Dead Space 3 is only a few weeks away and while I’m a fan of the franchise, for whatever reason, Dead Space 3 just hasn’t really resonated with me yet. With early access to the demo last week (it’s out today for everyone), I was hoping that this would finally get me amped up for what I expect to be a well made game. After setting some time aside, I sat down and dove in ready to shoot more limbs off those pesky necromorphs. I managed to come out alive, I’ve decided to jot down some thoughts on the experience. So, does the third chapter hit all the high notes? Here are my impressions of the Dead Space 3 demo.
Full impressions after the jump…
The demo unfortunately doesn’t bring anything new to the table as it’s the same one we’ve seen at events like E3 last year. Isaac wakes up in some sort of crash on an icy planet known as Tau Volantis. Right off the bat, let me just say that Visceral really knows how to push the visuals as players are treated to fantastic looking snow blowing around in a strong wind. Dead Space 3 looks great and the usual high standards for graphics and animations are still in play. With the new environment to play with, I’ve noticed the lighting and colors are more vibrant and brighter. The controls are also spot on as newcomers and returning vets will fall right in line. Again, no surprises as these are hallmarks of Visceral.
While much of the demo takes place on the surface in the sunlight, there are a number of times where the player has to venture underground into caves and old mining sites. There’s also a section where players need to figure out how to stop a drill from spinning while keeping a necromorph attack at bay. Classic jump scares are in place here as enemies seem to pop out when you least expect it and include classic necromorphs to new zombie type creatures to actual humans who must be either mercenaries or some sort of Unitology Zealots. The demo doesn’t really delve into the story much at all.
Another aspect that really surprised me was the work bench aspect. Yes, the gear upgrading system is back, but it’s received a fairly sizable overhaul. Instead of power nodes, upgrades can be done by collecting and using salvage scattered around levels. Each item requires a specific amount of various types of salvage. On the other side of things, you’re now allowed to fully customize your weapons provided you’ve found the needed parts scattered around levels. That’s right, you can now completely change how your plasma cutter functions right down to the secondary mode. This completely opens how you play the game and also (based on the demo) allows players to make some seriously powerful weapons. Want to make a plasma cutter that has a ripper attachment? What about hadding a flamethrower to it? Sure, it’s all entirely possible. All you need are the parts. It’s very cool and a welcomed addition.
Here’s where it comes off the rails a bit for me. The biggest thing that really got in my way of full enjoyment was the environment itself. To me, Dead Space up to this point has been all about that desolate and solitary experience up in space through unexplored and unexplained locations. Navigating the tight and terrifying corridors of the USG Ishimura or the ravaged space station on Saturn’s moon Titan felt scary because it was completely foreign. The demo in Dead Space 3 kind of takes you out of that element and places you in a snowy landscape during daylight. Quite a change from what the series is known for. Sure, there are underground segments but it just didn’t feel like I was on a distant planet somewhere in space. To someone walking by, I could be in Alaska, Siberia, or any snowy cold place. Granted, this was just a demo so the rest of the game could be completely different for all I know. At this point, all I have to judge is what’s in front of me.
My second point is that the enemy types seem to be more humanoid. Yes, there are still creepy necromorphs around and waiting for you to delimb them, but more often than not I found myself fighting enemies using weapons/guns against me. This is a complete 180. While the new cover system is implemented well, I just didn’t feel that same tension fighting enemies shooting bullets at me as I did with a horrifying creature trying to impale me. Not only that, Dead Space is more of a slow-paced game so the high action gun battles didn’t seem to fit all that well. Just a minor gripe.
Another big addition is the co-op side. The story remains the same, but Earthgov Sergeant John Carver is along for the ride with Isaac so the dialogue and cut scenes are updated to reflect this. Frankly, I have to commend Visceral for implementing a well made co-op mode. While not anywhere near as scary as going solo with another person, co-op seems to embrace a different tone to more frenetic action.
In the end, I have little doubt that Dead Space 3 will be a well crafted game. Visceral Games makes quality titles and from what I’ve played, Dead Space 3 is no exception. There are some wonderful and innovative additions to Dead Space 3 such as the weapon crafting mechanic. Still, to me, something felt off. Maybe it was the demo not really selling what I felt was the best parts of the game or maybe this is an overall change in direction/tone for the franchise. I guess I was just expecting the tight and dark corridors of space and this demo just didn’t deliver that. We’ll have to wait and see when the game is finally released on February 5.