The first quarter of the year used to be a dumping ground for video games—all AAA titles came out in October and November, just in time for the holidays.
Not anymore. In fact, there’s probably more titles coming out this month and in March that I’m excited for than about some of the titles rumored for launch in the fall.
One of those titles is Dead Space 3, bringing players back to the role of Isaac Clark as he tries to destroy the Marker and fend off attacks from the Necromorphs. The highly anticipated title is out today and to get a little more detail on what players can expect, I recently spoke with John Calhoun, an associate producer on Dead Space 3, over email.
Here’s what we discussed.
For anyone who hasn't seen the trailers or the previews, how would you describe Dead Space 3?
Great question! Dead Space 3 is a few parts science-fiction, a healthy dose of psychological-thriller and a whole lot of Hollywood action-blockbuster. It features an engineer named Isaac Clarke who is forced into service by a renegade group of soldiers and scientists; they are on a quest to destroy the “Marker” – an alien artifact that is suspected to be the source of a twisted life-after-death plague that’s destroying humanity.
What are some of the new environments and locations you can tease that Isaac will find himself in in the third game?
The biggest new location you’ll discover is an entire frozen, hostile planet called Tau Volantis. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing and you’ll have a good sense of what this setting has in store for players. Icy tundra, blinding blizzards, pitch-black nights—it’s a great location to mess with your mind. We also have an entire flotilla of derelict spaceships, tumbling and turning in zero gravity orbit above Tau Volantis. There’s also a few surprise locations that will keep players on their toes.
This is the first time you've featured drop-in/drop-out co-op. If you elect not to do co-op, are you stuck with an AI if you're playing single player?
When played in single-player, Dead Space 3 has no AI characters following you around. This means it’s up to Isaac Clarke (played by Gunner Wright), and him alone, to explore the harsh environments and piece together the clues that will hopefully lead to the destruction of the Marker.
Should you choose to play in co-op, you’ll be joined by John Carver (played by Ricardo Chavira), an ex-soldier who’s on his own personal mission of revenge.
The story of the game adjusts dynamically to the presence of a second player, and it’s really cool to experience the tonal shift, new dialogue, and custom cut-scenes that play in co-op.
Talk to me about the new Weapons Bench and how that differs from weapon upgrades in the past.
That all ties into one of the coolest features of Dead Space 3: weapon crafting. This feature is our way of bringing Isaac back to his roots as an engineer. Rather than just buying weapons (as in previous games), Isaac can now scavenge for parts, pull apart machines and deconstruct tools at the Weapon Bench. He can then recombine them into anything you can imagine: a welding torch that fires electrical bolts, a military-style gun with an overclocked telemetry spike—you name it! There are thousands of different weapon combinations and the feature really emphasizes player choice in a way that matters to the core game.
How does the Kinect implementation work in the game?
Dead Space 3 features voice recognition support with Kinect. In fact, we’re the first game ever to feature co-op specific voice commands! This means that when you and your partner get separated, you can easily find him or her just by saying “Find Partner.”
You can trade ammo and health packs with just your voice, which is great when the two of you are in the heat of battle. There are also tons of non co-op commands, such as the ability to reload your weapon, fire stasis or browse Isaac’s holographic menu.
It’s a really cool “hands off” approach that Kinect gamers are sure to appreciate.
I've seen in some of the previews that there's a bit of a cover system now. Can you describe how that works?
Isaac’s ability to take cover isn’t too big an addition as some might think. Basically, our story required that Isaac occasionally fight human enemies; in this case, a paramilitary unit of a religious sect known as Unitology. Since these guys can do tactical things like crouch and take cover, Isaac has to be able to do the same. But the system is really fluid and behind-the-scenes. There’s no button to press. Just aim your weapon while standing next to something that looks like cover, and BAM—you’re in cover.
Are you approaching this as the last game in a trilogy? Or could we maybe see Isaac in a Dead Space 4 down the line?
We have a huge story bible that fully details the Dead Space universe. In fact, our lore stretches back hundreds of years before Dead Space 1, and hundreds of years after Dead Space 3. We never approach games as sequels or trilogies—everything has to stand on its own as a great piece of entertainment.
Will you see more Dead Space? Well, we have a lot of story left to tell, but we haven’t announced anything regarding the future of Dead Space at this time.
Anything else you'd like to share with fans ahead of the game's launch?
I know a lot of Dead Space fans love Ellie Langford (Sonita Henry), who’s the heroine of the franchise. She’s back in Dead Space 3 and plays a big role in the story. She also has – SPOILER ALERT – a bionic eye, to replace the one she lost in Dead Space 2. If you look close, you’ll see that she wasn’t able to match her original eye color, so she actually has one blue and one green eye. Just a little bit trivia for the fan boys and fan girls out there!