This month, Only Single Player will be giving you a daily feature, whereby each writer will explain one of their three games chosen as most anticipated for 2013. Kicking off today, on the 15th, and concluding on the 31st, OnlySP will cover a wide range of genres and titles, including everything from console exclusives right down to Xbox Live Arcade titles. Make sure to offer your own opinions on each article, whether you agree with the chosen decisions, as well as your top three anticipated games of the year. Let’s begin.
When Dead Space released back in 2008, it did so with widespread commercial and critical acclaim, selling over 2 million copies. With the Resident Evil franchise moving further into action-shooter territory, EA Redwood Shores (now Visceral Games) saw an opportunity to encroach on the survival-horror genre. Known for The Godfather and The Simpsons games, there was an initial aura of scepticism in regards to early development, as experience within the horror field was severely limited.
Casting players as Isaac Clarke, a ship systems engineer, gamers were tasked with battling ‘necromorphs’, zombie-like monsters reincarnated from the dead. Combat was unique in that such creatures could only be dispatched through dismemberment, forcing strategic planning and careful approach.
The entire game took place on the USG Ishimura, an interstellar mining ship that could crack planets open, whilst continuing to operate from space. Despite the fixed location, the monotonous colours and constant darkness only served to elevate the fear and anxiety, with no respite available for those of faint-heart.
Immediate similarities were made between Dead Space and Resident Evil 4; however, I felt the former excelled in gameplay design due to the lack of a heads-up-display. All critical information is relayed to the player via holographic panels, including displays on Isaac’s suit and weapons. With the knowledge that an inventory check could leave you open to attack, player immersion was kept at a maximum, ensuring tension remained constant.
Whilst some may argue that Dead Space isn’t a true survival-horror experience, due to its heavy focus on action and shooting, the plethora of mixed weapons on offer cannot be denied. Cleverly reworked from improvised mining tools, players could sever enemies limbs in a variety of manners, including the use of a rotary saw, a high-energy contact beam, and a flamethrower for when things needed to get… hot.
Similar to Resident Evil 4’s classic merchant (“What are you buying?”), Dead Space offered players the opportunity to purchase new weapons and upgrade their gear, through both an in-game store and workbench respectively. The odd puzzle was also thrown into the mix, requiring a mix of both kinesis and stasis powers. This allowed Isaac to manipulate the environment and use it as a weapon, rather than having it serve as a backdrop to the ensuing combat.
Dead Space 2 released three years later, in 2011, and continued the trend of combining a third-person shooter with survival-horror elements. The scope of the game was far superior to that of the original, taking place on the Sprawl, a custom-built city above Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
Whilst the core gameplay on offer remained essentially the same, Visceral Games chose to add a multiplayer element to the franchise, allowing players to control both human engineers, as well as the much-despised necromorphs. This feature has been dropped from Dead Space 3, with Visceral Games choosing to replace player-vs.-player combat with a more co-operative experience.
The main issue fans have shared prior to the game’s launch is that by allowing an ally to accompany you throughout the campaign, the sense of fear and isolation will be absent. As a huge fan of the survival-horror genre therefore, why have I chosen Dead Space 3 as one of my most anticipated games of 2013?
Dead Space has always been a cinematically driven franchise, one that excels in epic storytelling, despite the confinements and linearity of each game’s campaign. This is due to a clear developer vision, and an outstanding design team, whereby each room Isaac visits has its own story to tell. Whilst some may feel Dead Space 3 is doing a ‘Resident Evil 6’ by streamlining combat and increasing accessibility, the choice of location will play a great part in ensuring survival-horror elements remain at the forefront of Visceral Games’ priorities.
Taking place on Tau Volantis, a frozen planet, the opportunities for jump-scares and psychological isolation is massive. Some felt that Dead Space 2 lost effect in frightening players, due to an increased colour palette, which makes the monotonous frozen environments of Dead Space 3’s abandoned planet all the more welcoming.
Thankfully, Isaac Clarke, and his co-op buddy John Carver, have increased combat potential, with the ability to roll and take cover now present. Whilst some may argue that increased manoeuvrability only serves to remove horror elements from the franchise, I feel that such a decision will help to alleviate player frustration.
Frank Gibeau, EA Labels president, said in an interview with CVG that Visceral Games are “adding a little bit more action, but not undermining the horror. We can’t not be a horror game because that’s what Dead Space is.”
Some fans felt that by removing the fixed camera prevalent throughout the Resident Evil franchise, Resident Evil 4 would be appealing to a wider demographic, at the sacrifice of its survival-horror roots. Instead, it achieved both.
As Frank explains, Dead Space needs to attract a larger audience if it is to become an economically viable IP for the immediate future, “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.”
Economically speaking therefore, co-op appears to be a logical addition to ensure the player base opens up to new audiences. However, I also feel it will serve to increase the quality and player experience of the game. Surprisingly, my girlfriend is a massive fan of the Dead Space franchise, completing both games, as well as the appalling Xbox Live Arcade game, Dead Space: Ignition. To be able to experience the Dead Space lore along with another passionate fan, and my girlfriend no less, it provides a spark that promotes discussion amongst the Dead Space community.
Previously, my only entertainment in discussing Dead Space came from watching someone play the game, and laughing as they encountered each scare with uncanny glee. Now I am able to have that experience alongside someone, not separate from them.
Some feel that the addition of exclusive story elements only available in co-op will detract from the single player experience, however, I strongly disagree. I despise games that include co-op whereby developers cast players as the same character, regardless of narrative structure. Halo 4, whilst an outstanding game, forces each player to control Master Chief in 4-player co-op, completely disregarding the refined story 343 Industries established throughout production.
Dead Space 3 finally gives Player 2 an established identity, rather than simply being ‘Player 2’, increasing replayability. Having completed Halo 4 solo, there is no impetus for me to return for a co-op experience, only to face the same scenarios. With Dead Space 3, I will be intrigued to return to the narrative after a solo run, if only to see how different the story plays out.
The inclusion of an inception-like character dementia will not only force me to repeat the game in co-op, but also cause me to clamour to play as the secondary protagonist. Carver will often witness hallucinations that Isaac can’t see, and vice versa, causing players to battle horrors independent from each other. It’s from this mental instability that the horror truly lies. How can you rely on your co-op partner for support, when you are fighting terrors they cannot possibly give you aid against?
For example, in one scenario Carver attempts to open a locked door, but succumbs to delusional images that render him incapacitated. As Isaac, the player is forced to defend Carver from a surge of necromorphs alone, whilst Carver attempts to recover from his nightmarish visions so that the two can escape. It’s an ingenious implementation, which is sure to cause screams, shouts, and curses.
By far my most anticipated gameplay feature of Dead Space 3 however, is the reworked weapons bench. Here, players will be able to create and customize weapons from scratch, using parts acquired from the surrounding environment. Want to attach a flamethrower to a military-grade assault rifle? Do it. How about a rivet gun that fires electrical bolts, shocking opponents on impact? Build it. What about a launcher that shoots flaming buzzsaw’s which incinerate enemies at a mere touch? Craft it.
With Dead Space 3 only weeks away, my expectations for the game couldn’t be higher, and that’s why it makes a spot on my list for most anticipated games of 2013. Make sure to check back each day for a new offering from all our writers, and specifically the 20th for the next on my list. If you agree or disagree, make sure to let me know on Twitter, as well as providing your most anticipated games of the year.
As my return to the role of Isaac Clarke approaches, I’ll make sure that I have my girlfriend on standby should I need a helping hand. Initially however, I’ll play Dead Space 3 how it was meant to be played.
Only Single Player.