I can picture it like it was yesterday ( fantastic way to start a story ) It was the summer of 2010 and I'd finally gotten around to playing Dead Space. I'd had a chance to play a sliver of it at a friends house probably a year before and had a pretty good time, but hadn't really thought of it since then. As the download ended I was pumped. It'd been years since I'd consumed any media that had really gotten to me and I was hoping the mixture of space isolation and horrific zombie-eske monsters would satisfy something primal in me. While traversing the USS Ishimura I was enraptured in the presence of it. The lighting, the ever present vents that could at any moment prove to be more than mere decoration, the sheer intensity of striving to survive let alone figure out what the shit fuck was going on. Yet as with other games of the genre as I ventured deeper into the proverbial abyss it faded. Necromorphs no longer inspired the gut reaction of firing wildly while trying to conserve ammo. The Tentacle arms became mere carnival shooting gallery pieces. It faltered in the way that only horror can, by stopping to be the thing it set out to be. Don't get me wrong it was still a fantasitc game I highly reccomend but that's the way with these things. It inspired a feeling similar to pulling the drape back on the mythical Oz and finding only a lonely old man with a megaphone. Then the second game was announced.
As soon as trailers were announced I was eyes right on. You see while Dead Space may have failed to keep that feeling of true horror thought the entire game, I still loved the times when it got to me. It wasn't the scariest thing but it did what it did very well and I wanted more than anything for Dead Space 2 to rekindle those feelings. I even played that not so great XBLA downloadable game just to get some sense of it. And when it hit it hit hard. While not as ' man alone in hell ' as the first game It did some great things that really made me sit there and shudder. I mean you can never recreate the feelings you have when you see something scary for the first time, and in my opinion, they never really tried. It went deeper, less about the monsters out to get you horror and more about the horrifying things a plague of that nature does to a populace. It was as in your face as the jump scares it's criticized for but kept you on the outside. Like the scene with the baby and the mother, all you could so was watch as something graphic and gruesome happened right in front of you. I have to applaud the developers for not just trying to retread the exact same story, even if it used so many elements from the first game.
Which brings me to my point if not so succinctly. You see the best part of most horror stories is the beginning. It's not knowing what's happening that intices you to venture forward, and ultimately it's downfall is that once you find out what it is it loses that mystique. It is, in my opinion, one of the fundamental flaws with horror franchises. You can't make the same game three times and expect them all to be equally as scary as the next., you just can't. Even if the setting changes we've had a chance to get to know the character, see how they react to the atrocities around them and gauge how they affect us. Stepping onto yet another necrmorph infested station/ship doesn't have the same effect as it once did. It's what made the Ishimura section of DS2 so great. They didn't just have you fighting the same enemies on the same ship you did in the first game. For around 20 minutes there was nothing., just the tingling in your neck telling you that at any moment something could be happening. It took me back, if for a brief moment, to the beginning of the first game. Bewildered by the events unfolding and being unable to do nothing about it and with so many questions. Why was the Ishimura back, wasn't it destroyed at the end of the last game? The alien nature of a familiar setting was really unsettling and stood out as one of my favorite sequences of the second game.
When making a sequel to two successful scary games what do you do? You could, of course, try and make it as scary as it ever was and hope that fans of the old games can appreciate what your trying to accomplish, but like with the resident evil and silent hill series's that doesn't seem to work. You see, I would contend that all of the resident evil and silent hill games have been equally scary, in their own way. The problem is that we've done all of it before. We've seen dogs jump through windows, we've been stalked helplessly by nightmarish creatures, we've been betrayed again and again by that bastard Wesker. It's an old hat. Trying to recreate any moment of tension and true horror is ultimately betrayed by the familiarity to the tones set by the previous games.
That's why changing Dead Space 3 in the ways they have makes a lot of sense to me.
You can argue that reducing what was a fantastically simple yet difficult ammo system is 'dumbing the game down' but why? The reason ammo scarcity made sense was you were going into the situation unprepared. Using anything you could get your hands on you fought your way through the hoards and hopefully at the end you had a few rounds in your clip. At this point Clarke has been fighting these things for years. It wouldn't be right to yet again see him reduced to a cobbled together plasma cutter and only a few shots. The inclusion of the bro'ed out space marine is a groan inducer but what must we send Issac into the breach alone? If it's merely to heighten some sense of tension, I'd say that's all been used up. It only makes sense that he'd be taking someone along for the ride, and while I'm bummed it's not the lady from the second game, I'm willing to see what they do with the new character. I mean hell there have only been like eight in the entire series proper, one more wont hurt.
My final point is this. If you really want to see a scary follow up to Dead Space you can't have Isaac Clarke in it. We've experienced his journey and while it certainly hasn't ended, the parts that made it frightening are mostly behind him. He's not a confused and scared little girl left alone in a dark forest, he's killed hundred of monsters and come out alive. I believe the only way you can do a truly scary sequel to Dead Space is to Twilight Zone it. You see the reason Twilight Zone worked the way it did was that the connections between stories were a man in a suit. That's it. Every story was a self contained story, and while a piece of a greater whole, still their own thing. You can't tell me that the man who broke his glasses and the guy who won a bet not to talk for a year ever met or were even in the same plane of existence. The only thing the stories had in common was the weird, the ' there's something not quite right about this ' feeling you got as the stories progressed. The way bring horror back to Dead Space is to take Isaac and maybe even the Necromorphs out of it. Tell a different story, something we can reinvest ourselves in as we explore something unknown.