A day trip to go check out Dead Space 3 seemed like a good proposition. I'd just have to get over my unreasonable fear of flying to go check it out. And after the completely uneventful flight, I got some hands on time with a near final build of the game with the first four chapters available for single-player and multiplayer game sessions. I've had some reservations about the multiplayer inclusion in a genre that has eschewed multiplayer for a number of reasons. How can a survival horror game be scary when there's another player present to share in the fear with? Surprisingly, it looks like it will work out fairly well.
Isaac Clarke is a perpetually unlucky man. Let's just settle in right here and assume that a case of Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will go wrong) was written specifically for him. After the events of Dead Space 2, Isaac has gone in to hiding, along with his friend Ellie Langford. Flash forward to Dead Space 3, Ellie is missing, and Isaac has been head-hunted by Robert Norton and John Carver, men hell-bent on destroying the Markers, monoliths that have turned the populace in to the terrifying Necromorphs. They're specifically looking for Ellie, who has information regarding the Markers but has been missing for quite some time and need Isaac's help in tracking her down.
It wouldn't be enough to simply find Ellie, no, nothing would ever be easy for Isaac. Unitoligists also want him dead, and from the get-go through the first two chapters it's a constant fire-fight on the Lunar Colony where Isaac resides. His ability to destroy the Markers has made him public enemy number one in the eyes of Unitology and their followers. This doesn't bode well for the inhabitants of the Lunar Colony, as a Marker's power is unleashed on the populace. From there it's a mad dash to escape and find Ellie while dodging a quickly mutating colony that has been overrun with Necromorphs.
These early chapters are punctuated with a lot of combat against Unitologists armed to the teeth, but Isaac's trusty plasma cutter is surprisingly handy at taking them down. Isaac has also been given the ability to take cover from enemy fire, which is incredibly handy when playing alone as the number of enemies (even on standard difficulty) can easily overwhelm a player. After escaping from the Unitologists, Isaac finds his way to Norton's ship, the Eudora, he's found an SOS beacon from Ellie, near an ice-ball of a planet, named Tau Volantis.
Getting on to the Roanoke where Ellie is located isn't the easiest of ventures as Murphy's Law continues to make its mark on Isaac's journey. After an uneventful jump through space, the Eudora finds itself smack in the middle of a mine-field. The ship is destroyed and Isaac and the crew on board are sent hurtling through space on a tiny survival vessel. In a spot of good luck they find the Roanoke and are able to get inside to find Ellie. Getting on to the Roanoke is where things feel the most like Dead Space. Cramped corridors of a rotting vessel with derelict machinery everywhere that needs to be reactivated to get systems up and running again. Of course restoring power to the ship awakens all of the dormant Necromorphs, and they'll attack from just about any opening they can squirm through. During the playthrough I encountered a few different Necromorphs, mostly the familiar ones that have been present in the past games, but now there are more with human qualities and can wield weapons and guns, making them an even bigger threat than before.
Navigating through the Roanoke give me a chance to make use of all of Isaac's familiar abilities like the stasis, zero-g movement, and the kinetic grapple, and puzzles were in place early on to make use of them. In terms of actual story content, there was plenty of mystery about the Roanoke, and the ice-ball Tau Volantis below. What does it contain regarding the Markers? The demo ended just before I was able to touch down on that snow blasted planet, but not before I learned that the Admiral of the Roanoke came to Tau Volantis specifically because of the Markers. Perhaps this is where the Markers originated from? Or maybe the secret to destroying the Markers is waiting on Tau Volantis. Only by playing the full game will gamers be able to unravel this yarn.
After our single-player sessions were complete, we were given a chance to try out the co-op version of the campaign. This places one player in the shoes of Isaac, and the other in John Carver. During the single-player portion, Carver isn't around much at all, but during multiplayer Carver is much more visible and will be present alongside Isaac during a majority of his journey. Dialog changes and even puzzles are different to accommodate the extra player present in the game. Items that are found are accessible to both players so thankfully there is never a shortage of ammo or healing items or materials to go around.
Yes I said materials. New to Dead Space 3 is the item and weapon crafting system that allows Isaac and John the ability to make new gear and power up their suits with a variety of materials that are dropped by Necromorphs and found in boxes or just lying around all over the place. The weapon crafting system allows for a ridiculous number of different weapon combinations. Case in point I was able to create the Line Gun from previous Dead Space games, but also gave it the ability to rotate like the default Plasma Cutter weapon, or I could place the Force Gun attachment to it and give it the capabilities of a shotgun. It's also possible to create healing items, or attachments that give the guns special properties, like the ability to pick up ammo from a short distance away without having to actually pick it up. While I like this new addition I have to admit I'm worried that I'll be able to outfit myself to be a total bad-ass and won't have to fear anything the game can throw at me.
By the end of the day I was relieved to see that the addition of multi-player doesn't do anything negative to the game, the weapon crafting system is a cool addition, and the general feeling is that this is still Dead Space. If the guys at Visceral Games can keep up the tension and Tau Volantis proves to be just as terrifying as the trailers make it out to be, I think they'll have a great follow up to Dead Space 2. We'll have a full review with all the juicy analysis and viscera when the game goes live early next month.
Electronic Arts provided air transportation and ground travel for this event.