The release of Dead Space 3 is now less than one week away. On February 8th (or earlier, if you're one of those lucky types who doesn't live in perpetually-behind Europe), Isaac Clarke's latest foray into strategic dismemberment will be finding its way into the eager hands of players. I could be one of those players, but right now I'm undecided as to whether or not I'll be picking up the latest offering from Visceral Games at all. That's not because of any worries I have about the direction of the franchise, though (although if the trailers are anything to go by, I can understand why some players have those worries). Instead, my reluctance comes from the fact that this will be the first Dead Space game I'll be playing on my own.
I played the first Dead Space back in April of 2009. I'd originally planned to play through it over the course of a few evenings, locked away alone in my darkened University dorm room. Those plans went out of the window when my then-girlfriend pulled the game off my shelf and asked if she could watch me play it. Eager to please in what was then a romance still in its earliest stages, I agreed, and we spent the next couple of weeks exploring the USG Ishimura together, with the lights off and the TV's volume cranked way up. She loved watching the action unfold just as much as I enjoyed playing it. As a non-gamer, it was her first full-on insight into one of my passions and why I loved it as much as I did. For me, as a perennial fan of the single-player experience, it was the first time I'd actually shared the experience of playing a game with somebody else in this fashion - an experience which hit me so hard I felt compelled to blog about it. By the time we reached the end of the game and watched the credits roll, Dead Space had become our game.
When EA and Visceral announced Dead Space 2 at the end of 2009, it was my girlfriend who was first to suggest we pick up the game as soon as possible. We bought our copy not long after release day in February 2011, and spent the next three weeks slowly making our way through Isaac's second encounter with the freakish Necromorphs. As you might expect, we both loved the sequel, albeit not quite as much as the original Dead Space. This time, though, rather than sharing my own thoughts on the game by way of this blog, I figured I'd let my girlfriend's opinions take centre-stage. After finishing Dead Space 2 I spent a good few hours talking about it with her, and then transcribed her thoughts into a blog which I posted in mid-March. Our shared experience with Dead Space 2 cemented the franchise as a special part of our relationship. During the aforementioned discussion that led to my transcribed blog post, I remember her saying to me: "If they ever make a Dead Space 3, we have to play it together."
In December 2011, nine months after my girlfriend and I made our way through Dead Space 2 together, our relationship came to an end. This is a video game website, not a lifestyle advice forum, so I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, it wasn't a clean break, and it's one that still bothers me greatly over a year on. I'm not going to lie - seeing the promotional material for Dead Space 3 brings a lot of memories flooding back, and re-opens a lot of wounds that I'd at least managed to suture, if not quite heal completely. More than anything, though, it's the prospect of that broken promise that haunts me as release day draws nearer - Dead Space 3 exists, but we'll never play it together. If I do play it, I'll be doing so alone, and likely thinking of her the entire time. Even if I don't play it, the promise is still broken, and I miss out on what could well be one of this year's best games in the process. More painful still is the thought that come next week, she could even be watching somebody else play Dead Space 3, taking an experience that was ours and inviting somebody else into it. Whichever way you spin it, the imminent launch of Dead Space 3 isn't something I find easy to get excited about.
Even in spite of everything I've said above, I probably will pick up and play through Dead Space 3. Maybe not next week, but probably at some point this year. Assuming the game doesn't stray too far from the core ideals that made the first two games so great, I'll probably enjoy playing it as well. But no matter how good the game is, playing it isn't ever going to be the same. There won't be shaking arms clinging onto my own as I struggle to cut down advancing enemies with my Plasma Cutter. There won't be a paper-thin voice, quavering in fear as it suggests which darkened corridor to explore next. And perhaps most tellingly, much like space itself, if the game does manage to elicit a scream from me, there won't be anybody around to hear it.
Currently playing - Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)