Visceral Games’ sci-fi horror action series, Dead Space has grossed out and gripped many gamers in a slimy bloody vice these past few years. Taking inspiration from horror films like Event Horizon, and Aliens, the series has remained reliable for pulse-pounding action, disturbing monster design, and lots and lots of bloody dismemberment. So when EA gave me an early look at the demo for Dead Space 3, I was curious to see what this installment would bring to the table.
The demo opens up with protagonist Isaac Clark stepping out of ship wreckage on the desolate ice planet of Tau Volantis. He is separated from his friends, he is exposed to a vicious whiteout blizzard, and he’s barely clinging onto life. And he’s not alone.
While past Dead Space games had a habit of having enemies burst out of the walls when you least expect it, there were moments where these jump scares came off as something way too easily telegraphed. Dead Space 3 manages to surprise by having zombified monstrosities come out of the very snow and ice from just about anywhere, taking advantage of the low visibility.
As the demo progressed, with Isaac stumbling his way into a seemingly abandoned facility, the Necromorph menace starts taking notes from John Carpenter’s The Thing as the deformed bodies of the building’s former staff started to attack, culminating in a great set piece with a giant drill going haywire. Afterwards, the demo shortly ended with Isaac finding a group of survivors from the Necromorphs, only to be attacked by a large hulking monstrosity, ending on a massive cliffhanger.
If there is one major thing the demo showcases it is the newly implemented weapon crafting system. Reinforcing the lack of civilized settlements on Tau Volantis, Isaac can’t just buy new weapons and stock up on ammo. Instead, he must scavenge parts from his surroundings and make improvised weaponry MacGuyver style out of whatever he has available. It is actually very involving, being able to disassemble the classic Plasma Cutter weapon to recycle the individual parts, along with whatever pieces of scrap you find out in the icy wastes, into a weapon more useful in the moment. The ability to mix and match different weapons is quite open, allowing the creation of many possible weapon types, from the standard assault rifle with shotgun attachment to a more elaborate short-range burst electric laser with a flamethrower underneath. As long as you have the parts and necessary ammo to fire it, Dead Space 3 allows it.
If there is one small flub in the demo experience, it is in arguably its most polarizing feature, the drop-in/drop-out cooperative multiplayer. Regardless of where you are in the game, it is possible for another player, be it friend or otherwise, to join in and help you out as military man John Carver. Doing so adds different story beats, such as Isaac and Carver having a dialogue during certain parts in the story, and an extra pair of eyes when the Necromorphs show up to turn things into a bloody mess. However, it also means both players have to share and manage resources, including ammo, if either one is going to survive, since death of one player means both fail. The flub seems to come from various bugs and issues revolving around the feature, such as difficulty connecting to a game, screen freezing, and in the event of a partner dying, being permanently stuck in a loading screen. Thankfully, when it does work, the feature does add something extra to the experience without taking anything from the solo campaign. Hopefully, the full game has these issues fixed, but first impressions are dicey in this respect.
Issues aside, Dead Space 3 is shaping up to be something of great potential, let’s just hope that the final product sticks the landing when it comes out in stores this upcoming February.