The way people talk about Dead Space 3, I thought I was in for a new Resident Evil 6. I was worried that my friend had dragged me into another 20 hours of mundane hell that would leave me completely numb and miserable, barely in able to Keep my hands on the controller as we unloaded seven clips to a single enemy. And this makes me want to play more. Dead Space 3 has it all – a pseudo-gravity gun that now lets you throw explosive rounds at your partner, workbenches where you can design stun guns that send Necromorphs and all their limbs flying, and zero-G space sections full of homing mines to shoot . Or you can let them hit your buddy and then feign ignorance. “My bad, mate. Couldn’t find it.”
As I probably should have guessed, the internet blew it out of proportion. It scored a respectable 78 on Metacritic, but that didn’t stop it from developing its reputation as the one bad egg in an otherwise great survival horror trilogy. It was dragged through the mud to be different and as we all know new is scary but 3 isn’t even that new. I had mostly heard, even echoed in some reviews, that it ditched horror for action, but it feels a lot like the first two games, only now with a co-op.
Expected that having a bud badge together lightens the atmosphere a bit, but it doesn’t lessen the body horror and hopelessness of finding scattered audio logs of frantic crew members in their final moments. The dingy corridors are still lit by backup lights, leaving you in the dark as your suit does the heavy lifting as you illuminate your surroundings, and around every corner there’s still something sinister waiting to pounce on you. There are the odd action moments, like much of the prologue and the first chapter, but these are simply segments to get us back into the horror. It’s like Resident Evil 4 with the feel of 5’s co-op.
Much of it is built with cooperation in mind, which is impressive. So many multiplayer games feel like single-player experiences with a friend clumsily thrown in. Even Resident Evil 6 had that problem with the Ada campaign – if you were player two, you’d phase out of existence during the cutscenes, while many set pieces felt too narrow and awkward to fit both of you in, meaning one of you guys would spend half the time teleporting to catch up. But here you have a name, appear in cutscenes, and there are puzzles designed with two people in mind. It goes double for many of the more action-heavy standoffs.
In one case, I had to solve a puzzle with cargo instead of small pieces of cardboard. I sat there trying to push the two pieces together for a good five waves – I couldn’t figure it out. My friend was overwhelmed by the Necromorphs and succumbed to his dwindling ammo.
Then we switched. He got through the puzzle incredibly quickly, which admittedly made me feel like an idiot. Maybe I am. But while he rambled on with something that took a little more brainpower, I whipped out my shotgun and cleaned up the room with limbs, guts, blood and the remains of these mutated crewmates. The idea of a horde-style stand-off seems more action-heavy, right? It didn’t feel that way. The pressure to keep my friend alive while fighting this growing onslaught while my ammo counter dwindled to zero was terrifying, just in a different way than the jump scares and atmosphere of previous games.
It’s still a scary game, but maybe not to the extent that it gives me nightmares like the first one did when I was a kid. Right now you can enjoy it with someone else, like going to the movies and holding hands with your best friend through every jump scare. Much of the hate, the reputation that has seemingly put it on par with Dino Crisis 3 as the game we don’t talk about, and the stigma surrounding its dumping are all undeserved ideas pushed by a vocal minority on the internet. Shock.
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