Sequel is quite a blast

by Shane Dillon
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SOMEONE once wrote that the problem with horror is that if you write about, say, someone opening a door and finding a nine-foot-tall bug outside, the reader thinks: “Ah, how horrible!”
However, at the same time, they’re also thinking: “Well, at least it wasn’t a 10-foot-tall bug.”
The point is that no matter what you create and deliver, there’s always a law of diminishing returns to overcome when factoring in reader familiarity and expectation with horror, and horror tropes.
This has been the problem with the horribly good (and definitely adult-rated) Dead Space franchise, in that each episode, to date, has been a smash hit in blending psychological horror with action in a sci-fi setting, yet, in doing so, has been reinforcing gamers’ expectations with what to expect in each game.
For “newbies” to the series, and as a quick recap, following his (mis) adventures in Dead Space aboard the Ishimura, a giant mining spaceship, unlucky engineer Isaac Clarke found himself hot on the heels of the ship’s Unitologist members – a single-minded cult who, having dug up an alien Marker on another world, led to the deaths of everyone on the Ishimura, including his girlfriend.
Later, Dead Space 2 saw Clarke escaping the Unitologists’ clutches aboard The Sprawl – a vast city complex in space also brought to ruin by the cult, and by the Marker’s strange powers – namely, not just to make most people hallucinate and eventually go crazy, but also to pretty effectively mutate and zombify them in pretty dangerous and grotesque ways.
Now, Dead Space 3  (DS3) sees Clarke return, determined to put an end to the Marker, and Unitology, once and for all, using his engineer skills (as in the prequels) to turn whatever he finds on his journey to deadly use, whether that’s machinery or, more often, upgrading mining equipment, raw materials and gear into deadly weapons.
He’ll need them, too, as Clarke faces an awful lot of determined human Unitologists, hideously mutated Necromorphs (um, space zombies), and more, not to mention the natural dangers of a number of fantastical and otherworldly settings, all the while as he deals with other characters and their motivations, some helpful but others not …
While purists may disagree with DS3’s increased emphasis on action – not to mention the dreaded words, “computer-controlled partner” for some sections, which carries all sorts of negative connotations for many gamers – it’s a fair enough development for the popular franchise.
There’s still an awful lot of interesting gameplay, great locales, creative setpieces (has anyone tired of Zero-G sequences yet?) and engaging aspects to make DS3 a blast upon its recent multiplatform release (where, as always, prices vary in shops).
All in all, despite being a step away from the more rarified horror of its prequels, DS3 is a gaming highlight for 2013.

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