Grizzly Gaming

Friday, January 11, 2013

On the Horizon: Dead Space 3 and Aliens: Colonial Marines

Just because the holiday season has passed doesn’t mean that the quality video game release schedule is slowing down. No, that comes during the summer months. The late winter/early spring is typically reserved for games that either didn’t make their holiday season release window or games that were given a later release date to avoid the usually crowded holidays. 

And just because they weren’t released before Christmas (or Hannukah, or Kwanza, or Festivus or whatever you celebrate) doesn’t mean you should overlook Visceral Games’ “Dead Space 3” or Gearbox’s “Aliens: Colonial Marines.”
Ever since taking a job aboard the USG Ishimura, life has not been easy for “Dead Space” protagonist Isaac Clarke. After surviving the first Necromorph outbreak, Clarke’s sanity has been steadily waning and repeatedly being terrorized by a macabre, other-worldly alien plague isn’t helping anything.
In the game’s third iteration, Clarke, along with Ellie Langford (who also escaped The Sprawl at the end of “Dead Space 2”) have teamed up with Sgt. John Carver. The trio eventually discovers the planet Tau Volantis, a frozen wasteland that is apparently the origin of the Markers and subsequently, the necromorph plague. As they try to land on the planet, their ship breaks apart and separates Ellie from Clarke and Carver. Stranded on the planet, Clarke resolves to find Ellie as well as finally putting an end to the necromorph plague.
With the third installment in the series, Visceral is trying to spice up the “Dead Space” formula a bit. Replacing the often claustrophobic environments of the first two games are the wide open, albeit frosty, spaces of Tau Volantis. I’ve also read that for this title, a greater emphasis will be placed on fast-paced gunplay, as Clarke will also be battling human enemies as well as the necromorphs. Hopefully, with the change in environment and move toward faster action, the games doesn’t also start resembling another icey, third-person shooter, “Lost Planet,” because not only will this signal the end of the survival horror aspect of the series but also because the “Lost Planet” series is crap.
Weapon customization, which has always been present in “Dead Space,” is also being reworked. Before, players could only really enhance certain aspects of a weapon – increase its fire rate, reduce reload speeds, etc. With the third iteration, players will be able to create new weapons from parts found by Clarke throughout the world to create entirely new guns. Blueprints for new weapon combinations can also be found throughout the world, for use by gamers with no imagination.
Isaac Clarke (l) and John Carver (r) battle the necromorph plague on the frozen planet of Tau Volantis. 

The biggest shakeup to the “Dead Space” formula is the addition of a drop-in/drop-out co-op mode, featuring John Carver alongside Isaac Clarke. The word is that players won’t be forced to play co-op mode, nor will be they need to look after Carver if playing solo. Instead, if no one is playing as Carver, he will only be present at certain points in the story, as any other NPC. Playing as Carver will also, allegedly, offer more story for intrepid gamers, as Carver will often see and experience things that Clarke does not. Visceral Games has also stated that they “always intended to have co-op in ‘Dead Space’” to try and assuage reactionary comments about co-op dumbing down the survival horror elements of the game. (Though I’m honestly not sure how much truth is in that statement. Why would gamers only now be hearing that the series was “always supposed to have co-op” and not when those games were in production?)
As a big fan of the series since the beginning, I’m definitely excited for the third “Dead Space” title. Though the changes to the series are a bit worrisome right now, I have faith that Visceral Games know what fans except from the series and will deliver a product that is as action-packed as it is frightening.
Switching gears a bit – but only slightly – my next most anticipated, upcoming release also features horrifying aliens ripping people to shreds in space. “Aliens: Colonial Marines” is being developed by Gearbox and has been produced to mimic the style and feel of the movie “Aliens.” A first person shooter, gamers will take on the role of United State Colonial Marine Cpl. Christopher Winter, presumably to search for the first team of Marines sent to LV-426 (I say presumably because I can’t find much info about the actual plot).
“Colonial Marines” should prove to be an intense shooter, akin to the “Left 4 Dead” series, as the Marines will generally be hopelessly outnumbered by the vicious and relentless xenomorphs. A few of the gameplay elements discussed so far are incredibly similar to Valve’s zombie apocalypse simulator, including “Gauntlet Runs” where players fight from point A to a point B safe zone and “Last Stands” where players must defend an area until automatic turrets can be set up or doors welded shut.
Though it sounds a bit too much like “L4D” draped in Alien clothing right now, that might not necessarily be a bad thing – mostly because the “L4D” series is flat out great. One of “Colonial Marines’” strengths is its emphasis on immersion into the game by removing any elements of a HUD. This means players must use motion trackers to get an idea of enemy movement/positioning as well as using teamwork to survive the overwhelming odds. Players will also be able to use classic series weaponry like pulse rifles and flame throwers, as well as the aforementioned motion tracker with its trademark blips.
Teaming up to battle the xenomorphs is the only way to survive.
This game has been in the works for quite a while so I’m very interested to see how it all turns out. Right now, like I mentioned above, it sounds a bit too much like a “L4D” clone and I’m wondering how Gearbox will expand those gameplay elements into a fully fleshed-out narrative. Granted being a “L4D” clone might not necessarily be a bad thing, some gamers might want more from a game that’s been in development hell for close to a decade.
Both of these titles are really interesting to me, though, at this moment, only “Dead Space 3” will be a pre-ordered, must-have title. Don’t get me wrong, I will definitely check out “Aliens: Colonial Marines” at some point, if only because Gearbox has a stellar track record when it comes to making exciting first-person shooters. But while the “Dead Space” series is established, “Colonial Marines” is a new franchise so I’ll most likely be waiting to see reviews from gamers and other journalists before committing to paying full price.
Despite how many AAA titles were released in 2012, it seems that 2013 is shaping up to be another year chock full of quality game releases. There are plenty more titles that have piqued my interest so make sure to be on the lookout for the next installment of “On the Horizon.”


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An avid gamer and long-time pro wrestling fan, stay tuned to Grizzly Gaming and the Delco Elbow Drop for game reviews and pro wrestling news.

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