Let’s be honest, what EA and Visceral have shown to the public in terms of gameplay demos for Dead Space 3 thus far hasn't really helped to settle the nerves of the fans; fans who are already on edge after seeing the inclusion of co-op. That aside though, everything that Visceral has shown to the press behind closed doors has done enough to persuade us that the Dead Space franchise is still in good hands. First, E3, with the snowstorm-heavy Necro-fest, and now Gamescom, which can only be described as classic Dead Space. One man, one ship, lots of puzzles and frights galore. Eek!
The premise of Dead Space 3 is simple. Isaac and co. have found the planet of Tau Volantis and on said planet apparently lies the key to ending the Necromorph threat once and for all. Our hands-on takes place just outside the atmosphere of Tau Volantis, moments before the ship that Isaac is aboard explodes. We navigate through the crumbling ship, get suited up and perform a HALO jump with our crew in tow, in order to save them from the impending explosion.
The HALO jump is a gimmicky set-piece (also seen in Dead Space 2) that sees you control Isaac through debris fields at high speeds, shooting at what only can be described as mines, making our way to a fleet of dead ships on the other side of the asteroid and debris field. Once out of danger, the crux of our hands-on kicks in, as we board the command ship and venture forth to restore the vessel's power.
The fleet of dead ships are unlike anything we’ve been privy to in Dead Space thus far. They’re really old – 200 years old, in fact – mechanical ships and far from the once shiny, decaying meccas like the Sprawl or the Ishimura in previous titles. The ships are dark, eerie and you’re alone. You’re a one-man team. This is what we expect from Dead Space!
Moving through the ship we spent our time using Isaac's Telekinesis (TK) to open doors, manipulate objects that were in our way and install batteries in nearby generators so we can climb further into the abyss. It wouldn’t be Dead Space without a slew of Necromorphs either, and this ghost ship is crawling with them. Dropping out of the ceiling and creeping up on you when you least expect it, this boasts the usual Dead Space scares around every corner, and they never get old. The same goes for the dismemberment, as you slice off every Necromorph’s limbs like there’s no tomorrow. The action is as tense as ever with the audio design having you checking your back at ever opportunity. You get a real, all-pervading sense that you’re never alone…and we freakin’ love it!
There’s nothing overly new or innovative about the opening few sequences of our hands-on, but for some, classic Dead Space will be enough. There’s the usual array of Zero-G sections, Lurkers spitting acid at you and even a puzzle towards the end of the level that has you using TK to re-power the ship’s generator, all while the walls and ceilings spit out Necromorphs galore from all angles. Suffice it to say, you'll need to be on your toes at every turn. It’s not fair to call it an uneventful hands-on, because it wasn’t, but in terms of new innovations, there wasn’t really enough to speak of. But honestly, we’re just happy to see some old-skool Dead Space again.
In addition to the gameplay hands-on, Visceral also found time to pimp out its new weapon crafting system. Whereas in Dead Space 2 you could improve weapons, Dead Space 3 actually allows you to craft them from scratch. All you need to do is scavenge supplies left lying around the ship and then go mental at one of the work benches dotted around the ship. We did.
It’s a system that requires a lot of trial and error before you really understand it. For instance, after creating a flamethrower with a scope and a missile launcher with extra splash damage for close quarter combat, I knew it’d be a while before I created a gun I was satisfied with. You essentially choose your main fire, your alt-fire and then add attachments and adapters to modify the effects. Putting scopes on flamethrowers isn’t advised, but adding safety guards for area of effect weapons is a good move – it stops Isaac being injured by his own shot.
After a while we found that combining a Plasma Cutter with the alt fire of a flamethrower created a pretty decent weapon. Well, it did after 5 minutes of what can only be described as colossal Flubber-ups. When you’ve created your ultimate weapon – and tested it in the little arena – why not share the blueprint with your co-op partner? Go on you selfish bastard, share it! You know it makes sense!
Visceral and EA seem to be hitting all of the right buttons when they show Dead Space 3 to the press behind closed doors. There’s tension, there’s frights, there’s solitary confinement, there’s suspense, there’s Necromorphs galore, there’s puzzles. This. Is. Dead. Space. All Visceral needs to do now is prove that the media aren’t talking bull crap by showing the fans what they want to see: a proper Dead Space experience. It’s easy to understand how fans of the franchise are getting mixed messages from Dead Space 3 when Visceral and EA are doing everything in their power to show everything but what the fans want to see. There’s still plenty of time though and we’re confident that the Dead Space fans will gravitate to the threequel based on what we’ve seen thus far. Keep the faith, folks.
Dead Space 3 is hitting stores on February 5th and February 8th in North America and Europe respectively.