E3 2012: Dead Space 3 Preview

EA’s ambitious survival-horror franchise, Dead Space, has proven to be a big hit. Just four years after its inception, the series has become one of their most revered franchises and a centerpiece at this year’s expo. The good news? It’s well deserved.

Dead Space 3 will feature the return of series staples Isaac and Ellie, as well as introducing new character John Carver ( Carver, not Carter). Taking place on planets Uxor and Tau Volantis, the plot looks to answer questions about the origins and relations of the Markers and Necromorphs. Most of the game will feature Tau Volantis, a hazard as much as a stunning icy setting. If you’ve played Lost Planet, you’ll recognize the basic feel of Dead Space 3, though (of course) these games couldn’t be more different.

In the demo we viewed, a giant spider-like creature knocks Isaac out of an elevator as he explores the planet. Not content to simply make you take a ladder, the creature continues to attack you. Once Isaac is able to overcome it, he proceeds into a complex on the planet to view even more horrors. Suddenly, little crab-like Necromorphs scurry into a corpse, resurrect it and attack you. Once you defeat the possessed body, the creatures jump on you. To avoid suffering a similar fate to the corpse, you can grab them and brutally beat them into pulp with your rifle.

One of the eeriest enemies in the demo were human legs with whip-like Necromorph appendages sticking out the torso. Instead of simply lumbering, they will suddenly dash at you. If you manage to knock them down, they will desperately scurry around the ground trying to survive. Reminiscent of The Thing, these are a very unsettling enemy to encounter.

As mentioned above, not only are the Necromorphs a hazard, but also the planet itself. Isaac proceeds into a large structure where a giant drill activates and starts violently spinning around. Instead of surviving solely the killer drill, Necromorphs jump in to distract you. It’s a suspenseful sequence where the impending doom translates well to the off-screen player. If you manage to disable it, Isaacs simply states “Fuck this planet.” We’re with you, buddy.

Not satisfied with giant spiders and drills being the largest encountered hazards, the demo ended with an enormous, six-story tall animal-demon-like creature squaring off against Isaac. You’ll have to avoid its violent attacks, including being chomped by its mandibles and forcefully spit out. It even spews out Necromorph like skeletons — perhaps other victims of its rage. The fight ends with eventually being swallowed whole, waking up in the beast’s stomach. We’ll have to wait until the retail release to finds out if a Pinocchio-like escape sequence will ensue.

Not only does Dead Space 3 boast new settings and characters, but also never-before-seen features. One of the most promising additions is drop-in/drop-out co-op. A friend will be able to join your game any time, simply waiting for you to die or the next checkpoint to pop-in the game. It looks to be a seamless addition and feels like the game was truly designed for two characters. It’s a useful feature to boot, as having a friend along will certainly be a help in some of the game’s more difficult parts.

Mixing the cold planet with the already chilly-atmopsherics of Dead Space is a perfect step for the series to take. Launching February 2013, Dead Space 3 should prove to be a great send-off to the winter cold.