Dead Space 3 Hands-On
Dead Space 3 Hands-On
I've been pretty quiet about Dead Space 3 so far. Sure, my mum always told me that if you haven't got anything nice to say then say nothing at all - but clearly I haven't followed advice ever. No, I stayed quiet because in my mind I hadn't seen Dead Space 3 yet.
The Lost Planet-esque, Gears of War-esque shoot-em-up they showed at E3 certainly wasn't Dead Space. The enemies weren't dead and it wasn't set in space. Isaac Clarke rolled around shooting glowing orange weak spots for massive damage while his burly bro John Carver spoke like Sylvester Stallone had written his dialogue. Nothing scary happened and I cried on the inside. It was awful.
Then, at the Gamescom EA press conference Visceral games showed off more of the game - this time Isaac Clarke zipped through space at breakneck speeds, dodging debris and mines like a real action hero! If you didn't see this sequence in the demo, just think back to the second shittiest gameplay sequence in Dead Space history (after the meteor shooting bit in the first game) - it's back in number 3!
As I stood in line for the hands-on presentation I could see directly into line-free NHL room. I seriously contemplated ditching Dead Space 3 and heading across to play some NHL 13 - and boy am I glad I didn't. Because what EA appears to be deliberately not showing the public is that Dead Space 3 is still scary.
When my hands-on begins it's barely seconds before I'm careening through space in the sequence mentioned above. It's exactly what those who played Dead Space 2 might expect - you dodge a bunch of debris which moves in a static pattern, and if you screw up you start again at the last cutscene.
It's tedious to play, but I'm sure it looks great on the press conference big screen.
When you finally reach your destination though, the game transforms back into what we've come to expect from the series. The constant noise of the previous sequence disappears as Isaac and his trusty plasma cutter make their way through the ship he had been flying towards, attempting to find a way to release his friends from a box (I wasn't told who they were or why they were in a box, by the way).
The bleak corridors return. The flashlight on Isaac's suit returns, the only weapon against the darkness. I'm jumping every time the metal hull of the ship creaks, spinning around wildly whenever a grate shifts.
This is the Dead Space I know. I creep slowly through the halls, tentatively opening doors, fearful of what is on the other side. It's nearly 10 minutes before I encounter my first necromorph because I'm moving so slowly - when I do I nearly die from freaking out. Soon enough I'm back into the swing of things - I shoot the arms off, grab them with stasis and fling them at my enemy to conserve ammo. Still, I waste more ammo by shooting every corpse I see - it's a habit I learned in the first game, and it's great to see it return here.
Ammo conservation will be treated differently in DS3 - gone are the automated stores that kept the economy going in the first two games. No longer will you have to wonder "Which vending machine company took the contract to resupply these machines?"
Instead you now salvage materials and build stuff yourself. Ammo, health, weapons - all of this will be built by the player from whatever they can find around the world. This makes sense from a character point of view - Isaac Clarke is an engineer, so he should have been able to do this from the get go. Hell, maybe space vending machines are sufficiently complex to require an engineer to re-equip them - and that was Isaac Clarke's real job!?
From a gameplay perspective it poses some interesting challenges, because inventory management still appears to be a big part of the game. This will force players to make tough decisions about what they can and can't carry - which could possibly end with them being underpowered for parts of the experience.
The payoff is big though. Vending machine weapons lack the imagination of a trained engineer (wait, what?) and when Isaac is building guns from scratch he's able to inject his personality into it.
When I say personality, I mean he's able to attach extra guns to his guns, like a deep space pimp my gun. I created plasma guns that had saw blade rippers attached to the bottom, machine guns that shot bullets covered in stasis that - by the law of transitive properties (read - physics magic) slowed my enemies and more.
It's fun to goof around with this part of the game, but it's really a sideshow - serious Dead Space players will work out the best combo and probably stick with that, because it's a survival horror game, not a damn shoot-em-up.
This causes me some concern, to be completely honest. I've seen two distinct games from Dead Space 3 so far. There's the coop buddy shoot-em-up that EA keeps showing us at their press conferences - with explosions, swearing, weapon experimentation and weakpoints. Then there's the Dead Space game we've fallen in love with that they're showing behind closed doors - with darkness, necromorphs, panicked reloading and more than a hint of fear.
They're so different, and I worry that one will impact the other negatively. Still - Dead Space 2 certainly took a more action-oriented approach to the beginning three quarters of the game, only to throw that out of the window towards the end when it became a tense thriller again. It's possible the team at Visceral might be setting us up for another bait-and-switch - let's hope not though, because I just called it.
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