led to some interesting moments, solo play reveals some fun (and unintended) cracks in the design. For example, sometimes Carver would appear from the off during a cutscene, even though he was literally nowhere to be seen moments before.
Dead Space 3’s co-op was far from perfect and heavily shifted the game’s focus to action over horror, but what this flirtation with cooperative ideas involved was a legitimately compelling way to add a twist to group play in horror games in general.
Dead Space 3 also introduced a lot of combat variety with weapon crafting. Rather than finding a variety of weapons with alternate firing options as the story progressed, players were able to build and upgrade their own weapons from the start.
The freedom to design your own weapons was a great way to emphasize creativity, as players could find weapon schematics, upgrades, different parts, and crafting resources as the story progressed, and turn each part into a unique looking weapon. This was a clever way to highlight Issac Clarke’s technical background and took resource management from previous games in a new, natural direction.
Merging two weapons from previous games together could be quite overwhelming, especially considering how many attachments and upgrade circuits could be added, but that’s what made the weapon crafting system so fun. The ability to craft a shotgun that would inflict a stat slow on enemies who could then rip their legs off with a line cutter was Dead Space at its finest.
Despite turning the player into a walking death machine, several design decisions prevented the creation of kneecap weapons in the first place – it would have been good if Dead Space 4 had attempted to re-adapt them and perfect the formula consistent with the third game in the series came so close to cracking.
For starters, there’s only one type of ammo in all of Dead Space 3, which negated the need to switch your weapons and tactics as you craft something with powerful standard and alternate fire modes, pump in your upgrade circuits, and cut You at every turn by almost all necromorphs and cultists.
Dead Space 3 director Ben Wanat also said in a 2018 interview with Eurogamer that “when you allowed players to break the primary and alternate fire pairs, it became very difficult to tune. There should have been a focus on bringing weapon balance back to perfection while still giving players plenty to tinker with. Hopefully the canceled Dead Space 4 would have targeted the weapon crafting system to rebalance it, bolstering smart players and compromising greedy ones alike.
The weapon crafting system has also been derailed by microtransactions, and while these were likely implemented due to development costs (and an IAP-lucky EA), they don’t do the burgeoning crafting system any favours.
Several weapon and suit packs – alongside opportunities to continually farm additional resources for weapon crafting – are offered to the player for real money from the start. Players could still purchase specific schematics and craft a fair amount of weapons with in-game resources, but the option to purchase resources in a linear, story-driven game created a shortcut to the entire mechanic. And left a stale aftertaste in the mouths of the players.
The upcoming Dead Space reboot undoes the inclusion of microtransactions, and preview footage reveals classic weaponry and a lack of crafting. Returning to the series’ roots means co-op, weapon-crafting, and a hard-hitting narrative about giant alien moons are out the window. Getting rid of all of this is undoubtedly a good thing for the reboot, but it highlights the mechanics and ideas that the canceled Dead Space 4 will never be able to explore now.
Dead Space 3 was a game that chased trends, but even amid the urge for more sales, there were some excellent mechanics that felt right at home in a universe that was starting to find its big, stomping feet – it is Shame the original team won’t get a chance to develop them.
I have no doubt that the Dead Space reboot will really try to modernize the original and incorporate abandoned ideas in a way that works. Nonetheless, its existence all but confirms that Dead Space 4 is lifeless and no alien space marker will bring it back.
https://www.vg247.com/dead-space-remake-versus-dead-space-4 A Dead Space remake is great, but I still wish we could see a Dead Space 4