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'Dead Space 3' has an ingenious take on co-op

Space buddies forever

Dead Space 3 co-op
Dead Space 3 co-op
Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

Worried that adding another player will kill the scares in the next Dead Space? Don't be.

Making a game scary is really tough. All sorts of factors, from sound design to ammo availability to lighting, come into play, affecting just how scary a game can be. But there's one thing that makes a game instantly not scary: company. Sure, there were intense, witch-driven moments in co-op matches of Left 4 Dead, but the second one of your friends started tea-bagging a zombie or telling you about his day at work, the illusion died and you were back to playing a game. Even worse, think about Resident Evil 5. It's simply impossible to be scared when you have an AI companion with you at all times, shouting for ammo and telling you when you make a good shot.

It's with that in mind that I was extremely wary about Dead Space 3's addition of co-op into the campaign. Since its origin, Dead Space has been about scares. They've ranged from cheap monster closet scares to more creepy undead kindergarden classroom scares, each of the games likely made your hair stand on end at one point or another. Toss in a buddy and what happens? You lose all of that tension. Those perfectly timed moments, when a necromorph pops out of the ceiling right in front of you, can't happen any more because you and your buddy won't always be next to each other. What was once a creepy, atmospheric scarefest becomes a regular ol' space shooter.

At least that's what I thought. But then I played through a level of Dead Space 3 and saw that they've figured out a way to remove the issue entirely. Here's how it's done:

If you're just interested in playing solo, you can absolutely do that. You won't have an AI drone following you around, talking your ear off. It's just you. Alone. Classic Dead Space.

You will, however, come across another survivor as you go about your journey. He's a solider in similar armor as you. Sometimes you'll see him in the distance, fighting necromorphs. Or behind a glass wall. You never directly interact with him, he's got his own thing going on.

But if you decide to play co-op with a friend, suddenly that soldier that you've been seeing in the distance is right there with you. The story will actually change and cutscenes will play out differently depending on whether you're solo or co-op. It's like you're stepping into an alternate universe: One where Isaac Clark finally has some company.

Some logistics: Friends can join your game at any time (presuming your settings allow it). When joining, the person hosting will be asked whether they want to restart from the last checkpoint or whether they want to keep going. If they keep going, the second player will join in at the next checkpoint hit, so no momentum is lost.

Also, for weapon nuts out there, you'll be able to bring over all your equipment from your single-player game into a friend's co-op game. Also, any cash or items you collect while in their game is carried back to your game. So there's plenty of incentive to help out a friend who's struggling.

As I mentioned above, it's likely that playing in co-op will kill a lot of the scares factor in Dead Space 3, but given that it's totally optional and doesn't infringe on the single-player experience, there's really no reason to complain. Looking for a creepy, lonely, more traditional Dead Space experience? Play solo. Looking for something more action-heavy? Play co-op. Everyone's happy.

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