Dead Space 3 Hands-On - The Co-Op game
Dead Space 3 Hands-On - The Co-Op game
For some a co-operative experience is just a game you're playing while a friend is there to help. For these folks their co-op partner is an extension of their gun - a secondary target for foes, an alternate attacker... and an extra ammo burden.
Bosses and puzzles also change to further challenge the team of two - where in the solo campaign you might be required to lower a space fuse and then crank the space generator, in co-op one of you must hold the space fuse down while the other does the cranking. This seems superficially simple, but because enemies attack you as this happens it becomes the role of the cranker to protect you both (because if the fuse holder lets go you have to start the process over from the beginning). Extra enemies make boss fights in narrow now crowded spaces tougher to deal with - and thanks to the game's randomisation of the enemies it throws at you, these can already be tough.
For them, a game like Dead Space 3 in co-op is probably a fairly tense experience - careful room breaches, synchronised limb-shots and perfect boss kills. The game has instanced ammunition and medkits, so they wouldn't feel the need to discuss ammo counts or health levels during down time - but it has shared salvage loot (the currency used to build new weapon parts) which encourages a competitive sort of exploration.
I'm not one of those players, though.
When playing singleplayer, I am as serious as one could get. I creep slowly through doorways, stomp every body I see (lest they get up again, a habit I learned from the first two games) and I jump at every damn sound - even ones I already recognise (another habit from the first games). In an elevator I will stand in the very centre while wildly swinging my gun between the roof and the door just in case something goes wrong.
In co-op, my partner and I ducked and spun, space-crumping to an imaginary song when in elevators, and elsewhere we raced each other to get salvage and kills. Cutscenes were like an MST3K screening as we waxed idiotically about everything from transit systems to the inefficiency of the sanitation department.
Is it Dead Space 3's fault that we took an otherwise very serious game - and trust me, when DS3 wants to be scary it's definitely capable - and chuckled away the fear?
I think it is.
There are a number of reasons why Dead Space 3 is at fault here - and the first is the nature of the co-operative horror experience. Laughter is a coping device people will resort to when startled or scared. Two blokes like myself and Ausgamers' correspondent Naren Hooson aren't going to shriek when confronted with something scary - instead it's a natural reaction for us to make jokes.
Further still, movies like Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs Evil have parodied many of the classic horror movie tropes in ways which easily facilitate humour as a substitute for terror.
More importantly though are the co-op games this generation has brought to the fore - the Borderlands series being the preeminent example. Games which allow players to experience a rich game world through the lens of humour while giving players the tools to communicate positively in a competitive/co-operative environment are hugely popular - and therefore they are a common way of understanding how a co-op game should work.
Hell, if anyone should understand this, it's Visceral Games - their current other project is Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, a game in a series that revolves almost entirely around the concept of playing co-operatively with a partner. TDC is filled with humour, and due to the nature of the genre (a third person shooter) it shares a startlingly familiar perspective as Dead Space 3 - a hard connection to ignore.
Visceral works hard to make the co-op game a worthwhile experience for Dead Space fans though. Carver has his own detailed backstory, and his dark past plays out during downtime as Isaac and John discuss the mission at hand.
During these moments - when the tempo slows to give the player some breathing room - John and Isaac talk, and it's clear some serious thought has been put into the characterisation of the gruff space marine. I'll probably wind up playing co-op just to find out his full deal.
In the cutscenes the game attempts to insert your new partner - the soldier with a difficult past Sergeant John Carver - into cutscenes to keep things fluid. This means that cutscenes are different between the co-op and solo campaign - but not by very much. In fact, Carver's existence in the cut-scenes is reminiscent of how people comically photoshop themselves into pictures of famous people.
It's especially jarring when you've already seen the cutscene in question - not needing to watch the focal point of the scene to know what's going on you're able to search for Carver - and to say his presence can seem illogical in some situations is being very kind.
For example, at one point the series' hero Isaac Clarke stumbles across some Unitoligist nutjobs and gets shot. It's very early in the game, so don't give me no spoiler ****. In the co-op, Carver gets shot too and the pair of them fall to the ground. The aforementioned nutbags grab a now shot Isaac and drag him over for a bit of the old James-Bond-style "let's explain our evil plan to you" before he escapes and falls into a mass grave. When Isaac wakes, Carver is there.
This isn't the only inconsistency, and it lead to quite a bit of discussion about what actually happened - and we never came to a satisfactory conclusion.
The thing is, when you're playing the solo game it plays like pure Dead Space. It's dark and quiet and threatening, peppered with moments of frantic firing and panicked backing away. I made it about three hours into the game without ever reaching the Hoth-esque Tau Volantis - and from what I could tell I wouldn't for some time yet.
My solo demo ended with a gorgeous free-floating anti-grav sequence with a surprising amount of freedom. As long as he could manage his oxygen Isaac was able to explore the outside of the disabled star cruiser you start the game on. It's almost the direct opposite of the annoying fall-while-dodging-debris sequence I spoke of in my last hands-on - it's the silence of space, the rhythmic noise of Isaac's rebreather, the beautiful contrast of space and a field of debris... and then the necromorphs attack.
Dead Space 3 solo definitely looks like a Dead Space experience - and I can't wait for that. I'll play the co-op portion too - but it'll be after I play the whole game solo, and I recommend others do the same.
Comments on this Article
Tue 22 Jan 13, 9:13pmLogic_Incarnate
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Tue 22 Jan 13, 10:30pmBAllZ
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