Gamers have witnessed some genuinely terrifying moments over the years between Visceral Games’ Dead Space and Dead Space 2. We’d be more than happy to go in-depth, flesh a few out, but we also want to preserve the metaphorical eyeballs of anyone who hasn’t yet stepped behind the metallic mask of Isaac Clarke.
Because of its deep horror roots, however, it wouldn’t be wrong for fans of the series to expect something equally M-rated in Dead Space 3. Announced this month at E3 2012, the game crash-lands Engineer Clarke on the planet Tau Volantis, where he finally hopes to discover an antidote to the Necromorph scourge. The Dead Space 3 trailer, showing off some of Visceral’s early gameplay and cinematics, doesn’t appear any less, well, visceral, but with details on a brand-new co-op mode accompanying last week’s unveiling, the question has apparently been raised.
Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, the publishing arm of Electronic Arts in charge of Dead Space 3, gave a recent interview to CVG where he touched on the design changes being implemented to the third-person shooter. He states that while, yes, co-op was added to lend more accessibility to the game, it still fits within EA’s goal to continuously evolve Issac’s story while keeping Dead Space grounded as a horror pillar:
“What we’ve tried to do with each installment is tell a different story about Isaac but at the same time bring in new features and ways to turn the game into a more connected experience.
“… so we embraced [the co-op] idea and we tried to open up the accessibility of the IP a little bit by adding a little bit more action, but not undermining the horror. We can’t not be a horror game because that’s what Dead Space is.”
Gibeau didn’t express whether or not co-op might appear as a concession in the eyes of those who view Dead Space as defined by certain brand of horror – the isolating, alone-in-the-dark variety – but he’s convinced that the new direction of the series won’t alienate its original fan base. Doing so would be bad business:
“…we definitely do not want to piss off our fans by taking it too far from horror.
“We’re very self aware of that – we listen to the fans and we hear them. We’re going to be releasing more assets over the coming months that show you how deep the horror is. It’s definitely not getting away from gore or horror, but at the same time it’s opening up to a larger audience by adding some elements.”
The bottom line, says Gibeau, is the profit line; it all comes down to giving the publisher a reason to invest in the game:
“…ultimately you need to get to audience sizes of around five million to really continue to invest in an IP like Dead Space.
“Anything less than that and it becomes quite difficult financially given how expensive it is to make games and market them.”
It’s hard to say whether or not gamers will be put off or encouraged by Gibeau’s sentiments. It’s clear that Visceral and EA know how Dead Space is perceived – and that its success is inexorably tied to that perception – yet we don’t have to look far for examples of co-op sending fright off into the night.
Take Resident Evil 5: occasionally an AI-buddy adventure but traditionally an offline, solo horror experience, the Resident Evil franchise was dramatically changed when RE 5 added a similar drop-in/drop-out online co-op format. The game was overwhelmingly received as an action-oriented deviation from the series’ bedrock, and it’s a crossroads Capcom now finds themselves facing with the stylistic approach of Resident Evil 6.
The development process is still young for Dead Space 3, however, and so we’re hoping the best of both worlds – more customers, more exposure in the public eye without a crisis of identity – is still within reach. One encouraging example Gibeau did cite was Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. The 3D Alien-prequel-in-spirit stacked itself with A-list talent (Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, and Idris Elba), was marketed intensely by 20th Century Fox through social networks and mainstream media outlets, and still received reviews like that from our own Ben Kendrick hailing its horrifying subject matter.
Ranters, where do you think the addition – and emphasizing of co-op will place Dead Space 3 as a true horror experience? Should companies draw a line between accessibility- and sales-searching, and keeping their franchises geared towards their core fans? If so, where?
Dead Space 3 releases in February of 2013 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
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