Posted by Roger Ma on Jan 31, 2013

Preview: Hands On The First Three Hours of Dead Space 3

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When Dead Space 3 was unveiled for the first time at E3 2012, I had more than a few reserved feelings. Switching from Dead Space’s traditional dark corridors and space environments, for a more of a Lost Planet/Gears of War look and feel with a brand new ice planet setting introduced and the controversial addition of co-op in the game’s main story.

Admittedly I was sceptically of the game’s new direction; I mean if it ain’t, broke don’t fix it, right? But getting a hands-on preview with the first three hours of a near finished build of game, I have to say I was more than surprised.

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With two critically acclaimed and widely successful games behind it, understandably Dead Space 3 has a lot to live up to. In terms of story, number 3 has learnt from the mistakes of Dead Space 1 and improved on what Dead Space 2 did. Story takes a much larger role in the game third time around with the half-answered questions from the first two games finally getting an honest and satisfying resolution. Speaking with Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun, the game will almost be twice as long as Dead Space 2 and questions revolving The Marker and origins of the Necromorphs (space zombies!) will be answered in full.

But not only this, the world of Dead Space and its futuristic setting is explored early on with an exciting, fast paced battle though a Luna colony. It’s an imaginative, Sci-Fi world filled with interesting and complex lore that previously hasn’t been explored all too well in the first two games. This of cause is a noticeable change in Dead Space 3.

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Fans of the series will also notice that the scope of the games have been increasing with each instalment, from a single, desolated mining ship – the Ishimura in Dead Space 1, to an entire space station – The Sprawl in Dead Space 2, to now an entire frozen planet named Tau Volantis in Dead Space 3. However right off the bat, without spoiling too much, you won’t be exploring the frozen ice planet just yet.

In our play through, before heading for the planet Isaac Clarke and crew will be exploring a derelict ship and its all too familiar dark, claustrophobia corridors. Oh and did I mention crew? Yes, this time around Isaac is teamed up with a crew hell-bent on destroying The Markers. It’s nice to see more faces in Dead Space, cut scenes are fleshed out far more thanks to these new characters. And if you choice to take the newly featured co-op option, then your friend will take up the role of John Carver, the games second protagonist.

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Co-op is the other big new feature in Dead Space 3. And while Dead Space purists out there may complain and criticise the developers for the sudden change of direction, this ani’t no Resident Evil 5. The co-op option isn’t forced upon players; it’s just that – an option that’s fully compatible with two different player’s games. As Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun explains, “with drop in drop out co-op your friend plays for 20 minutes and you two come out, that 20 minutes needs to be valuable for your friend. So we made sure that any progress you made in the game, not matter where you are, will be saved and be part of your experience.”

Overall Dead Space 3 is far less linear than Dead Space 2, and while it takes place on an entire planet, it isn’t fully open-world but rather takes a few cues here and there. Introduced in Dead Space 3 are optional missions inline with the game’s main missions. And of cause as the name suggests, they’re completely optional but if player choice to complete them they’ll be rewarded with valuable items. Going off the beaten path is what the game wants you to do with hidden rooms and items scatted throughout the game.

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Survival horror is where Dead Space started and while its trailers may mislead you in thinking that Dead Space 3 is an action game, don’t be mistaken – Dead Space 3 is still true to its roots. From our play through, walking though the derelict ship is just as creepy as ever and ammo is equally as scarce. In the early levels I played, there’s a fair amount of backtracking – and that’s not a bad thing as it all makes sense, there are reasons behind your actions here. As you go about the ship, you powering up the engines, which then in turn unlocks and opens up new areas to explore. Isaac even comments that he’s an engineer not a solider.

And you’ll see him use his engineering skills out within the game. The game feels far more improved over it’s last two instalments, as a sequel should be. While I didn’t reach up till the frozen planet itself, from what I played hands on so far I can say that the game is exactly what you want from a sequel, taking a note from Cliff Bleszinski, it’s bigger, better and more badass. A lot of fuss has been made over Dead Space 3’s controversial inclusion of co-op, and say what you will about it –it’s completely optional and isn’t forced upon players. It’s there if you wanted it, and if you don’t then you don’t have to play it.

You can read the full interview with Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun here.

Dead Space 3 is set to be released for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC on February 5 in North American and February 7 in Australia.

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