As much of a pansy as I am when it comes to horror games, I just can't get enough of them. The Dead Space franchise is one of my favourites in the genre.
But considering how much of a pansy I am, I've always wished I could play the game cooperatively with a friend to help ease my tension. And then I decided that co-op mode or no, I'd play Dead Space that way anyway.
How do you play the game cooperatively without developers Visceral building that feature in, though? Easy. A headset. I played through a good chunk of the first Dead Space title with a friend, moving through the levels at a relatively similar pace. He'd navigate dark hallways, I'd navigate dark hallways. He'd jump at the sudden burst of a Necromorph through a ventilation shaft, I'd jump at the sudden burst of a Necromorph through a ventilation shaft. It was the closest we could get to playing the game co-op.
And I've always wanted to play Dead Space cooperatively. I didn't think that a companion would make the horror feel any duller. I felt like a co-op Dead Space game would let me share that horror with someone else. I love sharing game experiences with friends, so why should a horror title be any different? I wanted to have my cake, and eat it, too.
Visceral is finally giving me all the cake I need. At the E3 showfloor today, I got a chance to sit in the chilled room (for atmosphere!) of the Dead Space 3 demo booth. Isaac's first steps during the presentation led his feet shuffling through powdery white snow. He could barely see the first few feet ahead of him through the thick blizzard. It's weird to see Isaac walking through a snowy white backdrop rather than a black, galactic one.
It's even weirder to see Necromorph creatures bursting through snow particles rather than empty darkness. These Necromorphs are armed with ice axes. Back when they were humans they probably used it to climb the icy mountain Isaac is now trailing through. But now that they're mutated versions of themselves, it's just another tool to satisfy their bloodthirsty desires.
You can choose to play through the campaign on your lonesome, if you wish to preserve that familiar solitary Dead Space experience. But if you're like me and have been waiting for just such an opportunity to interact with a partner on your precarious journey, a friend can drop in and out to play as John Carver. John Carver is dead set on his mission to destroy the mysterious Marker. He has no other interests. He's got a one-track mind. He likes to drop F bombs casually and has a real "tough" man's attitude. I was hoping for a character with a bit more charm and less of a cookie cutter personality, but John does occasionally make me smirk with his dedication to skirting any emotional response with crass humour. So while Isaac might reflect on how close a call the last fight was, John replies with: "Yeaaaaaaaaah. Fuck this planet."
And they really do come into many close calls. In one scene during the demo, Isaac and John need to pass through a giant obstruction: a big red drill. The best option they have is to activate it. As the drill swings into effect, Necromorphs spill in from small openings around the arena. Fortunately having a companion comes in handy here. While John threw Stasis at the drill, Isaac shot at the incoming enemies. But the benefit is even two-fold. Freezing the drill in place with Stasis reveals a yellow orb inside that can be damaged. To say that this fight needed multitasking is an understatement.
It's been revealed that human corpses can be possessed by a Necromorph. But, wait. Isn't that how it always was? It's actually somewhat different in Dead Space 3. Human-looking heads with thin tentacles will crawl rapidly toward dead bodies and attach their heads onto human corpses. It's a writhing struggle, but once they grab hold the corpse will rise. And the soldiers Isaac encountered in facilities in the snowy level were armed with rifles that their life-less bodies can then shoot with.
Fortunately Isaac sees some upgrades in Dead Space 3 to rival the new enemies. He can crouch, and roll to evade. He's also programmed to use adaptive cover, which seems to fit combat naturally. His weapons are upgraded, too. You'll see combination guns like a plasma cutter plus ripper combo. These changes come with a new look. Rather than the tight, greyish/blackish suit Isaac typically sports, he now wears a puffier, duller-looking outfit. It doesn't make him look as much of a badass as I'm used to, but he does look nice and warm.
Even more enemy types were revealed during this E3 demo. Now that Isaac is set on an actual planet with open landscapes, Visceral took the opportunity to create larger creatures. An enormous Necromorph with a skeletal frame crawled onto the mountain as Isaac was fending off human Unitology mercenaries and soldiers.
Like most colossal video game enemies, Isaac had to first tackle the large, glowing, bulbous pustule on its chest to do any real damage. In the meantime it was spitting up eggs on the floor in front of Isaac and his co-op partner, John Carver. If the two left them alone long enough, they'd hatch into what looked like the new Feeder enemies: lanky versions of Necromorphs with rows of knives for teeth.
Intermittently the boss Necromorph would inhale deeply, dragging Isaac towards what might be its mouth. After a few successful clutches at the snowy earth, it seemed like Isaac might live to see the creature fall. But as Visceral often likes to do, Isaac is thrown into an even more precarious situation when the thing finally sucks him all the way into its slimy green insides, ingesting him into what might be stomach fluids.
We'll find out if Isaac can fend off the next onslaught of glowy tentacles in said stomach acid when the game releases in February 2013. Or, you know, during the next demo.