Dead Space 3 – E3 Preview
When Dead Space was released back in 2008, it arguably revitalised the ailing survival horror genre thanks to its incredible sound design and use of atmosphere, and was one of the most legitimately-scary games around. To this day, I still can’t bring myself to finish it thanks to how pants-shittingly terrifying it is. The second instalment was released last year to near-universal acclaim, and reportedly created a game that managed to marry big action sequences with enough horror to make the original look tame by comparison. While I found myself completely turned off by what I saw of the third at EA’s press conference, I was nonetheless intrigued by how they’d tackle horror with two players, and took a closer look.
The best place to start is at the beginning, which is precisely where the demo kicked off, as we saw Isaac Clarke regain consciousness after his ship crashed, only to find himself hanging upside down in a frozen wasteland. Once discovering that he wasn’t being held captive by a hungry wampa, he freed himself and began to limp through the snow in search of Ellie, from whom he was separated as soon as tits went up.
After limping through the snow and healing with a med-pack, Isaac soon found himself set upon by the necromorphs, who had appeared in the mist in front of him. However, because Isaac was attacked by an enemy two feet in front of him obscured by the weather, it felt like a slightly cheap scare, albeit one which emphasised the way that the environment could be utilised throughout the rest of the game. This was further compounded by the way that, upon traversing through a cavern, a necromorph leaped up from under the snow and prepared to attack. Despite being in a less confined world, the use of the snow and the way enemies appear to attack gives a very claustrophobic feel that’s very much akin to the original.
Isaac wasn’t alone for much longer, as he soon found one of his allies being attacked by oncoming necromorphs. That ally was John Carver – a hardened military man out on a personal tale of revenge, because I don’t think we’ve overfilled our quota of those yet. As Isaac assisted from a distance, John ran ahead, and so our hero attempted to join him, only to be ambushed by a massive necromorph which soon had him served raw, and was so eager that he didn’t even wait to cook our favourite space janitor before eating him.
This was taken as a great time to look at the drop-in/drop-out co-operative modes, and it was literally as simple as inviting someone in, them accepting your request and waiting for the next loading screen. It’s refreshingly easy, but what was more intriguing was the way that it changed how the game was played beyond just having another friendly face around. While you can feasibly go through the entire game by yourself and have an isolated, atmospheric experience, the addition of Carver showed the first major difference as, upon entering a building to activate a lift, he turned and confronted Isaac and warned him against his obsession with Ellie, prompting a short argument between them. As they continued, the same monster as before appeared, but the ensuing scene was slightly different, as Carver attempted to save Isaac from falling off the lift, then provided another target for the necromorph monster to attack as the battle raged.
While the battle looked easier for our heroes, it was no less tense as the main difference between fighting from a single player perspective and a co-operative one was the fact that there were more opportunities to attack the necromorph’s weak spots between the two players than there were with just one. After triumphantly vanquishing the necromorph, the rest of the demo was much like the one that many had seen in the EA conference; again it was the drill sequence, the horde of attacking enemies and the battle against another enormous necromorph that swallowed our hero and Carver whole. Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed by this as, considering we’d seen it before, I’d have liked to see the same sequence but with Isaac as the only playable character, just to see how much it would have been altered and how much more tense it’d be.
It may not have been as scary or atmospheric as the previous two games, but I reckon that my lack of surprise or shock at some of the scenes was a combination of the ‘group’ experience and that I’d seen some of the scenes before at the EA conference. The opening did seem weaker than the first two games, but that probably comes down to the same factors as before and the lack of claustrophobia that the first games had in abundance. It’s doubtless that it’ll sell by the bucket load, but whether it’ll be another great hurrah for the series or the Resident Evil 5 of the franchise will take us until February 2013 to find out.
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