The Dead Space 3 release date of Feb. 5 is fast approaching. Fans of the survival horror series have been anxiously awaiting its arrival, eager to begin dismembering the persistent necromorph threat.
Visceral Games first introduced the critically popular series in 2008 with the intention of terrifying gamers and earning a reputation in the horror genre. Dead Space was widely successful and became a respected name synonymous with gore, despair, and unparalleled fear.
But Dead Space 3 will be quite unlike its predecessors. It was announced during E3 2012 that the campaign mode would include a drop-in/drop-out co-op mode. Instead of navigating the haunting, unknown void alone, Isaac Clarke can now battle alongside Earthgov Sergeant John Carver. Considering Visceral’s proven brilliance in the previous two installments it may seem foolish to question the co-op addition. However, here are five elements the co-op should have to be a hit with new and old fans.
What good is co-op without a little rivalry? Although co-op means cooperation, players should still be able to talk stats. Statistics could include who killed the most necromorphs, who saved the other player more, who had to share more resources, who did more damage to bosses, etc. Competition between players adds incentive to play co-op and sprinkles a little disgruntle among the gamers. Disgruntle adds to anxiety, anxiety adds to fear, and viola! Visceral Games has a good balance of support and suspicion in a suspenseful co-op.
Although Dead Space 3 is a sci-fi fantasy, the co-op should still offer real threats and demand brainpower. Players should have to strategize together under intense and relaxed moments. Solving puzzles should be more difficult in co-op than single player. There should be more necromorphs, challenging both players to stay alive instead of encouraging one player to simply act as a supplement for the other. Resources should not double in co-op but remain the same as in single player. Players should be forced to work together sharing ammo and health. With restricted resources, players will be encouraged to strategize more. This will also challenge co-op relationships. Does Isaac really only have two health packs like he says? Carver says he only has a little flamethrower fuel left, but he previously lied about the shotgun ammo. What if instead of simply dying or being dismembered, dead players became necromorphs and attacked their partners? If Visceral is going to create co-op they should create one that demands true cooperation. Realism will keep the game scary and unpredictable.
Visceral has already announced that co-op mode will reward players with new dialogue, cut scenes, story elements, and collectibles. It’s expected that trophies/achievements will be rewarded for those wading the co-op waters. Perhaps a few “Easter eggs” referencing other horror media involving cooperation (for example John Carpenter’s The Thing). Unique weapons, armor, or anything that distinguishes co-op achievements are a nice pat on the back for players and an incentive for the lone-wolf gamer.
While one player spends 20 minutes at the weapons bench reallocating nodes on their plasma cutter, the other player should be free to explore. This seems likely since the co-op mode is drop-in/drop-out. Players should be allowed to explore on their own when bored or irritated with their friend. Gamers should struggle not to lose each other in fierce battles or be separated in labyrinthine buildings. Allowing players to explore with or without each other adds to the difficulty and fear. Perhaps one player stumbles into a room only to realize he is being stalked by an unknown danger with their partner floors below. Perhaps one player never leaves the other’s side, dependent on him for survival until they are separated by necromorphs. Unpredictability will keep co-op scary and give players the freedom to drift will create an air of uncertainty.
It’s unlikely Dead Space 3 won’t offer all, if not some, of these elements. The co-op mode’s biggest challenge may be keeping the game intense and terrifying. But perhaps this concern of co-op being unable to coexist with fear is silly. Perhaps fans look forward to co-op and are relieved to have a friend there to stymie the fright. It may be the case that Visceral does such an outstanding job in developing an atmosphere uninhabitable for comfort that co-op or no co-op, the game will be grisly all the same. If the other elements are included and excel, Dead Space 3 is sure to be a success.