Dead Space 3 Hands-on Preview -- Horrors Await in the Lost FlotillaBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted Jul 25, 2012
The presence co-op and the drastic change in setting in Dead Space 3 surely turned off a few fans, but the demo showed at E3 2012 was intended to make an impression as well as focus on what new features have been added to the series. As executive producer, Steve Papoutsis told me last week, “To show more of the same would make this feel like Dead Space 2.5.”
Whatever you picture to be the ideal Dead Space 3 experience, Papoutsis and the team wanted to reassure me that there will be at least one act based in the poorly lit confines that Dead Space fans look forward to.
Those who have consumed every bit of Dead Space content beyond the first two games will enjoy the sense of history that the first act of Dead Space 3 presents. We find Isaac investigating a ship graveyard known as The Lost Flotilla, a large group of vessels that have been stranded for 250 years. It’s no doubt an intriguing setting and could potentially be a fine segue before Isaac eventually touches down on the frozen planet known as Tau Volantis.
Returning to darkened hallways on derelict ships was, for the lack of a better word, comforting. For this studio visit, Papoutsis also wanted me to explore what I consider to be a significant addition to the series: side missions. These optional quests will not only extend your playthroughs, but also provide additional background story and lots of loot to collect. This one-on-one demo session actually consisted entirely of one portion of a side mission. Isaac’s goal was to investigate one of the numerous ships in this flotilla, a research vessel called the USG Greely.
- PREVIEW: Official E3 Preview of Dead Space 3
Exploring a 250 year-old damaged ship isn't exactly a brisk undertaking, especially when you have to manually open doors. This gives a lot of opportunities to use the TK or torque kinesis that was showcased at the E3 demo. Think of it as a power tool version of the kinesis where large hand dials (among other unwieldy objects) can be moved with little effort.
I also came across one of the game’s puzzles, a simple exercise in flicking a group of fuse switches. While I didn’t exactly have a full grasp of the puzzle to develop a strategy, I did clear it after experimenting with different on/off settings. I’ve always appreciated how the majority of Dead Space puzzles have suited their specific settings, as opposed to the often arbitrary nature of Resident Evil puzzles.
Four-direction dodge rolls! Crouching! Ladder climbing! If you haven't played Dead Space in a while, you might not remember that these control features didn't exist in the first two games. It certainly speaks to the quality of Dead Space and Dead Space 2 that they didn't even need those moves. That's not to say I'd refuse the option to make a last minute dodge roll from a necromorph. Mixing those new moves with the melee attacks and foot stomps certainly helped make me a more assertive survivalist during this demo, which says something since I'm often more of a defensive, conservative gamer when it comes to horror games.
Soon enough, the first necromorphs began to show up, as I was given advance warning by some of the suspenseful music cues Dead Space fans are used to hearing. This audio cue obviously helped me anticipate and prepare my aiming, though I know much of the game will not give me such a generous warning. While I had not played Dead Space 2 since the second week after its release, it was comforting that I had not forgotten the series' combat tactics.
That involves mixing up ranged and melee attacks, while immobilizing the necromorphs by targeting their limbs. And Papoutsis can attest that I certainly know how to finish off the enemies with foot stomps; I'm just that type of horror game consumer who gets so emotionally charged that one foot stomp is never enough, even though it technically is.
Compared to other developers with much stricter schedules on unveiling different parts of an upcoming AAA title, Papoutsis didn’t mind veering slightly from this demo's initial playbook. This was mostly regarding weapon customization in Dead Space 3. While I couldn’t get questions answered regarding the workbenches and the new weapon parts I came across, Papoutsis was happy to show off one of the benefits of weapon modding.
This was illustrated with a demonstration of two familiar Dead Space weapons that were now combined into a single weapon: a line gun merged with a ripper. You can imagine the ranged firing benefits while being able to manage immediate crowd control. I thanked Papoutsis for the modest insight, especially when it was clear he and the PR team wanted to wait until a later date before a formal and thorough unveiling of this feature.
Having been a fan of the anti-gravity sections of Dead Space 2, it was pleasing that Papoutsis confirmed similar areas will be in Dead Space 3. He dramatically presented this by opening a door in one of the ships, revealing a clear view of much of the remnants of the flotilla and confirming that much of visible area, in addition to the other ships, will be accessible.
Standing on a tiny platform, I was one button press away from jumping into that floating ancient mess of ship parts, but Papoutsis had other ideas, such as ending the demo. He wouldn't comment on my observations, but while Isaac was briefly out in space, I did notice something off camera was firing a beam at me as well as a large pulsating blob shaped organism attached to a piece of wreckage.
We'll undoubtedly find out what these threats are (most likely the hard way) when Dead Space 3 ships on February 2013.