E3 2012 Preview: Dead Space 3

June 6, 2012

Among the many games that the RC contingent got a glimpse of at E3, Dead Space 3 ranked near the top in terms of just how much we were able to spy. Along with our own hands-on experience, Visceral were also able to treat us to a few more tidbits of information about their intentions in making the game and their hopes for players.

Visceral were keen to express their credentials for bringing high-quality action games to the public, with Dead Space 3 being their biggest effort yet. They’ve promised more weapons, badder enemies and some truly insane action moments to make gamers quiver so violently that their very controllers may drop from their hands.

The setting of Dead Space 3 is a major departure from the previous games. Gone are the long and dark corridors of spaceships, replaced by the bleak, ice-filled world of the necromorph planet. It’s in this frozen locale that the developers promise to answer many questions about the series relating to the necromorphs and markers. As it happens, this newly-featured planet is the marker homeworld. On top of this, Visceral are promising a new feeder enemy, new big bosses and some new human unitologist enemies to either run in terror from or face head-on. Additionally, the co-op character to accompany Isaac will be known as John Carver, and co-op mode promises to deliver its own unique collectibles, weapons and missions.

Our demo began with a bit of a shoutout to The Empire Strikes Back – you see Isaac waking up, upside down and very much frozen. He then drops down and suits up for the task ahead, whereupon it’s revealed that he’s been hanging from the wreckage of a spaceship on the ice world. After his suit-up sequence, Isaac begins calling out for Elle, which doesn’t end well. In a classic Dead Space-esque moment, necromorphs start attacking.

It’s pretty clear that there is a heavier emphasis on action sequences in this latest Dead Space, with pure scares and suspense taking on a more secondary role. It’s also exhibited in how the environment is presented – in short order, Isaac escapes a bridge collapse as well as finding himself inside a truck dangling dangerously on a cliff. Issac is only barely able to escape. After his great escape, Isaac finds himself at an outpost, with a great view of the sky. It is, quite simply, beautiful. Looking into the stars we saw two large astral bodies, but we weren’t quite able to tell if we spied a sun and a moon or twin planets.

This tranquillity didn’t last long, however, as a freaky spider-like necromorph boss attacked Isaac on the outpost. It was also at this point that the demo saw another player join in for some co-op action. From our boss-battling action, we were able to determine that a manual checkpoint restart or death can bring in an extra player, and they didn’t just appear instantaneously. For the scene we observed, poor John only had one line and then disappeared. However, co-op sees the scene expanded with a conversation between Isaac and John, a trend that is set to continue throughout the co-op mode to fill in some gaps of the story.

Fighting off the boss in co-op was a much easier affair – one player was able to freeze time while the other was able to open fire. As well as this, the post-death loot was split up evenly between the players.  With our new loot acquired, we moved on to enter another building, containing a frozen monster. As we did so, an unitologist audio log kept ominously playing a message over and over – ‘Isaac Clark must die.’ Of course, as soon as that happened, it was time for us to be attacked by a group of unitologists. We did have some skills at hand to keep them at bay, however – Isaac was able to use antigravity powers to throw their own grenades back against them for starters. There was no doubt that we were going to need every skill in the book, as we encountered a new disturbing enemy – head crabs. If you’ve ever seen the film The Thing, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what they look like. The head crabs infest dead bodies and detach the head, attacking you. Our unitologist fight also helped us make the discovery that if you kill one it will leave them open to infection by the necromorphs – and that of course means you’ll have to kill them all over again.

After this sojourn we found ourselves in a room with a giant drill that we had to avoid while fighting off more necromorphs. As luck would have it, the task fell to us to deactivate the drill by stationing it and then shooting its weak spot. Once we had taken out that particular piece of earth-mangling equipment, we exited the facility only to be met with more unitologist fire and the appearance of one giant boss which had the ability to suck people in. From this point onwards, the demo displayed the same fight which EA showed off in their earlier conference.