Dead Space 3 hands-on preview

Dead Space 3 Screenshot - 1113978

A lot of criticism has been making the rounds since Dead Space 3 was officially unveiled a couple of months ago at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.  Some fans thought it was leaning more towards mainstream action than survival horror, while others compared the new arctic climate for the game with Capcom’s Lost Planet series.  But after checking out a new single player demo for the game at Electronic Arts’ Summer Showcase event, all we can say is, “Relax, kids, Visceral knows what they’re doing.”  At least, from what we’ve seen, anyway.

EA had two demos to show us.  The first was the same co-op demo that was showcased at E3, and even though it didn’t hold any genuine surprises, it was a lot of fun to experience again.  One player controls the long-suffering Isaac Clarke, while the other can jump in as newcomer John Carver, a man with a mission of his own.  It’s better to tackle objectives with two folks instead of one, such as the part of the level where you come into contact with a giant, nearly unstoppable drill.  One player can hold off the enemies coming around, while the other uses statis (slow down energy) to hit the drill’s weak point at the center and bring it down.

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Another great part of the co-op demo was the final boss fight at the end, with a big, suck-up style of creature slamming down its tentacles and threatening to eat you in one gulp.  The demo had a lot of tense points, but EA pointed out that, even after it devoured us, that was only half of the boss fight, as we had to fight its innards from there.  And then they told us “you’re not coming out the same way you came in.”  Imagine the image that statement drew out.

Along with the co-op demo, Visceral also showed off a new single player demo for Dead Space 3, and it’s here you see more of the traditional elements of the series take shape.  The demo didn’t take place in the great white outdoors, but rather a dark, murky inner setting, with pipes hanging overhead, liquids dripping everywhere, and enemy xenomorphs popping out of the woodwork.  It delivered  a tense experience as you pulled your plasma rifle on enemies while, at the same time, solving puzzles, such as hitting switches or activating an elevator to reach a new level.

Regarding gameplay, Dead Space 3 has most of the traditional set-ups intact, including a quick way to replenish health (provided you have the health pack to fulfill your request), the ability to stomp downed enemies or strike them with a vicious swing, and the option of choosing between the classic holographic aim and a more usual set-up.  In co-op, you can also hand items back and forth between buddies, should someone need ammunition or health.  The only downside to this is that the cover system still feels a bit wonky.  We prefer just running around and shooting at enemies, which you’ll need to do quite often – especially when you deal with spitters from higher up.  Those guys don’t let up.

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Visceral Games hasn’t let up on the game’s presentation after they wrapped up Dead Space 2.  The graphics are impressive, between both indoor and outdoor environments, and the lighting really plays a part in certain segments.  The weather conditions are awesome too, as blowing snow can really be your worst enemy when enemies are hitting you from all directions.  Likewise, the audio is great, with musical cues happening at just the right times and great dialogue.  We witnessed a great, tense moment between John Carver and Isaac Clarke that’s sure to make things very interesting in co-op later on down the road.

Though Dead Space 3 is still a ways off from release (it’s slated for February 2013), Visceral did confirm that it’s sticking to some aspects of the series better than some worried fans might think.  We’ll have another look at more gameplay in the months ahead, leading up to the game’s eventual review.  Be sure to check back…if you can survive in space that long.

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Robert Workman
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