Dead Space 3, arriving Feb. 5, is taking the Dead Space series to previously unexplored territory: co-operative play. The third-person shooter/survival horror game has been only single-player experience in the past, despite the developers having intended the games to feature a co-op campaign. The drop-in/drop-out co-op mode in Dead Space 3 allows players to have a friend join them them in the story as Sgt. Carver. However, Carver does not appear with the main character Isaac Clarke in the single player version of the campaign. Each player will experience different displays of the dementia unique to Isaac and Carver, and face challenges alone while separated from one another. This new addition to the series could make it even more critically and commercially successful than ever before. On the other hand, does a co-operative mode dampen the scariness of the survival horror aspect of the series?
Undoubtedly, Dead Space is a creative recent entry into the survival horror genre. It fits the description of a survival horror game, like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but transports the setting to somewhere fresh: outer space. Instead of traipsing through narrow hallways in a mansion while fighting off the undead, players battle the Necromorphs in a claustrophobic starship. Like other survival horror games, ammunition is a precious commodity that must be scavenged for and rationed. Players must occasionally use less-than-ideal weapons, using whatever can be found in the surroundings. Also similar to other survival horror games, ghouls can be disabled by aiming for a certain area of the creature’s body. Instead of aiming for a zombie’s head, players in Dead Space should target the limbs of their opponents to slow them down.
However, the addition of a co-op campaign might alter the game’s genre. Can a game be that scary when a gamer is playing right next to someone else or talking to that person online? Isn’t one of the pleasures of these games the claustrophobia and panic that is felt when playing late at night by oneself as the narrative unfolds? Certainly, the developers thought of this when working on the co-op mode. Having players deal with some challenges while separated helps create tension and brings back the fear. An example from the game shows Carver facing the dementia in his own head, while Isaac has to defend the both of them in actual reality.
Dead Space 3 looks like it might send the Dead Space series into even greater heights of popularity and critical appreciation. It may not be as fear-inducing, but the unique co-operative campaign mode should be worth it. Even if the game re-orients itself as more of a shooter than a survival horror game, it will be the eeriest one out there.