Dead Space 3 E3 Preview (PS3)

The Dead Space series has single-handedly saved the survival-horror genre from extinction this generation, so needless to say I was excited to see its latest offering at this year’s E3 show. I came in expecting another solid addition to the series, but nothing could have prepared me for the radical new additions that Dead Space 3 is bringing.

The first thing I noticed is that Dead Space 3 is no longer bound by the iron corridors of its predecessors. Instead, nearly the entire demonstration was shown in a frigid environment layered with icy halls, dark facilities, and expansive outdoor environments littered with snow. The outdoor areas displayed the beautiful frontier that the game will traverse meanwhile leaving Isaac Clarke feeling more alone than ever before. Well, almost anyway, because the addition of co-op for the first time in the series’ history was shown in full force.

Co-op was the highlight of the demo and what made me want to grab a controller and play. After the demonstrator died during a battle with a large creature, a second player dropped seamlessly into the action to help out. His addition altered the cut-scene sequences and presented a level of teamwork that the series has never seen before. Firing a well-timed stasis bolt before both players unloaded on an enemy weak point made me giddy with excitement. The first thing that came to mind was playing on harder difficulties and utilizing voice communication to become the hunter instead of the hunted.

What was most impressive is that a total of three large-scale encounters were shown during the live demonstration all within a 20-25 minute period. All three were not only visually impressive but challenging as well, and the addition of co-op brought out their full potential. Each encounter appeared daunting at first, but the use of teamwork, a powerful arsenal, and the game’s new gameplay mechanics spelled doom for anyone—or anything—that stood in the way.

Speaking of which, Dead Space 3 has two new major gameplay additions including a cover system and roll mechanic. That might sound derivative, but it’s the way that Visceral Games is implementing them that makes them extremely positive additions. The cover system is extremely dynamic and unlike the ‘magnetic cover’ we’ve seen in previous years it looks completely natural. When either player would pull out a weapon near cover the in-game character would intelligently utilize the nearby environment to provide safety from enemies. In addition, the roll mechanic rewarded each player for good timing by exposing enemy weaknesses.

The most important thing that I learned from the Dead Space 3 demo is that it will use the best qualities from the previous two releases and combine them with some of its own magic. There was plenty of immersive audio, several gruesome creatures, and familiarly beautiful visuals. But then there was also a great cover system, gorgeous new environments, and a co-op mode that stunned an audience of over 25 people. Visceral Games has the formula for one of the best survival-horror games of next year.

Dead Space 3 is set to release in February 2013.