There’s a lot of “more” in the demo of Dead Space 3. There’s more choice, more freedom, more necromorphs, more story, and more, well, more everything. Isaac Clarke is back, of course, as is Ellie, but there’s also a new character, John Carver, a straight up soldier who isn’t haunted by an imaginary ex-girlfriend. The game will reveal more about where the Necromorphs and the Marker came from, and give Clarke and Co. a chance to finally end the threat to the universe.
The sequel takes place on Tau Volantis, an inhospitable ice-hole of a planet that would be threatening enough without the added pressure of xenomorphs ripping people’s bodies in half. Now the sub zero temperatures and blinding snow storms are also a tremendous liability. Isaac crash lands on the planet, naturally, and immediately loses Ellie. Now he has two goals: stay alive and save Ellie…again.
Starting off hanging upside down in a snow cave, in one of the game’s many Star Wars references, Isaac will have to find a way to get unstuck from the ceiling, fight through hordes of writhing necromorphs, not get trapped in a massive tractor as it falls off a cliff, and have a shootout with a giant drill. Some of the bigger baddies rely on the same dismembering mechanic from the previous games, so you’ll be spending a lot of time aiming at the glowing bulges on your enemies. Even the drill has a bright yellow light that basically says “Shoot here!”
Isaac’s super soldier transformation also necessitates the addition of a new cover mechanic that I really love. Instead of having a dedicated cover button, like in Gears of War 3 or Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Dead Space 3 uses what the developers are calling “dynamic, non-stick cover.” Essentially this means that the player won’t have to tether him or herself to a wall in order to be protected. Now, players enter cover simply by standing near it and going into aim mode. It’s a much more intuitive system that keeps players from getting stuck on the environment.
Reckoning that it’s better to share the experience with another, Dead Space 3 also offers drop-on/drop-out cooperative multiplayer. Rather than just having it a be a fairly straight ahead Halo type experience, the coop in Dead Space 3 actually changes the story path, dialogue and mission options. We saw one sequence play out with just Isaac where Carver played a supporting role in a cutscene. Then when Carver joins, the player has the option to reload the previous checkpoint or merely wait until the next checkpoint is reached before having the other player jump in.
The demo suggests that we’ve moved away from the “scrappy engineer fights to stay alive” premise of the original game and are now firmly in “grizzled space badass takes on all comers” territory. I’m hopeful the demo misrepresents the tone of the game, and that the horror is about more than just exploding tentacles and scimitar-like teeth. Of course, a grown man sat behind me during the demo and clapped and laughed at every explosive dismemberment and a wide range of lines, from “Fuck” to “What the fuck?” so Visceral’s obviously doing something right.
EA plans to publish Dead Space 3 in February 2013.