This time around, you can experience the Dead Space terror with a friend.

This time around, you can experience the Dead Space terror with a friend.

When the original Dead Space was released, arguments raged across the internet as to what genre it belonged to. Some called it a survival horror, while many purists argued that it was an action game.

Jesse Abney, a Producer at Visceral Games who has been working on Dead Space 3 did not hesitate when I suggested the term "action horror" would be a more accurate descriptor. "Sure, that's absolutely what it is," he told me. "We wanted to build a game around epic moments, the crescendos between the tension-building sequences."

"Sure, we could build tension for an hour, with the player creeping through a level, but we want to reward the player with a story beat, the next big moment," he said. "The cinematic sequences help us carry the story and make it a lot bigger and have more punch."

Human enemies and cover-based combat is a controversial addition to Dead Space 3.

Human enemies and cover-based combat is a controversial addition to Dead Space 3.

Abney clearly loves the Dead Space property, and cites it as a major reason for his continuing employment with Electronic Arts, the mega-publisher that owns Visceral. "It reinvigorated my enthusiasm for doing that kind of risky, developer-specific, creatively new idea," he enthused. "The genre, the setting, the spaces, the engineering background. Less super-power, more substance. More validity."

Many story details are still being kept under wraps, but some details of the set-up have been revealed. Third time loser Isaac Clarke is once again being thrust unwillingly into the role of action hero, but after everything he has been through he is getting distinctly worse for wear. "We run into Isaac quite ragged and aged, and it's an obvious visual update to Isaac's character," Abney explained.

"We took Isaac out of his couple of months-long recovery after Dead Space 2 and sent him back looking for Ellie Langford in a lost flotilla of ships that were abandoned 200 years in his past," Abney said. The tough-as-nails action heroine of Dead Space 2 has led an expedition to track a Marker signal, but has ended up trapped within a centuries-old flotilla of ships surrounded by a deadly minefield.

"Isaac's ship is torn apart, and he and his crew are forced out into the flotilla to scavenge parts to get themselves to the planet's surface and find the source of the marker signal. When they arrive they find Ellie tracking the signal, and since they lost their ship to the minefield they have to scavenge parts to build another."

Abney explained how the abandoned flotilla was central to the look and gameplay of Dead Space 3. "Those ships bring so much of the character - those tight, claustrophobic corridors, unpowered now, not lit up, they don't have those fancy holographic images everywhere. They're very analogue, very mechanical, which lends to Isaac being an engineer."

While Isaac's status as an engineer has been an important design element throughout the series - his armour is for protection in hostile work environments, not combat, and his weapons are mostly repurposed engineering tools. In Dead Space 3, however, this will be taken to a new level.

"We don't have a store, so we don't have credits to award players with," Abney said. "We created a crafting system based on raw materials and scavenging. By scavenging those materials and those drops from combat, the players are building the individual parts and circuits they need. They're building their health packs, they're building their stasis packs, they're crafting their munitions, and they're crafting the individual core components that make up the larger weapons."

Aside from crafting standard items, this new system will also allow deep weapon customisation, based on snapping together a myriad of different modules. "If you have enough of a certain resource, maybe you could craft a new side attachment, like a stasis coating, which lets you coat the plasma cutter projectile with the stasis effect," Abney said.

I was shown a wide variety of custom weapons, many of them with multiple attacks. One over-the-top example was the classic plasma cutter with a  flame thrower on one side and an acid-gun on the other. "It's a metagame in Dead Space, one that we've never had before," Abney explained. "We've had the upgrade paths for weapons and the rig, but weapon crafting and raw resources harness Isaac's natural superpower: being an engineer."

Other new gameplay features are being introduced in this sequel, including the controversial presence of human enemies. In addition to the hideous Necromorphs, Isaac will also be tangling with crazed Unitologist zealots who are seeking the Marker for their own dark purposes.

Abney is enthusiastic about what this human-on-human combat will bring to the game. "This opens up another dimension for the game, and allows a new tangent for the story, affecting how we design the game and what challenges players are going to be up against," he said. "Quite an evolution all the way around."

Another controversial inclusion is the new two-player co-operative mode, but Abney was quick to reassure me that the classic solo gameplay would be undamaged. "Dead Space 3 is a single player game - the exploration, the tension building, it all exists in Dead Space 3, and more," he assured me. "When we decided to approach co-op, we knew it presented us a with a unique opportunity to expand the Dead Space experience with another character who's got another story, another motivation, and has a whole different attitude."

"Players can enjoy the game once in single-player, then invite a friend to re-play it with them, and experience all of the additions that John Carver brings to the table. It's not double the gameplay, per se, but it does motivate people to play the game through twice, because not only are they going to see the kind of cool qualities co-op brings to Dead Space, but they're also going to be learning more story."

Abney laughed and added, "We've heard from some people who have said now that it's co-op they'll actually be able to play the whole game."

Sadly there will be no split-screen co-op, so you won't be able to play side-by-side on the same couch, but only over the internet. Also, co-op is the only multiplayer offering this time around, with Visceral doing away with Dead Space 2's experimentation with competitive multiplayer. Abney explained it as an decision to focus on getting the co-op perfect, saying, "We wanted to do one thing and do it well."

And did they do it well? You will be able to find out for yourself tomorrow when Dead Space 3 goes on sale across Australia.

 - James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez