Dead Space 2 and 3 ending spoilers below:
I loved the closing half of Dead Space 2. Isaac Clarke plummeting back to the sprawl like a madman, accepting his guilt for Nicole, slumping down in despair only to get back up and stab himself in the eye. The quiet tension when you have to go back on board the USG Ishimura. Those stressful Ubermorph encounters as it hounds you through tight corridors, vision-Nicole's betrayal and the brain tissue delving final boss. The fuck-yeah-fakeout when Isaac slumps down again in defeat only for Ellie to crash the roof. That tongue in cheek homage to Dead Space's ending. The pacing and storytelling felt perfect and there could not have been a better way to follow Dead Space. The only weak part I can think of was a stretch of three combat rooms that dragged a little on subsequent playthroughs. The second half of Dead Space 2, as a collective whole, was one of my favourite moments of 2011. I left the game feeling exhilarated.
I had hoped that Dead Space 3 would elicit something of the glowing triumph I felt from 2 but it just did not click for me the same way. There was definitely an element of diminishing return on how impactful the spectacles on screen were, much like there was when Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception followed Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Certainly, the winch climbing sections felt weak compared to that free fall from orbit in Dead Space 2, and those zero gravity flying moments felt like nothing new and didn't do it for me either. The change of setting to planetside felt like a mistake after I was really getting into those large area spacewalks in the first half. More than anything else, the pacing and writing felt by the book. Maybe it was because I saw the twist with Ellie surviving coming. Maybe it was because I did not care one way or another for Carver. I did not find my self driven to punch the air in triumph, I was just overwhelmed with a sense of well that was that. No more, no less.
I sat down 10 minutes after beating Dead Space 3 and thought about what I would have liked to have seen in those closing moments. The problems with the structure of Tau Volantis are too big for me to tackle. Certainly something more dynamic with the alien architecture/culture would have been compelling.
I did come up with a brief idea for a tribute to Dead Space 2's fake out ending that felt good enough to share, as follows: Isaac turns the codex, the moon dies, he starts to fall back to Tau Volantis in freefall, staring up at the falling moon above him. The camera pans to view Isaac from the side as he falls. He hits the playback on his RIG and it plays Nicole's final recording from his records. He closes his eyes for a moment, opens them, pulls out Ellie's photo and stares longingly for a while, finally letting it go. He closes his eyes slowly again to fall to his final death. Sombre string music plays and credits start to roll on the side of the screen and a sunrise blooms on Tau Volantis' horizon behind him. After a minute of slow scrolling credits, some light debris brushes Isaac in passing with enough force to open his eyes and the scrolling credits cut out. He turns and the camera pans behind him to show his view as he sees the CMS Roanoke falling to Tau Volantis in the distance. He stares at it for a few seconds, the player's camera fixed on it, then he starts slapping the back of his EVA suit repeatedly, the broken helmet triggers as the camera pans around to a front view of Isaac. He pulls a plasma cutter out from his side, the thrusters on his RIG ignite and cut to credits. After credits, you get the scene with Ellie getting no response. Same dialogue, but before jumping out she looks briefly to her right as tears fall down her face and she lingers for a moment, as the screen pans over to show nothing there. She jumps out, fade to black.