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E3 2012: The Big Question:
Dead Space 3

Posted on June 5, 2012 AT 11:30am

Has Dead Space 3 jumped the gameplay shark?

For those who aren’t familiar, the term “jumping the shark” stems from a late-’70s Happy Days episode where the ever-cool “Fonz” decided to perform the water-based stunt—whose ridiculousness is often cited as the nail in the coffin to a popular sitcom that seemed to reach the end of its creative rope.

So, why am I asking if the latest entry in the Dead Space series is falling to the same ill-fated loss of identity?

Simply put, this just isn’t the Dead Space I was hoping for. After such a strong showing in the initial outing, EA and developer Visceral Games took a stab at upping the action in Dead Space 2, which was a competent (if not garishly loud) action-shooter that occasionally forgot itself and scared the crap outta me. I was more than a bit depressed that one of the most refreshing games I’d played in a long time went from a dark, tension-filled exploration into the mind of one man’s desperate quest for survival…to just another shooter.

Don’t get me wrong—Dead Space 2 wasn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It just wasn’t Dead Space. It was loud, angry, aggressive, and largely brain-dead. Dead Space originally snagged me with clever game mechanics, a gripping sense of pacing, and a plot that was right up there with Hollywood blockbusters of a similar ilk, but it felt like the developers were on the cusp of something huge and then just said, “F*** it. Let’s make Call of Duty meets Gears of War and see if we can’t sell a few more units.”

And that’s cool for people who dig that, but for me, it was heartbreaking. Then along came rumors of Dead Space 3, and I’m thinking, “Hey, maybe we’ll see them get back to their roots with this one. They’re big enough that they can take some chances, right?”

Not exactly.

The sequel’s everything you’d expect from a third-gen EA product. Slick, polished, and immensely playable—complete with two-player campaign co-op. But, once again, the slice I saw just wasn’t doing it for me. Our demo was set on a formidably frozen world à la Lost Planet, and your new partner in crime is right out of the dudebro mold—and so clichéd that he almost makes mild-mannered engineer Isaac Clarke seem oddly out of place in his own series.

EA claims that this is but one act in the overall experience, and that each major section will feature echoes of each of the first two Dead Space titles—both thematically and from a locale standpoint. But here’s the question I have to ask: What was so broken in the first place that they felt the need to get away from the strong sense of terror and dread that drove the original? Do we really need yet another over-the-top bullet bonanza? Doesn’t EA put out enough games that they can take a chance on something a bit less blunt?

I sure as hell think they do, and in that sense, Dead Space 3 may end up being one of those games that misses me with its gravitation pull, opting instead to cast fans of the slower side of survival-horror out the proverbial airlock. Considering the quality of what they’ve shown, I sure hope this isn’t all they’ve got up their sleeve—’cause, honestly, I’d rather freeze to death is space than sit through 10-plus hours of yet another aggro Army-man adventure. It may be all sorts of awesome, but it just ain’t Dead Space. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a real shame.

So, what do you think? Is Brandon following Isaac’s lead and losing his damn mind, or do you agree that Dead Space is a dish best served slow and scary? Sound off below!

Brandon Justice, Executive Editor
Brandon Justice spent the last 17 years in the game industry wearing hats as an annoying retail weasel, an overly opinionated journalist, and game-development ninja—until he got tired of the all the caviar and groupies, returning to the ring as a rowdy, rambling writer in 2010 for EGM Media. Follow him on Twitter @jokeontheworldMeet the rest of the crew.

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