The Dead Space 3 Strawman
February 24, 2013 Leave a comment
Scary? Horror? Thats not the issue here.
Sleight Of Hand
Just like Devil May Cry fans were supposedly entitled whiners because of “new Dante’s look”, fans of Dead Space are subject to a similar misdirection campaign about Dead Space 3 not being “scary” or “horror”.
Of course DS fans aren’t as numerous as DMC fans because the franchise just didn’t have time to mature in the same way that DMC did and so the misdirection is largely overlooked or brushed aside. Articles are being written about how “Dead Space never was horror”, and videos are made that detail how every player of the game ever has been misguided to what DS actually is.
I’m surprised that Forbes writer Erik Kain jumped on the bandwagon with his article called “‘Dead Space’ Was Never All That Scary” because he just recently wrote an article against the DmC misdirection called “Upset ‘DmC’ Fans Are Entitled Because That’s What We Call People Who Complain About Video Games”.
In that article EK writes this:
But I can imagine a series of games that I do love very much—the Souls games by From Software, for instance—and I can certainly imagine how I would feel if it Dark Souls 2 changed in ways that hurt the series: betrayed and upset.
Well, yes, Erik thats exactly the feelings of the Dead Space fans.
I know, I know, Dead Space 2 was already introducing the changes so one could argue that the fans are late to the party, but the fact is that the changes never went this far.
What one calls the “logical conclusion of the franchise”, DS fans call the betrayal of its core principles.
This isn’t about if the game is scary, or horror, at all. People on forums might have framed it this way because they lack the knowledge or words to properly articulate it, but if you actually read those threads you can see that they mean specific things across the board that are related to core principles of the game.
Was Dead Space ever “scary”? Depends on the person, I’m one of those that got startled today playtesting MY OWN SKYRIM MOD when my character unsheathed his weapon in first person.
Was it horror? I don’t know, there are a lot of types of horror out there, Dead Space specifically deals with body-horror (The Thing, Body Snatchers, etc)
John Carpenter’s The Thing, looks familiar doesn’t it?
Dead Space 1 vs 3
Superficially Dead Space can be called a third person shooter, but it has some very interesting oddities that make the first game unique amongst its stylistically similar brethren like Gears Of War. Erik Kain is right, Dead Space was always about shooting monsters in space, but it was also about doing it -smartly-
Dead Space was the first third person shooter (that I’m aware of) to successfully subvert the typical spray and pray gunplay. Dead Space’s shtick is “strategic dismemberment”, the necromorphs do not die by just pumping them full of lead. Additionally head-shots, an FPS/TPS staple, were made to enrage the monster rather than kill it as any shooter-player would expect.
To facilitate this kind of gameplay, the protagonist wields weapons that are more about cutting rather than projectiles. Issac Clarkes iconic Plasma Cutter shots a “blade” of plasma that cuts the limbs of enemies and can be rotated 90° in combat to perform strikes with the optimal configuration. Enemies don’t die by just pumping them full of lead, playing Dead Space like Doom will only give you grief.
The Plasma Cutter from the first Dead Space
This methodical play focused on exploiting the enemies weaknesses (its extremities) while avoiding body parts that would make the situation worse (head), was what set it apart from every other run of the mill action shooter. Weapon impacts staggered opponents sufficiently to land those shots and gave you enough time to line up the next when switching configurations on your weapon.
What I and the fans liked about the weapons in Dead Space was that they felt authentic and thematically fitting. Isaac Clarke is an engineer, he works with tools, not guns, what better way of showing this by giving him weapons that are tools rather than standard guns? In fact, the Pulse Rifle is hands down the -worst- weapon in the game as controlled dismemberment becomes almost impossible to perform.
With this kind of gameplay Dead Space couldn’t throw enemies at you like other games did, it was very restrained in enemy placements and level design. At any give time there were maybe 4 enemies on screen at maxium, otherwise it became impossible to deal with, even with stasis. Dead Space never overstayed its welcome with its jump scares and you never could quite judge where the next necromorph could come from. It was at the same time fair and never relied on the old Doom tricks in spawning enemies on all sides, or gave you the ability to safeguard against being surrounded (the mighty stomp of Isaac). Ammo was a big deal, you have a limited inventory and all guns take different kinds of ammo, and you wanted to manage your resources so you don’t run out of ammo in the boss-encounter.
This all contributed to the tension and survival aspects of the game, Dead Space felt like an authentic game with an authentic protagonist in a believable scenario using believable tools.
Now what about Dead Space 3 in comparison?
DS3 chucks all that out of the window and replaces all weapons with extremely overpowered crafting. Not only that, it makes the old tools far less desirable to use by limiting their standard utility. The change of weapon configuration (rotation cuff) now must be installed in the “underbarrel” attachment slot for example, sacrificing it.
Gee, I wonder, do I want the rotate-able Line Gun or a Line Gun with underslung Rocketlauncher? Let me think about that…
So what we get from DS3 is a straight up shooter with some creative weapon combinations (flamethrower buzz-saw, spear shotgun, etc). It chucks enemies at you 5-6 at a time, spawning them on all sides Doom Style and you aren’t even fighting only necromorphs this time around. Theres other people with guns too! Oh joy.
Strategical dismemberment is still there, but the game isn’t centered around that anymore, the Pulse Rifle or Shotgun are absolutely fine and do their job extremely well. Enemies move a lot faster and are generally more aggressive. Impacts don’t stagger them as much anymore either. No specialized ammo anymore, universal ammo is where it’s at.
Gone is the feeling of struggling against a threat and a fight for survival, its replaced instead by mashing buttons to shoot mans faster with crazier weapons.
In effect DS3 sarifices the methodical, tense combat and level/encounter design its predecessor had for mindless shooting with no real nuance. Sure, on higher difficulties the Necromorphs gain additional health and the game becomes more “challenging” that way, but thats not the same when you change the core-concept of combat, all you did was make me waste more ammo and actually use stasis.
Triple Grenade-Launcher Stasis Shotgun, because why the fuck not at this point.
Imagine if someone took Dark Souls and made its combat more “streamlined” in effect saying that it was always more about the action, hacking and slashing anyways, so the “logical conclusion” was to make it more like God Of War. Would we get arguments that people just didn’t understand Dark Souls properly?
Thats whats being done to the Dead Space franchise.
Instead of embracing its methodic combat and survival aspects, the developers instead embraced its superficial elements while squandering its unique potential at becoming the first Dark Souls with guns.
Some people are justifiably pissed at it.
It was never about “scary”.