Like those pesky necromorphs, Dead Space 3 is evolving into something different. During our hands-off demonstration, the developers emphasized the game's "high-quality, epic action!" "Epic set-piece bosses!" and "High action intensity!" But how will this new direction impact the horror and tension of previous Dead Space games? We got to see it all in motion, but the short answer is that this game looks very different from its predecessors. The Lost Planet comparisons run deeper than just the snowy setting.
The demonstration covered the events leading up to the giant drill scene from the previous presentation. It opened with series protagonist Isaac Clarke waking up in an icy cave on the world Tau Volantis, supposed homeworld of the mysterious Marker. In these early scenes we saw a glimpse of classic Dead Space action: slow-paced tension accented with shocking monster attacks. However, this style quickly transitioned to something new with the introduction of cooperative play and human enemies.
Isaac's partner in crime is Earthgov Sergeant John Carver, a hard-nosed military man focused on eliminating the growing necromorph threat and who doesn't give a flip about Isaac's obsession with his (possibly) dead girlfriend, Nicole Brennan. The second player can drop in or out whenever Isaac dies or crosses a checkpoint. However, that second player needs to be connected via the Internet since local co-op is a no-go. Certain scenes will also change depending on whether Isaac is alone or with Carver. Carver cannot replace Isaac if you are playing by yourself.
Human enemies are exactly what they sound like: crazed Unitologist members obsessed with (a) the Marker and (b) killing Isaac. In the firefight we saw they fought with automatic weapons, used cover, and loved to throw grenades. Isaac could throw those grenades right back using kinesis, much to their surprise. Isaac and Carver could also use cover, though it's not the traditional sticky cover seen in games such as Gears of War. Instead, you either stand (or crouch) near a piece of cover, and when you go to fire, the character will automatically peek out and fire over it.
We still have a lot of questions about the nuts and bolts of co-op, but we were able to gain some early insights. Senior producer David Woldman confirmed we have nothing to fear from friendly fire--friends don't dismember friends! If a teammate goes down, the other player can revive him, provided his body is still intact. Previous Dead Space games have had some gruesome deaths, so if your character eats a mouthful of acid, there's not much the other can do. Our big question mark is how items and inventory will be handled: will it be shared, or individual? All Woldman would say is that those details are still in the works.
Between the massive boss fights, the constant banter between Isaac and Carver, and cover-based, third-person shooting, Dead Space 3 looks like a very different game from its predecessors. Granted, the game is still in development, but based on what was shown, the addition of cooperative play has seriously changed the tone of the game away from the traditional horror. We'll be sure to keep an eye on how this game develops, but until then, know that Dead Space 3 will be released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in February 2013.