The developer has promised some answers in the latest  Dead Space incarnation.

The developer has promised some answers in the latest Dead Space incarnation.

Isaac Clarke has got to be the unluckiest man ever to don a space suit. He has barely survived the harrowing events of Dead Space 1 and 2 and lost the love of his life in the process, not to mention his sanity and a great deal of blood.

His constant run-ins with the space zombies known as Necromorphs and the mysterious artefacts known as Markers mean his brain is more scrambled than my breakfast. The poor chap can't seem to catch a break, and when we find him again at the beginning of Dead Space 3 his luck is as terrible as ever.

Enemies on all sides, both dead and alive, friends recruiting him for suicide missions and the reanimated corpses of the dead attempting to bite him right on the face. There's never been a worse time to be an unassuming engineer.

Much of the gameplay will be familiar to fans.

Much of the gameplay will be familiar to fans.

I got a chance to sit down and blast my way through the first three hours of the game to test my nerve against the most twisted abominations developer Visceral Games could come up with. This Dead Space picks up two months after the events of the previous game, with Isaac hiding out in a nondescript apartment on a nondescript space station.

I won't spoil too much, but he is required to vacate the premises in a hurry and quickly establishes an uneasy alliance with John Carver, the new military man who will be accompanying you throughout.

Surprisingly, Isaac's favourite lady, Ellie, needs saving again and Isaac happens to be the best (craziest) man for the job. You soon find yourself floating above the brand new ice planet Tau Volantis in the wreckage of a 200-year-old space disaster with alien monsters closing in.

Tau Volantis is where the majority of the game is set and the home of the markers, the alien monoliths that create Necromorphs, but I only got to see a small section of the planet's icy surface. The snowstorms that plague the planet do make a delightfully creepy change to the stagnant air of a spaceship as visibility and movement are low but death waits around every frozen corner.

For the first time in the series the campaign can be played co-operatively with the second player filling Carver's boots. This is an interesting change for a series that has relied on the isolation and tension of going up against a ravening horde of undead on your lonesome. Sadly, my playthrough didn't include any co-op, so we shall have to wait for the game's imminent release to see how it stacks up.

While I can't tell you how the co-op affects the gameplay, at least Visceral Games have promised some answers. In the first two Dead Space games, answers were thin on the ground, but the third entry is slated to finally explain some of the mysteries that have sat just beyond our reach since the series' inception.

What created the markers and what were they intended to do? What is the final form of a Necromorph? With the promise of answers to these questions, could we be looking at the end of Isaac's story? Probably not, as Dead Space is one of EA's premier moneymakers and one of their most endearing franchises of this console generation.

In the section I played, Isaac came up against human and alien enemies. As he escaped the space station he was holed up on, much of the gameplay felt more action-horror than survival-horror.

A scene involving a white-knuckle escape from a crashing space-train was undeniably exciting, but the fear of the first two games was thin on the ground. Fighting human enemies is a welcome change, but they just can't replicate the tension of a mutating space zombie jerkily advancing on you in the dark.

The humans also don't pose as much of a challenge as the Necromorphs, which is understandable really, but at least Isaac now has a primary antagonist: the new leader of the marker cult, Danik.

After escaping and warping to Tau Volantis, Isaac once again finds himself on a crashing spaceship (The man desperately needs some flying lessons). The race to find a space suit before you suffocate is fun and tense, and the ensuing zero-gravity section really takes the idea from Dead Space 2 and runs with it.

The view as you chase after an escape pod, through a 200-year-old debris field, with Tau Volantis looming ominously in the background is a sight to behold and bleakly memorable.

Visceral Games has been hard at work finding ways to improve the experience of Dead Space. With a horde of new Necromorph variants, Isaac is definitely going to have his work cut out for him.

The Waster is an example of one of the most common new enemy types. A shambling hulk in a space suit, it carries two ice picks in its frozen hands. Dismember the beast and you'll find it has a variety of new forms it can change into depending on how you choose to attack it.

Larger, more disgusting, enemies break up the action, but I won't spoil their reconstituted flesh forms for the reader. Let's just say, bring ammo.

Visceral has thankfully put a lot of thought into making the Necromorphs challenging again, as players returning from the other games will have all but mastered the traditional Necromorph variants.

Thankfully, the aliens are not the only faces to get an upgrade. Isaac also controls far better than he did before. This has been a long time coming as game tension shouldn't be derived from the character's inability to move fast enough. This time round, Isaac and Carver will adapt to their surroundings, taking cover naturally as need be and aim with the practised precision of someone who has survived two Necromorph outbreaks.

Aside from a controls spruce-up, much of the gameplay will be highly familiar to fans of the previous games. Dismember enemies to kill them, shoot the glowing pustule to bring down the larger enemies and swing your arms wildly when anything gets close.

This might sound like a negative, but the experience has been refined a lot since we first slipped into Isaac's suit, and considering this seems to be somewhat of a conclusion to the trilogy, refining what isn't broken is the best approach.

The weapons system has also been given a new lick of paint, with the creation and customisation of your tools far more up to the player now. The redesigned weapon bench allows you to dismantle the trusty plasma cutter and combine it with found parts to create something suiting your play style.

Realistically, this makes far more sense for Isaac, an engineer, and means you won't just be using the one gun you favour for the whole game. There's a certain amount of practice needed to fully take advantage of the new system as it is quite confusing (after three hours I still had no idea what I was doing), but being able to attach a flame-thrower to almost any weapon is an exciting prospect. If there's an object that wouldn't benefit from a flame-thrower, I don't want to know what it is.

While I didn't see enough of the game to say this is true of the whole story, the terrifying slow moments and jump scares were much rarer than in previous games. Much of the start is taken up with extended action sequences and light magnetic puzzles. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – Isaac scrambling for a space suit while his ship disintegrates around him is especially entertaining – but fans of the slow fear of the original could find themselves surprisingly rushed.

Dead Space 3 has a lot to live up to. The previous games were perfect examples of a sci-fi horror game done right. With the beleaguered Isaac Clarke making his triumphant return, all the elements that make Dead Space so endearing are back and better than ever, and the promise of some long-awaited answers means there's no reason not to say this could be the best Dead Space yet. The only question now is the co-op.