Dead Space 3 Demo Impressions: Hope the Game is Scarier
The Hope of New Monsters
That’s not to say the demo is all bad. In fact, while the monsters themselves in the demo moments haven’t really captured the frightening look of the models we’ve seen in past games, they still have some promise to them — namely, that necromorphs are growing more intelligent, and that they’ll be tougher to deal with on the whole.
Early in the demo, Isaac is accosted by human-like enemies who seem to be former miners on Tau Volantis. They stand and attack with blunt objects, moving like men, but as you cut them apart, they become more monstrous. In fact, these guys sprout legs to skitter after you in chunks, each part becoming a new creature itself. It reminds me of John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of my favorite horror movies, and that’s not bad company.
In fact, I’m hopeful that the arctic setting and the clear similarities between the necros and the things of the film will mean that Visceral Entertainment is channeling Carpenter more than Capcom’s Lost Planet franchise with Dead Space 3. That would definitely not be a bad thing, and I’d love to see necromorphs that are not only giving us new silhouettes to shoot at, but are changing the paradigm of what these creatures are and how you can fight them altogether.
Do You Like Crafting? There’s Crafting. Wanna Craft? Here, Craft Something
Weapon crafting. It’s a big part of the new Dead Space formula and it’s a big part of the demo, as well. Upgradeable weapons and inventory management has always been a big part of the Dead Space series, and the new weapon crafting system expands on that extensively. The demo shows that it has potential, but I’m also a little dubious about it.
On the up side, you’ll be finding weapons components all over the place, and these can be used specifically to create your own guns. From what I saw, the best part is that you can combine two weapons to make something even more effective; for example, a automatic rivet-firing rifle, with an under-slung force gun that’s great for crowd control. Using that baby, I was able to deal with necromorph threats by bouncing them clear whenever I got into trouble, then take them out at a distance.
It’s also nice that the ability to assemble and disassemble weapons greatly cleans up your inventory. You can create blueprints for any gun you invent, so you never have to hold on to crap you don’t need. Dead Space 3 reduces the number of weapons you can carry, so this helps to really keep things organized. You’ll also use universal ammo as well, which means that you won’t be inundated with ammo for guns you don’t use much, a problem in previous entries into the series. Finding weapons parts makes the loot aspect of the game a whole lot more worthwhile, too.
Here’s the trouble: First, you can craft a lot of stuff — in fact, it seems like you can craft just about everything. This may not actually be the case as we’re playing the full game (the demo notes that it has been “front-loaded” with stuff so you can try out crafting), but the ability to build any component you might need takes away from the idea of finding the parts and balancing strengths and weaknesses. This is a survival-horror game, after all: it’s better to leave the player a little wanting than overpowered (although Dead Space has, admittedly, struggled somewhat with this idea throughout the franchise).
I’m also torn on the universal ammo pool. On the one hand, yes, this is a big, helpful change to the way the game handles. I remember playing the first Dead Space and carrying huge amounts of rounds for guns I wasn’t even using, and that crowds out ammo you can actually need. The inventory management is balanced out by having to carry around weapons components, so at least you’re still weighing carefully what to take and what to drop.
At the same time, at least in the demo, I felt fully ready for everything I took on, as ammo was plentiful and enemies went down fast. This is something I’m waiting to see in the full game release — demos are usually made to be easier than their games, so the “Normal” difficulty we saw in the demo might not be indicative of what we’ll really be facing. If that’s the case, the ammo balance issue might not be an issue at all. But careful resource management by developers is one of the things that really works in horror, so I’m hoping that Dead Space 3 gets that aspect right in the end.