So, critics are expecting Dead Space 3 to suck.
But in all honesty critics have had a black mark for the Dead Space franchise as a whole arguing that the adventurous pace and heavy arsenal was one of the signposts for the decline of horror games as not being scary and truly horrifying as much as startling. That is theoretically lessened in Dead Space 3 as you have an ally for no other reason (as reviewers see it) then to cash in on multiplayer.
Which means online passes, knowing EA.
But as I thought about it the idea of making a multiplayer horror game became something of an intellectual challenge transcending the cheap cash grab that Dead Space 3 has been labelled.
The inherent problem with a multiplayer horror game is that when one plays it, one does not do so alone and theoretically is less scared as they have a companion. Anyone who has ever taken a date/friend/family member to a horror movie knows this to be a fallacy. It is also entirely possible to play horror games in tandem and be afraid.
Just… take my word on this one… kay? I’ve tested it.
So how do you make horror multiplayer work?
Well Dead Space 3 isn’t, conceptually at least, too far off. Imagine, not a situation where you have weapons but say a modern castle or mansion such as with Alone in the Dark or Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Instead you have an ally with you. Now in this case rather then that ally make the challenges easier, they become harder because any time the two of you are together, monsters and enemies zero in on you much faster, forcing you to separate. This is met with moments where both players have tandem puzzles just slow enough to raise tension and make mistakes.
There are, of course, games like DayZ and Left 4 Dead but I want to leave Left 4 Dead out, in this case, since I don’t consider it a mood horror game. Another way to play a game is to have players play within the exact same confined space but possess no way of interacting with each other (except for maybe cellphones or something), nor even know where each other is, save for what they manipulate within the environment. Thus they’re separated and the sensation of isolation remains despite the multiplayer element.
Still, I feel like there’s an innovative way to use multiplayer in a horror element story, say in some kind of tandem gameplay moment. There’s a part of me that thinks the idea of leaving stockpiles behind in DayZ could really be implemented as a key feature of another game wherein players will have access to a resource they must bring with them, but require the resources of other players to proceed. A horror environment simply adds tension and is a great way to keep players emotionally invested!
In the end I’m not entirely sure what would be the best way to invest multiplayer in a horror game. In truth all you need is the proper elements of making the players feel despair and dread if you want to hit the right notes. However I’ve been told that isn’t all that horror is and a good chuck of it is actually showing the players not just something scary but how they respond to something scary and how it defines them.
Given that, the effect of horror in videogames earns a new dimension when someone else is around and remains an active participant in the game. That idea alone is merit enough for attempts.
So too does this work exist.