Preview: Dead Space 3 Hands-On

Dead Space 3 is Visceral Games’ fourth entry in their relatively young horror series. Starting on this current console generation, Dead Space revived the dormant survival horror genre with its dark, futuristic setting, tension building pace, and of course its mutilated alien horde: the necromorphs. With the release of Dead Space 2, the series took on more instances of fast paced gameplay and action oriented events. Despite this, I still enjoyed Dead Space 2 for its gameplay, horror setting, and its copious amounts of gore.

With the announcement of Dead Space 3 and its newly added co-op, cover system, and human enemies, fans became worried that their survival horror series was going full on action. But Visceral does not want to give that impression. That is why a new demo was prepared for the press. One that focused on the core gameplay and roots of the franchise.

For my preview, I was greeted with a new segment of the upcoming game. Unlike the E3 demo which was more flashy and action oriented, the demo I was given to play was rooted in the survival horror aspects of the series that fans have come to enjoy—a sense of isolation, slow paced gameplay, and foreboding environments.

The demo starts sometime early into the campaign. Isaac Clarke has boarded CMS Greely–a 200 year old vessel that was once filled with scientific experiments and studies. The ship lies in the orbit of Tau Volantis, the icy planet that is the setting of Dead Space 3‘s campaign. While not available in the demo, I was told that the ship will be filled with the usual notes and files that give players some story bits as to what had happened to the crew. I wasn’t told much about the story or the intent of the ships’ crew, but I was told that Isaac believes the ship may be involved with the arrival of the necromorphs.

When I was given control of the demo, I was talked through the added mechanics and moves given to our protagonist Isaac. Isaac can now roll left, right, forward, and back to evade enemy attack. Despite wearing a combat suit–a dirty and battered version of the one seen in Dead Space 2–Isaac has a new found agility. Another added move was the ability to crouch. The crouch move can be used behind cover but will not lock-on unlike some cover-based 3rd person shooters. I was told that there is no lock-on, because the team is not trying to make “that kind of game”.

Among the new moves was also a larger use for the kinesis power. Some doors and mechanisms will require the use of kinesis as apposed to Isaac’s usual interaction. This leads to some confusions that I had down the line in the demo, but I’ll address that later in this preview.

The particular mission that I was playing was not a mandatory one. Dead Space 3 has introduced sidemissions into the series. Players can choose to explore more of the story with these missions. In co-op, it is said that exclusive sidemissions will open up in which both Isaac and John can complete. Santos, Isaac’s new contact, guided him and laid out his mission objectives. Here’s hoping Isaac’s luck with women does not repeat itself.

The demo was the typical survival horror feel. The rusted walls of the derelict ship creaked and moaned under the pressures of empty space. Surrounding the ship was all matter of debris and other explorable areas (which was not available to explore in the demo). The interior of this science vessel hinted at a gruesome past event that led to the death of many on board. The lighting, as usual, was very complimentary to the game’s sound. In tandem, the two create that expected atmosphere that one comes to expect from Dead Space‘s classic survival horror segments.

The demo played much like Dead Space 2 in the terms of fluidity and control. Isaac’s movement felt very fluid and polished, perhaps even faster than he has been in the past. The game’s graphics also appeared to be top notch and were very nice, albeit a little bright for my taste. One tiny, feature to Isaac’s gear is that in instances of the right lighting, Isaac’s visor provides light in the shape of, well, his visor. It’s a neat little thing that I chuckled about. It can probably be used as a small source of light when players are not aiming their weapons’ own light source. The visor did the same in Dead Space 2, but it’s much more prominent this time.

As Isaac, I went through the ship’s various rooms without so much as a few sounds in the environment. It took a few minutes for me to meet my first batch of enemies. The standard enemy types were present, including Dead Space 2‘s Puker. There were Lurkers and Slashers as well. I must admit, I did feel a bit disappointed with the creature spawners. After playing Dead Space and Dead Space 2, enemy spawns are ridiculously predictable. Whether it’s a vent on the ceiling or wall, myself and a lot of players of Dead Space already know where to look and expect enemies to come from. I am hoping Visceral knows this and have taken steps to add some variety to how enemies spawn into the environment.

One new enemy type made it into my demo, and man were they mean little bastards. Remember the little bugs that sometimes crawl out of the fat Pregnants? Well, now they venture without their mother and like to ravage and transform corpses into necromorphs. They move extremely fast and were actually able to freak me out a bit. They were perhaps my favorite part of the demo.

I mentioned before that Isaac can use his kinesis to open doors and manipulate mechanisms. I found myself a bit confused when interacting with things in the environment. Mechanisms that require kinesis often glow light blue. This has been present in the past games but due to increased use of kinesis, I found myself trying to interact with item pods and other things via the wrong action. It was a bit confusing, but I’m not sure if it was the fault of the game or my own learning curve to this addition

Later on in the demo, I was tasked with extracting an item from one of the ship’s machines, In order to do so, I had to manipulate a pressure valve system. This was a puzzle. Dead Space 3 has puzzles. Unlike the previous games, this was more than a fetch and plug-in puzzle. This required the right pressure values to be assigned to different parts of the machine. Increments of fifteen points had to be allocated between pressure valves. The inclusion of real puzzles was a big surprise coming from a game that has many people worried about its commitment to the survival horror genre.

My time with Dead Space 3 was a bit short, but it gave me a good idea of what to expect from the game. Just as with Dead Space 2, Visceral wants to reassure and keep their survival horror audience by continuing to provide the elements we so crave. While I do think in the end that the gameplay scale might favor action horror over survival horror, I’m feeling confident in the quality of the game. I think it will undeniably be a bloody good time as long as Visceral keeps to their promises.

  • Thomas

    Great Hands-On review im just so dissapointed that capcom isn´t taking notes from the Dead Space on how to make Survival horror games that are really truely scary…….

    Aparrently they´ve forgotten that Resident Evil is a Suvival Horror videogame franchise and “NOT” a T.P.S. Dont get me started on RE 6. It´s not a single player game at all. You are always with someone an ai partner which removes the whole im am alone and scary things are happening around me. I dont care what anyone else says i will not repeat “NOT” be buying RE 6. I tryied RE 5 but since it´s exactly like RE 4 i didnt buy it and i have no intention of buying it ever…….

    I will however be buying a Resident Evil game once they get the picture and go back to the old school Resident Evil survival horror game type sometime in the near future…….

    The implementation of Co-Op and MP is the only thing that a Dead Space doesn´t need but i guess you have to ….Hmmm…. do things you really REALLY dont have to do to sell games these days…….

    All this being said i´m proberly gonig to buy Dead Space 3 because inspite of a co-op and mp there is still a single player game at the core of it…….

    That´s the way to do it Visceral Games take a hint Capcom…….

    • ariessiren

      then your gonna wait an eternity because RE will never fully return to a single player horror game only, your dreaming. im glad you like visceral, but they will never reach the sales of RE. what does that tell you? theres a reason they went co op….sales. its get on board or go under. its that simple. they already consolidated one of their studios dude.

      • Thomas

        Why are you telling me something i already know….. Dude…….
        I´m simply saying at it is the Resident Evil games released post RE3/Code Veronica have become F.P.S in T.P.S shoes. If “YOU” want to “lie down” for Capcom that your problem not mine. Yes Dead Space is more action minded but it´s not the whole game it´s still done within the Suvival Horror aspect something Capcom seems to be missing (the RE6 leon part which seems to be the most survival horror oriented part of the game even though your never really alone) which i find funny. Don´t forget that Resident Evil on the original Playstation put survial horror on the map and a LOT of people around the world bought the game as it is and they loved it. Dead Space is more survival horror then Resident Evil have been for a long time…….on the eternity part for a old school Resident Evil im not so sure and no one can predict the future not you not me but a true RE fan can go against the masses and dream or is that not allowed…….dude…….

        • ariessiren

          you just answered your own statement..its your dream. its not reality. you referred to re1-3 putting it on the map, yeah they did but that was over a decade ago. im a fan of RE bigtime also, but i also recognize and accept that horror games have evolved and its either accept it or go play call of duty. its not lying down to capcom, you know your gonna buy the game no matter how much you complain. im a fan and they dont make broken unpolished games. just because its a little less scary doesnt mean im gonna throw them away. thats just really stupid. re5 was awesome. not scary but intense. it selled the BEST of the series, what does that tell you? your dreaming bigtime if you think ANY developer would return to its roots after the RE5 success. it was MASSIVE

          • Thomas

            Wow u are really upset and that was not the intention. First of i dont play call of duty or Mordern warfare or wathever they´re called because of the simple fact i don´t play games that a mainly build to be multiplayer games. I just find them boring and i cant find any enjoyment in running around and shooting at others who run around shooting at you or hit you with Purple Things in other games (you know what i mean)……. and NO i will not be buying RE6 or RE5 for that matter and that i´m 100% sure of it. I even bought RE4 for my gamecube but it just didn´t grab like the old games did and i ended up giving it away…… REmake and RE0 were newer but old school games…….Hint Hint……. which were and still are the best Resident Evil games to date……. I might try out Resident Evil Revelations for the 3DS it seems to be ok……. The fact that u and many others just accept that horror games have changed doesn´t mean that i have to. I will play the singleplayer part of a horror game like Dead Space 2 but i will not touch the MP part mainly because i think Dead Space is a franchise that doesn´t need a MP part co-op maby but im strictly a singleplayer gamer only which is a dying breed i know but im not going to apologize for liking Singleplayer games…….but your entitled to your opinion just like me…….

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cory-M-Goldberg/530810818 Cory M. Goldberg

      agree ^

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cory-M-Goldberg/530810818 Cory M. Goldberg

    Good preview. Now the game seems more worth getting, although I still fear fear DS pulled an RE.

    • http://relyonhorror.com/ CJ Melendez

      Dead Space 2, unlike, Resident Evil 5, knew how to be action oriented horror with survival horror bits. It’s a great example of what Capcom seems to be saying RE6 is.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cory-M-Goldberg/530810818 Cory M. Goldberg

        Yeah. But we don’t really know if the rest of the single player part will be like this preview. We will have to wait and see.

        • http://relyonhorror.com/ CJ Melendez

          I’m betting a balance that is palatable to survival horror fans. Much like DS2. But the gun fights scare me, and not in the good way.

        • Jeremy Saylor

          As far as I’ve seen so far with all the demos and such, it will have as much action, survival horror and high tension elements as the previous games, but all much more dramatic. The scary parts will be scarier, the puzzles will be more puzzling and the action will be much more over the top.

  • Relyonevil

    Real puzzles? Color me interested. Now this game’s on my radar, even though I haven’t played the other Dead Spaces

  • Nick

    the epic moments like in the previous games are still there right? lol

  • FlayedSounds

    It’s good to know that there will still be horror moments.

  • ariessiren

    you guys act like dead space was pure survival horror to begin with…it NEVER was survival horror. it was always action horror. dead space 2 was a pure shooter. ds3 is a co op action horror shooter. its not silent hill, haunting ground, clock tower etc.. those are survival horror. you guys need to accept that pure survival horror has evolved to action horror. just ask vatra. they are practically closed down because they gave you what you wanted and hardly anyone bought it. think about that

    • http://relyonhorror.com/ CJ Melendez

      I think the case with Vatra was more about Konami spending nothing to market the game, and also the stigma some people harbor for the Silent Hill series because it’s different that what it has been in the past.

      How could anyone other than fans be interested in Downpour if Konami didn’t bother to do tv spots or many ads?

      • ariessiren

        konami never marketed any of the silent hill games really. SH2 was the only million plus seller in the series. the series was never a blockbuster game, more like the indie horror star. resident evil was always the star. but the only promotional ads for most games are on comedy central, very few on the big screen. downpour was not a huge budget game they arent gonna pay for the ads since the SH budget was never as high as other AAA games. if the game was really that stellar, word of mouth would have been enough especially with the internet. but it really wasnt that great, not bad, but not what it could have been. your review was the highest it received, and that was a little bit biased. the game was not polished, graphically ugly, tons of tech issues, weakest character design in the entire series, worst bosses ever… way overscored. just my opinion.

        • http://relyonhorror.com/ CJ Melendez

          I genuinely liked it a lot. If liking something is bias in an option based review, then so be it. Not sure why we’re talking about my month old review anyway in a Dead Space 3 preview.

          The weakest aspect of the game for me was the monster design. The tech issues did not take too much away from my first playthrough because I had done it in two sittings. I didn’t see a big problem until my second playthrough of the game when I stopped and started a lot.

          I enjoyed what the game brought to the series, and that was a current-gen template that I loved. It did a lot more right in my book than bad. And that is my opinion.

          • ariessiren

            your right its your opinion. we all have one and I respect your views as I hope you respect ours as well :)

          • http://relyonhorror.com/ CJ Melendez

            Of course. I can see why people disliked it, but it just it just hit that nerve with me that I had wanted for years. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cory-M-Goldberg/530810818 Cory M. Goldberg

      First of all, Dead Space has always been scary. It may not be pure survival horror, but it is scary. Second of all, no one knows why Vatra is closing down.

    • Jeremy Saylor

      1. Nobody bought Downpour because it was broken when they released it.
      2. Downpour is in no way what we wanted. Hardly any puzzles, little exploration other than walking through the streets, boring ass enemies, weak as shit otherworld… the list goes on and on.
      3. The only good thing about Downpour was Murphy Pendleton. His story is fantastic and he is one of the best developed characters in gaming history.

  • bootylicka

    Resident evil 5 is resident evils ugly sister.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ruthermass Jesse Waite

    I’ve been tracking this game since the day it came out (Obviously so have you and many other people, Cj) and I have complete confidence that’ll do just fine. Maybe it won’t be as scary as the others, but maybe it’ll be more memorable! I remember playing Dead Space 1 with my ex (Before he went nuts on me) and we stayed on the phone and chated through the whole game, he’d laugh every time I freak the hell out.
    Dead Space 1 was probably the most enjoyable game I’ve ever played in a LONG time. Even more so since I had someone to share it with. For me, co-op or not the fear will still there.. Co-op however may bring fond memories to with whoever I play co-op with! So I am looking foward to it, very foward.
    One thing that concerns me a little is the enemey design… I know we’ll get our usual necromorphs, and probably some awesome new ones but I saw how the grey children looked a bit different (If I saw them correcting from E3, however it could of been a different type of grey children). One thing I loved about Dead Space 2 was how fucked up it was. No one was safe, not even the children. As messed up as it was, it added realism which I love… I hope they don’t change it to much.