The upcoming third entry in the hugely popular survival horror series Dead Space has a lot riding on it. It is tasked with being a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, if indeed this is to be the last in the series, and to keep up the high quality of the previous two installments. Developer Visceral Games have made things a little harder for themselves by adding a few new features to the series; features that some fans are not too fond off, namely taking a more action orientated approach and moving further away from the out and out horror of the first and, to a lesser extent, second games, as well as adding co-op into the mix for the first time. I got my hands on an early release demo and tried it out for myself.
And those aforementioned changes do take away from the survival horror mood that the first two games had in spades. It feels a little as if Dead Space has been given the Gears of War treatment; big set pieces, cover and shoot mechanics and wide open spaces which while not necessarily bad just lessens the fear factor to a large degree, which was part and parcel of the Dead Space experience. Gone (in the demo at least) are the cramped dark corridors that had you scared to turn around corners in case there was just one horrible Necromorph there ready to eat your face off, in favour of sending wave after wave of disgusting creatures your way and giving you easily enough ammo to just blast away at them. Especially if you’re playing with a co-op partner.
The co-op does work very well in the short 20 minute demo, and while there were none of the promised different scenarios depending on who you played as (a news item a few weeks backed stated that while Issac might see a perfectly normal hallway, your co-op partner, Carver, could be having a hallucination, causing both players to see different paths forward, or more crucially no enemies when there are in fact lots of them causing your co-op partner to have to protect you until you’re done hallucinating) there were a few very cool little teamwork moments. Unfortunately though, having an extra person walking beside you does once again take away some of the fear that the isolation of previous games had but hopefully the makers have thought up ways to keep the scares coming thick and fast that they didn’t want to give away just yet.
The more in depth weapon crafting system introduced here is a great success; creating a unique weapon for your preferred method of despatching the Necromorphs works well once you get used to it and soon you’ll be creating some heavy duty weapons that’ll make mincemeat out of your enemies. And naturally, the game looks beautiful and the sound design is second to none.
I was a little disappointed in the demo if I’m honest. It didn’t feel like the Dead Space I know and fear, but I’ll keep an open mind as this is only a short part of the first mission in the campaign and I have faith in Visceral Games that the finished product will be able to stand alongside Dead Spaces 1 and 2 as some of the finest examples of survival horror this current generation of games has.
Dead Space 3 is out on 8th February in Europe.