In a cold, dark room at the EA booth at E3 2012, I finally got a chance to see game-play from the upcoming third-person horror title, Dead Space 3. I also spoke with producer, John Calhoun, about the game’s new co-operative mode and the new Necromorphs.
Dead Space 3
sees Isaac travelling to the home planet of the Necromorphs with one sole purpose: to eradicate them completely. At the start of the demo, he awakens inside a crashed space shuttle, hanging upside down and covered in blood.
After freeing himself – and of course, me, the gamer – I got my first look at the snowy planet of Tau Volantis. Gone are the dark and claustrophobic spaceship corridors of the previous games, instead I found myself in the snowy landscapes of the seemingly sleepy planet.
As Isaac wades through the snow, we see some of the all-new environments that have been created for Dead Space 3
. The demonstrator hovers the camera on the beautiful vista and for a moment, it’s a peaceful scene. Isaac continues wading through the snow, and as he passes through a small cave, the first necromorph makes an appearance by popping out of the snow.
John Calhoun refers to the Necromorphs of Tau Volantis as “highly evolved” compared to those of Dead Space 1
. While he couldn’t get into too much detail, he did describe the Feeder – a temporary name for a new breed of Necromorph.
These creatures react to both light and sound and hunt in packs. Shining your torch will enrage them and cause them to attack. Throwing items to distract them can give you a brief window to eradicate them all before they know you’re there.
John also described one of the more exciting types of Necromorph: temporarily named “The Fodder”. This enemy changes his attack type from melee to ranged depending on where you attack him.
Although I didn’t get to see Fodders in action, the inhabitants of Tau Volantis looked really exciting and gruesome, but the lack of a confined space in which to fight them completely reduced their scare factor.
Next, a quick cutscene plays as Isaac rushes to help a fellow human against Necromorphs atop a blockade. Isaac then gets attacked and decapitated by a huge crab-like Necromorph. It is here get to see the brand new drop-in/drop-out co-op in action. At the pause menu, the demonstrator invites a friend to play through Xbox Live.
New character John Carver appears alongside Isaac to help him out. I then see a completely new and longer cutscene. There’s plenty of banter between Isaac and Carver, and the whole scene feels decidedly more light-hearted than the previous one.
The two characters work together and combine their attacks to take the Necromorph down with ease. While the co-op is completely optional, it does give players new gameplay mechanics and additional story details.
When asked if co-op was less scary than the traditional single-player experience, Calhoun replied that it wasn’t, because “the things that make the game thrilling and suspenseful really have nothing to do with gameplay. Things like audio and visual effects don’t change between the single-player and co-op experience. If it scares you in single-player, it’ll scare you in co-op.”
However, he seemed to double back on that statement by mentioning that “the co-op was added to open up Dead Space
to a bigger audience... We’re hoping that for people who found the game too hard or too scary [in single-player] will be able to enjoy the experience with their friends in co-op.”
For the first time in a Dead Space
title, you fight against other humans. As they have the ability to flank, take cover and coordinate with each other, it only made sense to give Isaac abilities as crouch, roll and evade to be able to keep up, says Calhoun.
Also new is the adaptive cover system. Pull out your gun behind a low wall, and Isaac will automatically crouch behind it. The cover system worked incredibly well against the human enemies, allowing greater manoeuvrability than a regular sticky cover system. Human enemies can take multiple bullets to the chest, which seemed a bit strange and unbalanced. It didn’t seem as satisfying to take out the humans -- compared to the relief and surge of adrenaline after a Necromorph attack. There also seemed to be ammo aplenty, making Dead Space 3
look much more like a generic third-person shooter than a horror title.
John Calhoun has promised that Dead Space 3
will give fans of the series some much needed answers with regards to the Markers, Unitology and the ecology of the Necromorphs.
While I’m excited to finally get some answers, it’s not shaping up to be the terrifying and claustrophobic Dead Space
we know and love, but something much more action-focused instead.
Dead Space 3 is set for release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in February 2013.