Like the pus leaking out of a rotten, red boil, we knew about Dead Space 3’s co-op mode before it burst at EA’s E3 presentation. Grim, ugly, and slimy, and I’m not talking about the pus.
Dead Space 3’s co-op presentation seemed to miss the point of co-operation. The two guys on stage weren’t talking or interacting at all, just running side-by-side, fighting off the monsters. The idea of co-op is, well, you feel connected to the player you’re with. And while I understand that two people jabbering together on stage might not be the best presentation, co-op needs to show how that is encouraged.
It started with the briefest amount of interaction, with each of the two players activating a switch that set loose a giant, spinning monster thing. I watched for the two to interact, to use their powers to complement each other, but this is drop-in-drop-out, so Isaac Clarke can invite friend John Carver to fight off the xenomorphs.
Dead Space already has a a built-in localised slow-motion mechanic, which is lucky as it means when one of the player’s used on the boss, the rest of the level kept ticking along at the usual rate. But fighting it off meant spamming fire at the glowing central target. Not only wasn’t it a co-operative boss fight, it was the same boss fight we’ve seen for the last 15 years.
With it dead they moved on. Outside it felt more like Gears of Lost Planet: a chilly, outside battle sequence with cover mechanics and giant monsters. Again, it was as battle alongside someone else doing the same thing, and there were no obvious, co-op enhanced moments, and not talking between the two demonstrating on stage.
I just. Don’t. Get. It. The fighting mechanics of Dead Space, lots of localised powers that mix and match, are perfect for co-op: if you must give a boss a glowing red spot of doom, make it so that one person uses a power to give the other the chance to shoot at it. What they showed was the single-player game played in tandem.