Dead Space 3 Preview
Tau Volantis isn't the only thing that leaves me cold about Dead Space 3.
Dead Space 2 was one of my favorite games of 2011, and when rumblings began to stir about a third game in the series I waited with giddy anticipation for details. Now that the game has been officially announced and the first gameplay has been shown I can’t help but find myself…concerned about this title. While I see enough of the core DNA of Dead Space in the E3 demo, it feels like the game is losing some of its identity, not unlike what happened with the Mass Effect series.
Taking place not too long after the events of Dead Space 2, we find Isaac Clarke and his fellow Sprawl survivor Ellie crash landing on the icy wasteland of Tau Volantis. Clarke gets separated from Ellie and now has to deal with the harsh environment of the planet’s surface. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a Dead Space game if there wasn’t a necromorph or a thousand to contend with, naturally.
Isaac encounters a new addition to the cast: the Earthgov sergeant John Carver. Carver has his own backstory that is supposed to be detailed in the release of an animated comic similar to Dead Space: Ignition. Carver adds some grit to the narrative with his aggressive attitude and salty language. It seems as if he will be a character that Isaac encounters off and on during the single player campaign.
Stating that there’s a single player campaign is a clue into the main new feature of Dead Space 3: drop-in, drop-out co-op play. While the message from Visceral Games and EA is that you can enjoy this game as a solitary experience like the previous two games, John Carver is the second player character and has plenty of dialogue to work into the story if you choose to partner up. While the Dead Space games have always been more of an action affair than straight-up horror, I feel like they’ve also had some truly tense and impactful moments that would be lessened with a buddy in tow. Even with the assurance that the game can be played in the style of the other games I can’t help but come away a little concerned that the encounters and pacing of the game have been structured around a two-player experience, at the expense of the single player mode.
In addition to this focus on cooperative play, Dead Space 3 has become much more of a fast-paced shooter this time around, and again my thoughts go to the transition from the mechanics of the first Mass Effect into the third game. Isaac is far more maneuverable than he was in the past, complete with a Gears of War-style combat roll. Gone is the weighty, purposeful feel of his armor. Isaac can move swiftly into and out of cover, which he’ll need to utilize against the human soldiers he encounters this time around. That’s right, folks—Dead Space 3 is a third person cover-based shooter.
To combat these new, assumingly more intelligent enemies, Isaac has a much more traditional arsenal at his disposal. While the first two games played into the fact that Clarke is an engineer and not a soldier by having him wield his normal tools as weapons, Dead Space 3 puts more warlike guns in his hands. The weapon selection has been streamlined, and it seems as if Isaac has cobbled together new weapons by combining his old ones. Gone is the alt-fire of the Plasma Cutter (which changed the orientation of the blast), replaced with a Ripper-like sawblade. The demo also shows Isaac using a full-on machine gun that appears to have a grenade launcher attached to it. In another nod to this game’s new focus, ammo is now universal, eliminating the resource management that was a key component to the tension of the other games.
What was shown of Dead Space 3 gives me cause for concern, but there were still elements of the game that got me excited to see where Isaac Clarke goes next. The graphics look phenomenal, and the icy tundra of Tau Volantis is convincingly cold and brutal to behold. Isaac’s personality is even better defined this time around, and using stasis to combat necromorphs is still satisfying. I’m not entirely sold on the co-op or the emphasis on the cover mechanic, but I’m still looking forward to Dead Space 3 when it comes out next February.