Trading Fear for Bullets

Being okay with Dead Space 3's shift from horror to action.

By: Ryan Winslett

Filed Under: Action Adventure Editorial Horror

Isaac Clarke moves further into the snow storm, leaning forward into the wind with an arm raised against the icy blasts as he trudges through the foot of fresh powder covering the surface of Tau Volantis. I’m about halfway through Dead Space 3 and, after fighting for my life against countless nightmare creatures in the vast blackness of space, it looks like this vast white of an alien planet might finally do me in.

I’ve been separated from my research group and, up until this point, my latest adventure with the galaxy’s most unlucky engineer has been par for the course. Then again, par for the course in a Dead Space game means that this third battle against the necromorphs is hitting quite a few high watermarks. Dead Space 3 is beautiful to look at, the action is fun, the enemies are as nasty as ever and several new systems (universal ammo, weapon crafting, scavenging) have added just enough variety to make things feel fresh. The one thing that’s missing, though, is any real sense of dread.

At the top of a frozen hill Dead Space 3 finally manages to catch me off guard, even if the vehicle for that reaction is only a little more creative than the jump scares that have regularly kept my heart leaping into my throat while orbiting above the planet. Out of nowhere, a necromorph bursts out of the snow in front of me, yowling like a yeti. In this universe where the dead reanimate as twisted, horrific versions of their former selves, this particular baddie’s arms have reformed into long, sharp blades of bone, which my new visitor is now swinging at me in an effort to make my head part company with my body.

I finish the intruder off with a few well-placed shots from a souped-up plasma cutter, severing the creature’s limbs in order to stop its advance. I take a moment to stomp on the carcass and retrieve a clip of fresh ammo from the gooey remains before pushing forward.

It is at this point that I realize that the Dead Space series is simply no longer capable of actually scaring me. I know I have other types of thrills and chills to look forward to, but now I am finally able to relinquish the notion that the fear I felt while playing the first two games in the series will ever return to me. Having a monster pop out of the snow is “new,” in a manner of speaking, but it’s simply not enough to fill my gut with genuine fear. Misdirection is now expected. I know the face of my enemy too well. Even their guttural, liquidy shrieks fail to send chills down my spine anymore.

But it is also at this point that I realize that maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I mean, I’m still having a blast here. Dead Space can’t successfully creep me out anymore, but that shouldn’t count as too negative a mark against a series that is still managing to keep me entertained, right?

Looking back at the history of horror games, there are two basic trends that stand out, both perfectly illustrated by the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises.

Silent Hill has made efforts to retain those elements that make horror work so well in this medium. The majority of the enemies you face in each game are new and therefore freshly disturbing each time you fire up a new game in the series. The world is dark and mysterious. You play as an everyman with weapons that either offer too little ammo or require the monsters to get in nice and close to be effective. The majority of Silent Hill games make you feel weak and trapped in an unknown world.

And then there are the Resident Evil games. Like Silent Hill, Resident Evil’s initial offerings focused on making the player feel helpless or, at the very least, just powerful enough to make it from one terrifying challenge to the next. As the series progresses, however, fear gives way to action. Players now control hulking heroes who can roundhouse kick a zombie’s head across the room. Ammo is plentiful and the guns seem to get bigger and bigger. And after you’ve re-murdered a few hundred zombies in the earlier games, the shambling masses just don’t elicit the same kind of fear that they did over a decade ago.

In this regard, Dead Space has followed a similar arc to that of the Resident Evil series. Its enemies aren’t torn from the psyche of the protagonist like in Silent Hill, so three games into the series and most of the enemies have become far too familiar to me. The original Dead Space was something of a sleeper hit. I knew very little about the game before it hit store shelves, so the first time one of those necromorphs dropped out of a vent and started murdering half of my crew mates, it was a truly horrifying experience. And then there’s that whole “aim for the limbs” mechanic. It was unique and wonderful the first time around but, at this point, the excitement of altering the way I typically play shooting games has mostly fizzled out.

Isaac himself, as well as his limited arsenal, is another big part of what made the original Dead Space so frightening. He’s an engineer, not a space marine, and his first batch of weapons were improvised mining tools rather than machine guns and grenade launchers. Over the course of three games, though, it makes sense that our formerly frightened engineer is now a highly capable killing machine. And thanks to that new weapon crafting system, I can now make myself just about as powerful as I want. I’ve gone from relying on a simple collection of tools to wielding a single weapon that shoots flaming bullets and grenades all at the same damn time. This bad boy even picks up ammo for me, so I don’t have to bother with taking my finger off of the trigger during an especially heated encounter.

But like I said earlier, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While Dead Space 3 no longer gets under my skin like the first game and, to a lesser extent, the second game in the series, what it does provide is a finely crafted action experience. I feel like I’m traipsing through some of my favorite sci-fi flicks and, at this point in the game, I’m not really surprised that a universe I’ve spent nearly 100 hours in is having some trouble making me cling to the edge of my seat with terror. I, like Isaac, have faced this enemy before. And like Isaac, I am now very familiar with the game world’s rules and, therefore, am far more capable of mowing down an untold number of wailing monsters without ever breaking a sweat.

So what do you do when there’s little left to fear in a horror game? You turn up the action. You make the set pieces bigger than ever and the monsters more numerous than ever. You give the player access to a wider array of weaponry that’s genuinely fun to use. In short, you embrace what strengths you have left and come out with guns, quite literally in this case, blazing.

So far, Dead Space 3 has done exactly that. I’m a little bummed that I no longer feel my heart racing in terror while playing these games, but at least it’s still racing with excitement.

Filed Under: Action Adventure Editorial Horror

About the Author:
Ryan Winslett is an Arizona-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a contributing writer for Gaming Blend and his work has also appeared on Joystiq, Gamasutra and Joystick Division. His only crime is loving too much.

35 Responses to “Trading Fear for Bullets”

  1. hey

    Taxi moto line
    128 Rue la Boétie
    75008 Paris
    +33 6 51 612 712  

    Taxi moto paris

    Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative.
    I’m going to watch out for brussels. I will be grateful if you
    continue this in future. A lot of people will be
    benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  2. 0mniartist

    Appreciating the persistence you put into your website and detailed information you provide.
    It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Great
    read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.
    0mniartist asmr

  3. bitly.com

    Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4
    year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was
    a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go
    back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!
    asmr 0mniartist

  4. bitly.com

    This paragraph is genuinely a pleasant one it helps new
    web people, who are wishing for blogging. asmr 0mniartist

  5. bitly.com

    Hello friends, its great piece of writing on the topic of cultureand completely defined, keep it up all the time.
    asmr 0mniartist

  6. gamefly why

    Hi! I’ve been following your blog for a while now and
    finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from
    Dallas Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

  7. asmr are

    Hi! This is my first visit to your blog!

    We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

  8. our asmr

    You’re so cool! I do not believe I have read something like this before.
    So great to find someone with some genuine thoughts on this topic.

    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something
    that is needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

  9. was asmr

    After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me
    when new comments are added- checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get four emails
    with the same comment. Is there an easy method you can remove me from that
    service? Many thanks!

  10. the gamefly

    Hey! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look
    forward to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!

  11. asmr why

    Every weekend i used to pay a quick visit this
    web page, for the reason that i want enjoyment, as this this site conations
    in fact fastidious funny material too.

  12. tinyurl.com

    With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either
    authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping
    it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any
    ways to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  13. is asmr

    I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for great info I was looking for this info for my mission.

  14. asmr our

    Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your
    posts! Keep up the excellent work!

  15. tinyurl.com

    Great info. Lucky me I found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later! scoliosis

  16. tinyurl.com

    I visited many web sites but the audio feature for audio songs present at this website is really
    excellent. scoliosis

  17. t.co

    I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues?
    A handful of my blog visitors have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera.
    Do you have any suggestions to help fix this problem? scoliosis

  18. asmr are

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this excellent blog!
    I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will
    share this blog with my Facebook group. Talk

  19. for dating sites

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.

    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  20. free dating sites with

    Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your
    blog and in accession capital to say that I get actually loved account your blog posts.
    Anyway I will be subscribing to your augment or even I
    achievement you get entry to persistently rapidly.

  21. surgery scoliosis what

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly useful & it
    helped me out much. I’m hoping to give one thing back and aid others like you aided me.

  22. an scoliosis

    all the time i used to read smaller content that as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with this
    post which I am reading at this place.

  23. dating sites where

    I think this is among the most significant info for me. And i am glad reading your article.

    But should remark on some general things, The web site style is ideal, the
    articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  24. dating sites it

    Unquestionably believe that that you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the internet the easiest
    thing to be mindful of. I say to you, I certainly get irked whilst folks consider issues that
    they just don’t recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as outlined out the whole
    thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal.
    Will probably be again to get more. Thank you

  25. http://tinyurl.com/

    Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of
    your web site is wonderful, as well as the content!

  26. Danny

    Hi everyone, it’s my first go to see at this site, and paragraph is genuinely fruitful for me, keep up posting these posts.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The Latest:

  • Originals

    Swan Song

    This is a tough one to write. For those of you who know me, in person, by my writing, or…

  • Originals

    The Fool and the Villain, Part II

    (Warning: In Second Life, pixelated tits and dicks abound. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter this article at work.)…

  • Commentary

    The Edge Of The Ocean

    The problem is to plot the map. My sense of geography is spotted with black holes. There’s the Chinatown and…

  • Originals

    Play Everything

    Play everything. No, I’m serious, play everything. Play that game of hopscotch those kids drew up on the sidewalk with…

  • Commentary

    Genre In Question

    Why are there so few video game comedies? At least twice in the past year I’ve bumped into conversations trying…