Dead Space 3 preview

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Unconscious, battered and hanging slimly onto life, upside down in the wreckage of a ship, Isaac Clarke stirs slowly through bruised eyelids. Focus comes second after the awareness his exposed face is blisteringly cold from a fierce arctic blast. Coming from Titan to find the Black Marker never should have ended in the ship crash landing on the planet Tau Volantis, Isaac cuts himself free and stumbles through the barren landscape pockmarked with flaming debris from the wreckage of the once life sustaining ship, one can only imagine what runs through his mind.

The preview picks up here and then delivers a short but eye opening experience to the potential of Dead Space 3. Gone is the claustrophobia of exploring inside a deep space mining rig, in comes the wintry Hoth-like landscape of Tau Volantis. No longer fancying taking the necremorphs on your own, drop in and out 2 player co-op is now readily (and easily) available. Have Kinect – now it’s your new best friend, screaming out ammunition  commands while under fire works immediately and when momentarily disoriented by the artcic wilderness it’s a lot easier to ask Kinect “next objective” rather than holding down the right thumbstick. Small intergration of Kinect as usual and a far cry from the teasing from Visceral regarding Kinect taking spy pics of your terrified face when shock inducing set pieces take place, but even so – at least on the preview build voice commands are robust and reliable.

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Taking Dead Space out of the dark confines of a hull and shifting it to bright white daylight is a brave move, but during the preview it is evident that it’s a well thought out one. Moving from daylight to the obligatory worn, battered and dank underbelly of the human settlement on Tau Volantis inspires a feeling of dread moving inside a building, knowing that soon you will be relying on your torch again, scanning every crevice for a potential threat, never knowing where an attack will come. In this respect the franchise retains it’s genre saving horror element, evolving it to something more terrifying. Add a co-op partner however and the tension disappears with the knowledge that revival at any stage is possible and running and gunning becomes more the preferred method. It doesn’t dilute the Dead Space gameplay, merely serves to play the game through in a different style. Dialogue from NCP’s change to cater for the fact there’s two of you so it does give a different experience from playing solo. Purists however (myself included) may prefer to play the game by themselves first and then revisit for some limb amputation laughs with a friend once that has been completed.

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The third main gameplay change comes in the redesigned workbench. No-one will lament the loss of the Power Node style of upgrading your weapon when presented with the new system for armament. Now the sky is the limit as you scavenge scrap metal, tungsten, plasma cells and such like as you can now design your own weapon from the ground up at the new benches. During the preview build I decided on an assault rifle mounted on top of an electric Line Shooter, both being able to fire simultaneously. Add a scope or an extended clip for ammunition, or perhaps one would prefer to replace the line gun with a shotgun, or compressor, or lightning generator? Only your imagination will get in the way of constructing amazing one and two handed weaponry to dispatch your foes. The ripple affect of such an amazing system is that every nook and cranny, inside and out of buildings will be explored for rare finds to add to your inventory. QTE’s are still present during set pieces, but are handed to the player in a more Uncharted style, rather than button mashing all the time or relying on ninja-like responses for one button press. There’s also the need to manoeuvre using onscreen prompts during set pieces, such as holding the left stick in a direction to guide Isaac through the imminent danger. A subtle shift in the QTE style but certainly a welcome one.

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With the preview cruelly ending on a gameplay cliff-hanger, Dead Space 3 teases you with what the full game should deliver with Visceral’s track record. A horror survival game with an evolution of it’s already stellar gameplay. Close enough to keep loyalists happy but with the co-op gameplay and human enemies also hunting Clarke, there’s enough new and current gameplay changes to tempt totally new gamers to the franchise. Roll on the 8th of February.

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