First impressions can be hard to live down, especially at when they’re made at E3.
When Visceral Games pulled back the curtain on Dead Space 3, the third entry in what many consider to be the last bastion of mainstream survival horror, the reception wasn’t perhaps what they’d expected.
A drop-in drop-out co-op campaign, cover systems, and drawn out gun fights with human soldiers – awash in the number of third-person shooters that were already drowning out the show’s offerings, it seemed that Dead Space 3 was swapping its spooks and chills for a rapid-fire weapon and a friend to join in the action.
Sceptical that the series had forgotten its roots, we visited EA’s UK headquarters to go hands-on with the game’s E3 demo plus a previous unseen slice of the early campaign.
We’re not going to tell that you can put your fears to rest this early, but Dead Space 3 is certainly worthy of a second chance.
Five things we love:
We cannot categorically state Dead Space 3 will result in many sleepless nights but our hands-on time alleviated fears that this outer space horror was all out of fright.
The second chapter of the campaign is set aboard a derelict ship, a chilling setting that brought up memories of the Ishimura where Issac Clarke’s nightmare began.
All the classic tricks are here: jamming doors, well-timed power shortages, Necromorphs reanimating the corpses of the ship’s former crew and some new ones -one clever puzzle even saw us rerouting power from the ship’s lighting in order to open a door.
Co-op isn’t forced…
Another victim of miscommunication, drop-in and drop-out co-op is a part of Dead Space 3 but it isn’t the only part.
If you’d prefer to endure the dark corridors and snow storms with little intervention from Issac’s new buddy then you can do so. An EA representative told us that players can enjoy 90 percent of the campaign John Carver-free and that he’ll only show up when it’s completely necessary.
…and it isn’t lazy either
Those playing the game in co-op will benefit from more dialogue between Issac and Clarke as well as slightly different cut-scenes.
To see how single-player and co-op scenarios differed, we played through the snowy E3 demo twice to see any noticeable changes.
For example, when attempting to power-up an elevator, Issac and John have a little spat – something that doesn’t occur if you go it alone.
When you’re elevator is attacked later on, Issac and John are both thrown around inside before engaging in a boss fight. This cut-scene happened slightly different if it’s only Issac catching a ride. It’s a nice touch albeit a small one.
Issac’s old chums, the Necromorphs are back in Dead Space 3 with a couple of new tricks up their pincers.
Slashers make a return as do the Lurkers, smaller enemies with three tentacles then stretch out to fire projectiles in your direction.
There’s also a new Necromorph type, the Swarm Infectors, small almost insect-like creatures that scuttle into the nearest corpse, bringing it back to life. Getting a shot on one before its found a host can be tricky but dealing with the freshly reanimated corpse of a friend can be even more bothersome.
Say hello to my little friend
There’s really very little we can say about the Weapons Bench, mainly because it was off limits with EA threatening to send Necromorphs after us if we dared go near it.
Both EA and Visceral are keeping the Weapon’s Bench a secret for now hinting that the bench and weapons system could be much different to previous entries. Judging from the number of scrap metal and parts we were able to find dotted around and stamp out of Necromorph rib cages, our bets are on some sort of create-your-own weapons system ala Dead Rising.
A couple of things that scared us:
We’re glad that some of our hands-on time was reassuringly classic Dead Space but revisiting the E3 demo showed us some of the more action-oriented cover-based combat which left us a little unimpressed.
Getting in and out of cover feels cumbersome and something as rudimentary as rolling to dodge requires a quick finger on the LB bumper. We’re not going to write it off just yet but right now it just doesn’t feel like Dead Space.
Good co-op, Bad co-op
We touched on how scenarios play out slightly differently in cut-scenes when you bring Carver along for the ride but we’ve yet to see this really work its way into the game itself.
Two is usually better than one and yes, being able to use stasis to help each other out of a tight situation is fun but that’s about the extent of what few interactions we saw.
How will puzzles pan out with two players, how will new areas be accessible to co-op players, can we share items? Until we see co-op put to good use, we’re not completely sold on it.
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