In a time when survival horror has gone the way of over the top action, Dead Space has been the lonely flicker in the darkness of claustrophobic horror. Some of that looks to change with the upcoming third installment of the game as the close quarters corridors and encroaching shadows of the first two games for a planet with outdoor environments and an expanded roster of enemies. The game doesn’t look like it is giving up all the series conventions, however, as even with these expansions the game appears to retain the sense of desperation and peril.
The demo they showed us at E3 was a play through that showed both single player and the new co-op multi-player and it was running on an Xbox 360. I can say this with certainty as I was standing in the back of the theater next to the drivers and I saw both of their controllers connected to their machines. Aside from that when the drop in/drop out function of the co-op was demonstrated it was clearly done through Xbox Live.
I mention the hardware mostly because the game looks gorgeous and it is very impressive to find it running on a 360. The textures look tremendous and the graphic fidelity in general is amazing. Environment effects like snow and explosions look pretty amazing as well. For the game to run along as smoothly as it does and look as good as it does on aging hardware is testament to just how deep the development had to dig for the power from the hardware. This care shows in other areas of the demo as well.
The demo takes place after series star Isaac Clark crash lands on an arctic planet and has to reconnect with his team. They started the demo in single player mode and let Isaac stumble through the snow flurries until comes across a complex and his teammate John Carver fighting off Necromorphs on a catwalk above him. Attempting to catch up, Isaac finds himself in the midst of a nasty boss fight. With the going tough, player 2 decides to come in to help.
In order for the on the fly co-op to work, the game has to go back to the last check point. Going through with it brings in Carver who has his own story and own agenda to pursue which creates an interesting dynamic between the players. With Carver’s inclusion, the game starts to introduce new scenes that we didn’t see during the single play through and there is some added depth to the game that you wouldn’t get it you didn’t do the co-op. This dynamic looks like it could breathe some new life into the series if it is implemented correctly.In addition to this the team told us that the story was going to expand to finally answer some of the lingering questions from the first two games.
Another new addition to the game that looks kind of troubling is that for the first time there are human enemies introduced. This opens the game up to a new dynamic cover system that allows for dealing with attacks from 360 degrees as enemies in the series tend to do. The troubling part of this is that while the action looks solid enough, it also looks like every other third person shooter out there. The series’s signature weapons based off of re-purposed tools give way to more conventional machine guns and other such fire arms to deal with the threats. I am not sure what the ratio of human enemies are to necromorphs but I much prefer the creative ways you have to kill the necromorphs with cutting tools by targeting specific body areas. To see that go away in favor of standard third person gunplay is troubling.
One thing that was not troubling was the size of the bosses in the game and the tactics the players have to use to kill them. One they showed in the demo was huge and after a certain amount of combat, the thing eats the players. The battle then continues inside the necromorph with some gorgeously disgusting visuals that do proper justice to the weight of the situation. The demo ended with the characters about to fight their way out of the beast and it made me very curious to see what comes next.
The Dead Space games have been strong but I hope that some of the issues that troubled the last game aren’t repeated here like the expectation that a player should start on easy and work their way through the difficulty levels in order to get the best story outcome. I hope the changes work out as well. I am on board with the co-op but I am a bit skeptical of the human combat addition. Hopefully this all comes together for a solid next entry. Even if not the game looks absolutely stunning and I am excited to give it a try and see how close they came to the mark.
I leave you with a rather poor quality video of the promo they were running outside the theater. There is no sound but the game in motion is still pretty awesome.