By Nicholas Simonovski
Last week, we had the opportunity to get some hands-on with Dead Space 3, the latest instalment in the highly anticipated thriller franchise by Visceral Games. With a host of new gameplay features, an assembly of new (and existing) enemies, and the Markers threatening total annihilation of the human race, I donned my space suit and helmet and dived right in!
As it is to be expected, Dead Space 3 plays very similar to the past two titles, with the exception of a few minor tweaks. Namely, these come in the ability to roll and to couch/hide behind cover. The cover system doesn’t see you snap to a wall or obstacle (like Mass Effect 3, for example) and most of the time you might just couch near a stack of crates or table to avoid fire from other enemies. It should be noted that both the roll and the cover features operate in the background and most of the time you’ll simply see yourself playing DS3 like you did the first two titles. Visceral really haven’t tried to change the core combat mechanics and that’s great to see.
The enemies Isaac will encounter have also expanded considerably since the last title. Not only will fans of the series see the Necromorphs we’ve come to know and love (wait, poor choice of words there) like Slashers and Lurkers, but there are new Necromorphs that will require gamers to change the way they play as well. One such example is the Waster, a Necromorph whose body will change depending on how you dismember it; cut its head off and its torso will drop with three skeleton-like tentacles sprouting from its waist. Alternatively, cut its legs off and it slowly clambers towards you with hatchets in-hand. Necromorphs also seem to take considerably more damage and bullets than I remember from Dead Space 2, as I saw myself die constantly due to a lack of ammunition within the first part of the game while I worked to get groove back.
In addition to the Necromorphs, Isaac will also find himself facing-off against human enemies as well. While we’ve learned about the religion of Unitology so far, we’ve never really dealt with the devout followers themselves. Armed, angry and dangerous, it isn’t just the deformed creations that the Markers produce that we’ll need to deal with, but the followers of the Markers themselves. While some gamers might fear this as Dead Space 3 moving away from its roots, it comes across like a nice change of pace from what I experienced. You won’t be confronted with Unitologists at every step along the campaign and if I’m honest, it’s good to actually interact with Unitologists after we’ve been hearing about them for so long.
The two new features of Dead Space 3 that we’ve seen discussed quite a bit in the past few months have been the frozen planet of Tau Volantis that the game takes place in, as well as the new drop-in, drop-out co-op mode. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to experience either of these two new features during the preview. I know a lot of gamers have wondered whether single-player will now feature a NPC beside Isaac given the new co-op mode, but I can assure everyone that from what I played last week, Dead Space 3 is no different to what we’ve seen in Dead Space 2. Yes, while you might come across other characters from time to time, the single-player game still remains very much an Isaac-only campaign.
Continuing on, another new feature that Visceral have implemented in Dead Space 3 is the ability to customise your weapons. While gamers have traditionally been restricted to the small selection of guns in the past two titles, in DS3 you’ll have the option to completely change your weapons (think that each part of each gun can be interchanged with another in an endless number of combinations). As you progress throughout the game you’ll pick up new parts that you can use towards crafting your weapon(s) of choice. It looks like a great feature but sadly, one that I really wasn’t able to properly explore so early into the game with the limited number of parts I had collected so far.
From the looks of the preview, Dead Space 3 is looking like a promising title for 2013. While we were unable to see what the game will play like in the new setting of Tau Volantis, and while the preview didn’t really have any truly frightful moments (which admittedly might just be because I played part of the preview at the EA Showcase late last year), it still comes across like a true Dead Space title. All the elements of a Dead Space game are there – the familiar gameplay, navigating through areas of zero-G, using kinesis and stasis to complete puzzles/challenges and the tension of walking through a corridor and not knowing when (or if) a Necromorph will jump out and attack you, I just hope that Dead Space 3 will be a true sequel and not simply Dead Space 2.5.