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Dead Space 3: new preview goes back to horror basics

Monday, 13th August 2012 17:48 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Enough has been said about how different Dead Space 3 is; Brenna Hillier puts the fright-fest through its paces and finds much that is familiar.

The exploration of this ship – with its tight combat zones, heart-stopping surprises, and unceasing claustrophobia – is pure Dead Space. You could almost believe we were actually playing a mission from one of the earlier games, were it not for the subtle flourishes of graphics which clearly indicate Visceral is at the top of its form.

When someone asked me at a Dead Space 3 preview event last week if I’d finished the last game, I was concentrating on the action on-screen. I forgot to give out my carefully prepared lie, instead absent-mindedly telling the whole truth: that I’d put the disc in the freezer.

The sudden silence and eventual laughter brought me out of Isaac’s world and back into the one where I’d just embarrassed myself in a professional context (again). I had to explain the story: I played Dead Space 2 alone and in the dark, and it scared me so badly I used an old coping mechanism and put the disc in the freezer where it could not hurt me. It was still there when we moved house a few months later; Blu-ray isn’t a weather proof medium, so I never finished Dead Space 2.

I don’t think I’m going to finish Dead Space 3, either. E3 demos and previews showed us big, open environments; huge, non-stealthy monsters; and co-op cover shooting action – things I enjoy, but not things we associate with Dead Space. What I saw the other week was the opposite of that, and an excellent rejoinder to critique of the new direction featured in previews so far.

Claustrophobia
The cinematic influences of the Dead Space series are obvious in its twisting, narrow corridors; this is a loving tribute to psychological sci-fi at its best. It’s an element that has been missing from Dead Space 3 media released to the public, but I assure you; it returns with a vengeance.

The mission we played last week comes from Act 1, and is called The Lost Flotilla. Although much of the game we’ve seen before now takes place on planetary surfaces, Isaac can whip up to the drifting fleet and investigate it. We followed Isaac through the bowels of one of these floating hulks, the Greely, beginning to piece together the events of 250 years ago which left a series of derelict disaster zones.

Although none of us could quite put our finger on it, Visceral has done something clever with Dead Space 3′s camera. It’s not quite the same angle or aspect you might be used to, and something about it in the context of the flickering, blood-splattered corridors makes the muscles on my back tense up with anticipation. The exploration of this ship – with its tight combat zones, heart-stopping surprises, and unceasing claustrophobia – is pure Dead Space.

“This isn’t the Dead Space we know and
love!” Nope, this is Visceral showing off
some of the new features, rather than the
kinds of things you can take for granted.

On the combat side, we encountered only a few enemies (not that this lessened the tension in the slightest). The largest battle was an encounter with one shambling humanoid type and three wall-climbing beasties with a range attack, which scuttled out of the light and proved formidable – and, with their little scuttling feet, quite frightening – foes. It seemed a far cry from some of the early sections of Dead Space 2, where large numbers of enemies flocked at you from all directions, and more like the lonely, near-silent parts which made me want to get under the bed and cry with fear. Even with an abundance of universal ammo lying around, the limited clips, low health and long loading times made battles a matter of precision rather than run-and-gun.

Visual flair
You could almost believe we were actually playing a mission from one of the earlier games, were it not for the subtle flourishes of graphics which clearly indicate Visceral is at the top of its form – especially when it comes to squeezing the last drops of power out of the ageing Xbox 360. (At this end of the console generation, we expect to see flagship titles running on high-end PCs, and I cynically double-checked the connectors to prove that I was actually looking at console code.)

Artists’ impression of Brenna playing
Dead Space.

Even in alpha form, the action ran perfectly smoothly; any stuttering was the direct result of players flailing at the controls in panic rather than frame rate drops. The level of detail in textures is astounding, and it’s not just the technical achievements, either; there’s really not much you can do with spaceship corridors, but Visceral has done it all. One room contained a couple of bodies laid out in frozen cross-sections; the trails of blood inside crowded storage spaces told their own brief stories; monitors flickered to life with just enough variety to make you believe in the systems behind them.

Visceral still has months to polish Dead Space and it’s kind of hard to see how the team can possibly make it any easier on the eyes than this preview code; I’m very excited to see the end result, and then put it in the freezer. If the rest of the core gameplay is anything like this section then fans have nothing to fear in terms of the series pulling too far from its roots.

Dead Space 3 is expected in the first quarter of 2013, on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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15 Comments

  1. Fin

    in b4 people start bitching about random bullshit

    #1 2 years ago
  2. TerraZet

    Are you serious? You couldn’t finish Dead Space 2? What are you? 12? It wasn’t scary, it was just atmospheric and eery with a few jump ‘scares’ but it wasn’t paralyzingly scary.

    Jesus, no wonder the third is going down the shitter aka the gears of war route.

    I just wonder what other franchise will be killed/disfigured before this gen is over.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. ManuOtaku

    #2 scares, like many things in life is a very subjective thing, what affected her or other players as well, doenst affect you or viceversa, it depends on the eye of the beholder, really.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. deathgaze

    Well, it’s good to hear that they’ve improved the encounter design from DS2. I really hated DS2′s tendency to lock you into a small area and toss legions of monsters at you. It was throw-away level design and, yes, it was bullshit. Especially for a survival horror game. Paring back the encounters is a good thing.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. HighWindXIX

    They continue to say all the right things, but their E3 debut was like catching your significant other in bed with someone else… They can say and do all they can but it might not ever be enough. Until the game comes out and we know how much dudebro bullshit you have to put up with to experience the Dead Space we want, I won’t really care about their PR spin campaign.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. On2wheels

    @2 Ditto. Also no Steam, no buy.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Takeshi

    @2: yeah like you I got a couple of jumps out of both instalments, but my friend is scared as shit of playing Doom 3, Resident Evil 4 and so on. I actually think it would psychically damage him if he played Slenderman or Amnesia.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Pytox

    Dead space 2 was not scary, it was more action than ever, the first one was scary yes

    #8 2 years ago
  9. bpcgos

    @takeshi
    Agree with you. Showing your enemy all the time are not scary, especially if you’re able to kill them instantly. They should learn from a game like Slender here http://slendergame.com. It’s make me jump from their element of surprise everytime I played it. BTW, the game is free to download, so what are you waiting for!

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Phoenixblight

    Dead SPace is not a survival horror game and never was and as such should not compared to games that are like SLender. A prototype of one anyways. Has a way to go until its a game imo.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. bpcgos

    @10
    But, the first one are able to make me jump and scared out of my chair just like the first time I played the 1st resident evil. I knew the enemy would come, but it was able to build tension before it by give me limited ammo and unappropriate weapons (mining devices) It was tense and full of surprise, meanwhile the second iteration starts to feel like It was another corridor shooter that throws me more and more of “scary” enemy that sadly are not scary anymore.
    BTW, agrees with you that game like Dead Space, now, have changed into another shooter and not a survival horror. :(
    Slender, as a prototype, was much more better than any AAA survival horror I’ve been played today.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight

    @11

    Dead SPace was never survival horror. It was an action horror much like Cameron’s ALiens vs the original movie by Ridley Scott. You can solve the game by your weapon or just simply running. THe second one was a far better iteration with better control scheme making it much better because it used the environment against you where the original game was just corridors for the most part where you can funnel them through a hallway and use your gun or punch them and then stomp on them.

    Slenderman, SIlent Hill series(earlier versions) are survival horror they don’t go right for the cheap scares like Dead space does. THey let music, story and ambience build the tension and then limit the amount of ammo and control you have so your choice becomes run where Dead space throws more enemies at you with different dynamics and throw ammo at you if not you can always buy it.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. fearmonkey

    I love the previous 2 games, and Im hoping the Third will be just as good as the first two, but I have my doubts. Im hoping though….

    #13 2 years ago
  14. mojo

    first game was excellent.
    Fellt fresh and was scary to some extent.
    Second game wasnt scary anymore.
    Third game.. i have high doubts..
    Maybe ill get it on budget.

    From what ive saw so far the Series has moved to far away from what it made great.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. smagti

    DS2 isn’t scary at all. Just kill and kill and kill. Its just a FPS game with waves of aliens. DS was a bit scary at the beginning but then the same pattern… corridor and aliens, corridor and aliens…. “Welcome to Ravenholm” chapter from HL2 alone was way too scarier than DS … :D

    #15 2 years ago

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