It has been quite a while since a game stirred up as much negative press before its release as Dead Space 3.
It seemed like every couple of months, more information was unveiled to the gaming press that was like chum in shark-infested waters. Writers all over the internet, myself included, chomped on what looked to be an epic episode of watering down a series to save face with the ones who financed it.
Now that the game is available, it looks like the paranoia was not entirely unfounded. The horror series that sliced its way into our hearts is gone, and unless this shell of a game becomes the money-printing resource Electronic Arts has demanded it be, we have seen the end of the Necromorphs.
Admitting that one of your favorite game series has taken a turn for the worse is never easy. I have found it typically happens when a franchise gets stretched beyond the realm of video games and attempts to branch into other mediums like movies and comics. Dead Space started as a new IP, a horrifying tale of an engineering ship gone way the hell wrong and the poor bastard named Isaac Clarke on an ill-fated rescue mission. From the moment the quarantine was instilled in the first cabin of the Ishimura, you were never able to get comfortable in Isaac’s skin. Mutated creatures who were once your colleagues stalked you through the vents of the ship and sought new ways to tear you to pieces with every section of the ship you traversed. It was an experience in terror you would remember long after you finished the game.
Trouble is, like every single fucking game that sells a decent chunk of copies, Electronic Arts smelled a cash cow. The sequel was Aliens to Alien, and I am one of those weirdos who enjoyed the first more than the second in both series in our discussion. Dead Space 2 still occupies a prominent spot on my shelf, and were it not included on the PS3 edition, Extraction would also be there. I don’t own copies of the two movies Downfall and Aftermath because after seeing each of them once, I can tell you they simply sucked.
After finishing Dead Space 2, I hoped that a proper conclusion to what seemed to be a trilogy in the making would happen. What we have received is no such thing.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fucking Phil Collins song playing in the background. And don’t forget the Kinect plug.
Where is the passion? Where is the hook in that advertisement that sells this new game as something I should want to buy? What does it tell you other than “Hey, remember that song every one of your drunken asshole friends always air drums along to at just the right part? We’re so fucking rich we paid to use it.”
It’s a far cry from the following brilliant and creative ad campaign, which was somehow born of the same company:
Enough about the hype, though: how is the actual game, now that everyone is suddenly allowed to talk about it?
A sampling of all the major news outlets gives you a positive picture, but not positive enough. President of EA Labels Frank Gibeau said back in June that Dead Space 3 had to sell 5 million in order for them to keep pouring money into it. IGN, Gamespot and Destructoid all seem to agree on the fact that while the game isn’t completely neutered as far as horror goes, some serious sacrifices have been made in order to try and make this game appeal to everyone.
-sniff sniff- Do I smell something…familiar?
I think the most telling review came from Tina Amini at Kotaku. Talking about the series as a whole, she wrote:
I held onto hope. I was confident in Visceral’s ability to make an enjoyable game. And they are still great game makers. But the direction that Dead Space 3 took felt confused. Like it didn’t know what it was anymore. It became this Frankenstein creation of every bullet point needed to make a blockbuster hit, with some half-assed creepiness that ended up only serving as a depressing reminder of the husk that the series has become with this third title.
Wait a minute…yeah, this DOES smell familiar. In fact, if I rearranged a few words, it would look like this:
“I held onto hope. I was confident in Capcom’s ability to make an enjoyable game. And they are still great game makers. But the direction that Resident Evil 6 took felt confused. Like it didn’t know what it was anymore. It became this Frankenstein creation of every bullet point needed to make a blockbuster hit, with some half-assed creepiness that ended up only serving as a depressing reminder of the husk that the series has become with this sixth title.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a horrifying thought. Has Dead Space, a franchise less than five years old, taken as much of a spill as the once mighty series that initiated “survival horror” as a genre? Capcom once forecast RE6 to ship 7 million units. It has been less than half a year since the game’s release and not only has that figure been drastically reduced, you can buy a new copy for half the price of its original value. Not only are there zero talks of Resident Evil 7, Capcom may even be considering rebooting the entire series.
Should Dead Space 3 not perform to EA’s expectations, there will be no more Isaac. No more hallucinations of past lovers. No more crafting weapons. The series will cease to exist, and then what? What does this say to every programmer, writer and artist who has a dream of making a game that can be enjoyed by millions of people? Why fucking bother when you have a marketing executive breathing down your neck and glancing over your shoulder, saying you should draw your character with bigger arms because putting bigger arms on the display case will help sell more?
In two weeks, Sony will be making a huge announcement regarding the future of the PlayStation brand. All signs point toward the announcement of their next system, whether it be called the PlayStation 4, Orbis, Cockmaster 9000 or something more creative. More than its titular appeal, I hope the PS4 as well as Microsoft’s next system make it even easier for independent developers to share their creations with players. The biggest impact this generation of consoles has had on games has not been motion control, HD graphics or millions of dollars in advertising. It is simply that game developers with a simple idea and DIY mentality have been able to cut into a piece of the market. If giant publishing houses like EA cannot accept anything less than the next Call of Duty, fuck ’em. I had just as much fun playing Super Meat Boy as I did Dead Space, and if this course stays true, we’ll be more likely to get a sequel to the former than a return to the Ishimura.