During the time she spent with Dead Space 3, Brenna Hillier didn’t experience any quick time events, didn’t end up in a boss battle every few minutes, and didn’t mow down waves of enemies. The demo this is not.
“We can’t make a demo that’s 30 minutes long and have 15 minutes be creeping along corridors with the lights off, even though that’s a significant chunk of the actual game.”
Dead Space 3 doesn’t begin the way the demo does. I played it for two hours at an EA preview event recently, zipping through several chapters, and didn’t even get close to Isaac’s stumbling journey across the white-out wastes.
What I did do was creep through a lot of spaceship corridors, desperately trying to take out foes before the limited ammunition I was carrying ran out. It felt a lot like Dead Space and Dead Space 2 – maybe less scary, in the brightly lit and crowded preview room – and not at all like the demo I’d played.
I’ve already argued that the demo is unrepresentative. It feels like Visceral mashed together as many of the new elements Dead Space 3 contains as it could paying no heed to the natural flow of exploration and narrative which is one of the franchise’s hallmarks. Producer John Calhoun pretty much confirmed that this is exactly what the team did.
“It’s cut together from a couple of sections,” he said. “It’s very similar to our E3 demo, which was designed to show everything that’s new, in as little time as possible.
“It’s a great way to say look – what we have to say is that the full game is Dead Space through and through, but for the demo? Here’s what’s new.
“We can’t make a demo that’s 30 minutes long and have 15 minutes be creeping along corridors with the lights off, even though that’s a significant chunk of the actual game. So when people say, ‘This demo, I don’t get it, it’s a lot of action,’ we’re hoping people like you will say ‘I played the bigger picture and there’s high intensity and low intensity’. The game kind of comes and goes. The demo was cut together from bits and pieces.”
One element from the demo which did show up is the new enemy type, Waster, which morphs as you dismember it. Cutting bits off enemies is a Dead Space mainstay, but now it really makes a difference how you do it. These new enemies change their form in reaction to your carefully placed slices, and terrifyingly, are no less dangerous in any configuration.
Shoot them in the legs and their upper bodies crawl towards you at a rapid pace on newly sprouted limbs. Cut off their upper bodies, a much easier target, and they’ll spawn three flailing tentacles, difficult to pinpoint in the frenzy of battle and eating your face before you can say “what the actual”.
Because I kept lazily hitting the torso, I got used to being mobbed by these nasty creatures, but I didn’t enjoy it. Calhoun had said in an initial presentation that Dead Space 3′s weapons crafting is about having the right tools for the job at hand – but what tool can take down these unpleasant foes?
“You will have to find weapon parts that are kind of biased towards them. When you get on that first ship, you can build a line gun, which is an extremely wide electrical weapon. It fires a projectile that’s about as wide as this table.
“So: stasis them, and with the three tentacles exposed, you can actually chop them all off at once. That’s one example of how the weapons and the enemies are designed to play off each other.”
I hadn’t bothered fiddling with the weapon crafting system much, and therefore had made my play session much harder. Calhoun said this is a problem Visceral noted in both previous Dead Space games – players don’t experiment, and never realise that enemies are partnered with specific weapons – like the Pack and the Force Gun.
“We designed Dead Space 1 and 2 to be played with a variety of weapons. But then we realised, people weren’t playing that way. 90% of the content that we built, most people never even had a chance to play. It was out there, but they chose to ignore it.”
“We can get reports on what weapons people are playing with, and the graph kind of goes like this – whoosh,” Calhoun said, making a gesture which was nearly vertical in its steep descent.
“Plasma cutter way up here, and then pulse rifle, and then,” dropping his hand to the table surface, “everything else. Which disappoints us at developers, because that’s not how we play,” he added.
“We designed Dead Space 1 and 2 to be played with a variety of weapons, and we like to think like ‘oh, make sure you have the flamethrower for this, and the force gun for that’, and all out setups were designed that way. But then we realised, people weren’t playing that way.
“90% of the content that we built, most people never even had a chance to play. It was out there, but they chose to ignore it. So, the weapons crafting system was another way to put that content into the player’s hand. You’ll see benches about every 15 minutes in the game. Knowing that you can take stuff apart and put it back together – we’re hoping that people will just experiment constantly.”
No part in Dead Space 3 is ever wasted, and Calhoun urges new players to strip down their starting weapons immediately in order to make better ones. Don’t worry, your beloved plasma cutter will be back very, very soon, and even more badass then you remember. Which is a good thing, because you’re going to need it.
Dead Space 3 is due next week on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.