What Dead Space 3 Did Right

I’ve finally done it. I finally beat Dead Space 3….the normal campaign anyway. After 2 years of procrastination.

In fact, the only Dead Space game I ever played that I did beat in a reasonable time frame was Dead Space 2. Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 3 took me extended periods of time, for axiomatically different reasons that serve to emphasize what types of games they are. Whereas I put Dead Space down after chapter 2 and didn’t pick it up for nearly a year afterwards because I was frightened to find out what was behind that med bay door, I put Dead Space 3 down because I knew what was behind the next door, and I simply did not care.

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Surprise, it’s an entire platoon of necros. Guys? Where are you going? You’re not surprised?

Dead Space 3’s failure as a Dead Space game, and as a survival horror game, can not be simplified any further than that sentence because after the first chapter, you will know almost exactly what to expect for the next 18. Fortunately it seems to be widely agreed that the game was a misstep, so it doesn’t need to be made any clearer than a simple sentence.

Let me take a step back and provide some clarification. I am not a little girl. I don’t scream in fright at any game – horror or not. You can rest assured I’ll yell some words, but they’ll be expletives, and not girlish cries. So Dead Space was never shit your pants scary, no. In spite of that, Visceral employed a great mixture of pacing and environmental design that allowed common gameplay tropes to exist, while still creating a brilliant haunted carnival house that was one of the most memorable and enjoyable horror experiences in video game history.

Isaac was vulnerable, he was essentially alone, and he was afraid.  As well as slowly going insane throughout the course of the game thanks to the red marker. Most importantly, he didn’t say a damn word for 99% of the game. It was just you, silence, your gun, and a haunted (basically) ship full of alien monsters trying to kill you. On top of that, innocuous heavy machinery would kill you too. Broken doors would slice you up, malfunctioning gravity plating would slam you into a wall and rip you apart, gyroscopic stabilizers would cut you in half, and most of the ship would try to suck you out into space.

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Also dude was newly single and out of shape too.

Dead Space 2 removed this vulnerability and feeling of isolation, but still managed to deliver a tense rollercoaster ride through a different haunted house with some slightly different tricks. Isaac could move more fluidly, guns seemed to be more effective, kinesis powers were more effective and he could use random objects to destroy enemies. He also talked a lot and often met up with living human beings, which made it feel like he wasn’t alone and thus like you weren’t alone. To make up for this, the game featured new enemies who were faster and harder to kill, and the first 6 chapters were basically a gauntlet of brutality for the player to survive. To be fair, you start the game in a straight jacket and the first living human being you meet dies a gruesome death within 20 seconds, and you don’t even get a gun until just before the first boss. The number of enemies also increased to compensate for Isaac suddenly being a badass. It seems his years in a straightjacket somehow magically turned him into a combat engineer, not just a systems engineer.

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He only wants a hug, Isaac.

So what did Dead Space 3 do wrong? Well, as it turns out, a lot of things. I’ll save those for another article for the sake of length. Right now, let’s acknowledge what it did right. The overall art design and sound design is still brilliant. This stands out more in the latter half of the game when you get to see vistas on Tau Volantis like the first approach to the research base, or when you reach the alien city and are introduced to their physical appearance as well as their architecture. Before this, though, you do get to see a lot of the flotilla in orbit of the planet and there are some cool shots like this one. The only negative thing I can say about the art design is that the death animations, while still varied, almost all seem to be too fast and result in the same thing – your body chopped into at least 2 pieces. Where Dead Space 1 and 2 took time to show you yourself being murdered, Dead Space 3 just blows you up every 5 minutes and doesn’t even have the courtesy to show you.

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On that note, the graphics are also much improved over the first two games. Moreso the first than the second, as Dead Space 2 came out this decade, but the graphics are better. Down to the fur and cloth on some of the outfits blowing in the wind of the frozen wasteland. Animations and character textures have been improved as well and overall the engine used for this game seems to have been tweaked with some more modern capabilities, especially when it comes to postprocessing.

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This is definitely a bullshot but with shader mods you can accomplish this.

Just like Dead Space 2, you start out with some living normal humans. And then immediately thereafter, the Church of Unitology shows up and kills the entire colony, turning people into necromorphs and I would think starting a convergence event. You are fighting necros and soldiers who shoot at you, in the streets and alleys and in shops. Whereas Dead Space 2 maintained an intentional pacing and didn’t give you the option of really looking around in the beginning, the sequel does not because there doesn’t seem to be any urgency after you clear an area of necromorphs. The only positive aspect of any of this is the fact that you got to see what “normal” human life might be like for a second. You didn’t really get to see it in Dead Space 2 because everything was dying and covered in blood by the time you saw it, but in 3 you at least get a brief glimpse. Which isn’t saying much, because it’s almost literally nothing. You see some cars, there’s a highway, and the Moon colony seems to be a pretty big settlement. Other than that and setting up the game’s villain, there is nothing notable to come from the first two chapters of the game.

Following that is your arrival in space around Tau Volantis, where you’ll spend the next 6 chapters, otherwise referred to as the Sovereign Colonies flotilla. This is the section of the game that seemed to be on the right track, and the section where the game shined. The ship corridors are tighter than most areas of Dead Space 2, and at most times it feels like a worthy tribute to Dead Space, though it admittedly doesn’t capture the same essence. You still have the vents and necromorphs coming out of them, and the creepy sounds, and the piece by piece backstory that you would expect, but the ships like the Roanoke or the Terra Nova just don’t feel the same.  What makes the flotilla cool is that it has sidequests where you can go exploring and learn the story of these ships, all while still being hounded by regenerators and lots of necromorphs. In addition to that, DS3 improves upon the zero g mechanics and takes them to a whole new level. Basically every zero g sequence is the cover of the game Dark Void, and it’s liberating to finally be able to move whatever direction you want in zero g.

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Unfortunately that all comes to an end somewhat quickly, depending on how you play and whether or not you do side quests at all. After that, it’s on to the surface of Tau Volantis, which is its own rollercoaster ride, but it’s just pure action and its downright annoying. The only good trick Dead Space 3 has left at this point is to employ some oldschool survival horror where you’re better off running away than fighting enemies, because it simply spawns too many of them on your face. Unless you have a ridiculously overpowered gun, which you won’t have until after multiple playthroughs, you are better off running.

It’s quite clear that EA tried to please too many audiences at once while really aiming this title at a different group of people than the group that wanted it. You simply can’t do that in a sequel, much less at the end of a trilogy. The third game in a series, where all the games are directly connected and still telling the same story, is not the appropriate time to try to remarket a franchise towards casuals.

Especially when that game only exists because the core gamers bought and supported the first two entries.

Operation Raccoon City first impressions

Human Resources Manager with Flexible Morals Needed

Umbrella Pharmaceuticals is seeking a motivated professional with proven experience in a high stress work atmosphere. Due to recent downsizing we are looking to fill a vast gamut of positions in our pharmaceutical and biological research divisions. Please send resumes to white@umbrella.umb.

At least, that’s what the ad would say after Operation Raccoon City, if Capcom decided to ever go that deep into immersion for their dead Resident Evil franchise (Yes, we are 2 releases into the year and there are 3 more Resident Evil titles coming out – 2 more movies, one of them shitty, and one more game. Still dead.)

Read on to find out why.

Operation Raccoon City pretty much came out of nowhere a year ago – news surfaced of a game where you play the bad guys. It was being made by the same people who ruined SOCOM – Slant Six, not that SOCOM had any value whatsoever. Let’s get this out of the way so that I can simply expand upon it later. SOCOM sucks. It was a terrible multiplayer third person shooter on PS2, and all the other derivations thereof sucked as well, including PSP. Suffice to say, I don’t think anyone expected this game to be worth it’s hefty price tag. However, because I am a fan of Resident Evil despite Capcom’s abuses and non-existent integrity, I pre-ordered. So far I am not too disappointed.

ORC plays just like Socom, but with the benefit of 10 years of improvement to its advantage. You play as the character you select, a member of Umbrella Security Service – you know, the guys who all died, including Hunk, in the beginning (chronologically) of RE2. Yes, I know Hunk survived and it wasn’t retcon because he was one of the four survivors – it’s still and always will be pure BS that he survived, especially if it was based on this game. Which it thankfully is not. You control your character in third person, with the same over the shoulder view you got used to after RE4, and you of course have a laser sight on every gun – which happens to not point at the same spot as your crosshair. In addition or amendment to the gameplay of RE4, RE5, and RE Revelations, you can now freely melee anything, and you have “two” special attacks  – when you melee an enemy and stagger them, you can press A or whatever button (X?) on Playstation to do a special instakill move that’s fun to watch. Unfortunately you are vulnerable during said move so unlike RE4 and RE5 where doing those button prompt special executions saved your life constantly, in this game they will pretty much get you killed if you do it wrong. Your other supposed special move is with the Y button, which is not a special melee move, it’s your characters Active ability, so the instruction manual is misprinted to say the least.

Each character has an array of passive and active abilities they can use which add some RPG elements to the game, and make you hate yourself when you aren’t Spectre, basically. Spectre’s passive ability, for example, will show you every item ever within a certain radius on the minimap. There are other passives – Vector gets a passive run speed increase, for instance. Active abilities include cool things like Vectors active camouflage (think Halo), or Lupo’s infinite ammo buff – among others. Essentially, the game plays like third person left for dead, minus the entertaining dialog and funny ways of dying – no smokers here, just your teammates or stupid AI getting murdered to death by a Hunter or Tyrant.

As far as art goes, ORC is pretty faithful reproduction of the first 3D Raccoon City. There are very few things that will look odd to you – the virus canisters are one of them. The super tyrant also looks more like one of the super tyrants from the other non-RE2 games but that’s ok. Claire also looks weird at the end which kind of disappointed me – not her look but her facial animation made her look like a weak bitch, to be honest, in the last chapter at the almost end of the game. The RPD building is also slightly disappointing – you can only explore about a fifth of it and parts of it are not exactly as they were in RE2 – this also happened in Darkside Chronicles where the entire third floor was missing, I believe. Parts around the RPD are also not 100% reproductions of the original but it’s not the end of the world. Speaking of art, you unlock concept art by collecting data throughout the game – which gives you XP at the same time, so you can re-collect the same items over and over and sometimes it will unlock new art. When the game was first revealed I found the character design to be ridiculous but it really doesn’t bother you in game – you are too busy trying to kill everything to notice that Lupo is wearing a diving mask, or that Beltway is wearing a bomb disposal suit – which makes absolutely no sense considering he’s the one planting bombs, not defusing them. It didn’t make any sense for Fat Man to wear one in MGS2 either.

ORC does not feature too wide a variety of enemies, but it has enough enemies in it. Regardless, the variety of enemies isn’t the problem. Series mainstays such as zombies, cerberi, hunters, and lickers make their return. You unfortunately also get enemies like crimson heads, Tyrants, Nemesis, Spec Ops, and the most annoying son of a bitch zombies ever – zombies controlled by a parasite (read: Gigantic annoying spider) that you have to shoot in the back, though there are so many of them at once and so little space to maneuver that it’s irrelevant. Use a frag. This is one of my major complaints with the game – the enemies. They are severely overpowered. A zombie will almost always go down from one headshot, or you can melee it to death with ease. A licker, however, will take about 5 times as many shots from anything to kill as it took to kill with a pistol in RE2. That’s bullshit. Hunters are the same way. As are parasite zombies. However, that’s not the problem. I give them a pass because they are genetically mutated killing machines.

No, the problem is human enemies, including other players in versus. They do not die when they should, ever, at all. I have literally hit an AI spec ops troop six times in a row with a Barret .50 (called the anti-material rifle in game, because that’s what it’s for in real life, blowing up equipment.). In real life, a bullet from a barret .50 sniper rifle is about the size of an average  dick. If a bullet from a Barrett passes by you, it will kill you. That’s absolute fact. If a bullet from this gun passes within a certain distance from you, it will literally kill you without hitting you because of its size and velocity. If it hits you, you’re dead. It will literally blow your torso into gibs. So when I shoot a motherfucker in the head with this gun, they need to be dead instantly. It doesn’t matter if it’s in versus or campaign. The only thing that should be allowed to survive this gun is a Tyrant, and MAYBE a hunter. So why the fuck is it in the game Slant Six? It doesn’t kill anything in one hit. The only times I’ve killed someone in versus with it are after I hit them repeatedly – which is practically impossible to snipe anyone in this game because of their move speed. It’s fucking unacceptable – if you’re going to put that gun in a game, you have to put it in realistically. It’s supposed to be completely overpowered. If you don’t want your game to be unbalanced, which it already is, ban certain things from multiplayer.

Campaign mode is fun if you are with at least one real person or you are just boss, but I wouldn’t bother owning this game if you don’t have friends, internet or Xbox Live. The AI is dreadful, which is the case with all games that have AI teammates, more or less. I’ve found myself killing Beltway because he is too huge and the AI is too stupid to make him anything but a nuisance. The story itself is surprisingly good and amazingly lacking in retcon, to be honest. The only retcon that’s really even in the game is the beginning – where the sewer plays absolutely no role whatsoever – and the end. Of course there are also parts where Ada Wong is inside the lab way before she ever should be, and there are Spec Ops soldiers inside the lab as well, but I don’t think they ever intended to make story changes with this game so it’s not a big deal, those things are for funs. I would honestly say that you will have a bitch of a time beating the level before Expendable without any real people to help you.

As for survival horror, this game is as scary as Left 4 Dead. Teammates always make things less stressful but Slant Six managed to negate that with the sheer number of enemies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that during one play through of this game, you will encounter more zombies, lickers, hunters, and tyrants than you have ever encountered in every main story Resident Evil game combined – even if you have played RE5 over 100 times. If you thought Chapter 5 of RE5 had a lot of lickers, you haven’t seen shit. On top of that, these lickers are at least ten times harder to kill, each. And can hit you from much further away, and are much more maneuverable. There is one mission that is definitely never going to  leave your mind in this game – you have to extract NE-α parasites from a deactivated T-103 Tyrant, then inject those parasites into Nemesis in order to get it under control. It sounds simple but it’s the hardest chapter in the entire game and you are attacked by infinite zombies, and the Tyrant, and the Nemesis, and Spec Ops, some of them at the same time. This is where the opening came from – I killed 370 enemies my first time through this mission, and pretty much had to superman that shit all by myself, running around the lab getting the keys and opening doors and dodging and shooting zombies every .2 seconds.

There are some other minor annoyances like Nicholai one shot killing you at random, or the fact that grenades often clip through walls, or that there are some animation and other graphical issues – the game runs like shit on 360 to be honest. If you have about 5 explosions on screen at once, expect your FPS to drop to single digits until its over. However, I’ll tell you – I picked up my pre-order the second GameStop opened on Tuesday and I’ve pretty much done nothing since but play this game. Here’s to hoping they keep this game going with some actual DLC – nemesis mode and others aren’t enough to keep the game alive. A sequel would be nice too, like, Code Veronica or something – a new original story even. I do have one regret though – no Carlos and no Jill Valentine, despite the other main characters (minus Kendo, Bertolucci, Irons, and some others) being in the game. The game takes place during RE2 and RE3 and that’s irrefutable because of moments where Nicholai blows up the hospital, for example, so it’s odd that you never hear of or see Jill – especially considering you visit at least four locations from RE3. By the way you’ll learn from this game that the RPD has a number of officers equal to the number of people living in Raccoon City. So the fact that they couldn’t solve this Umbrella thing without  S.T.A.R.S is bs, if you go by this game.

Buy it, and if you are on XBL then add Grenadehh and let’s kill some shit.