Dead Space 3: Why the 'dumbed-down' action game additions you're scared of actually make it a better survival-horror

That Universal Ammo from E3. It doesn't actually exist

The proliferation of “Universal Ammo” crates in the Dead Space 3 E3 demo rightly came across to many as shorthand for “This game is a pushover kill-frenzy”. It turns out that we were wrong with that impression. You see “Universal Ammo” is actually short-hand for “This crate is placeholder because we don’t want to blow the surprise of our new weapon selection by listing their names here”.

Above: Notice how there is no Universal Ammo in this screenshot... (Oh look, there were no suitable images in the press-pack, okay?)

So don’t worry. The final version of Dead Space 3 will force the usual rationing of ammo as it splits its drops between every weapon in the game (whether you’re carrying them or not). But right now not everything is finished, so the game is running a single one-size-fits-all ammo type. So Universal Ammo is not a problem. Because it isn't even a thing. Oh, and speaking of ammo…

There's (probably) a weapon crafting system, which would mean more cerebral combat (if it exists)

I found a whole crapload of bits of tat when playing Dead Space 3. Not just the usual ammo, money and saleable circuit boards, you understand. Oh no, there were all sorts of mechanical oojits and wotsits knocking around in cupboards, boxes, and the squishy, ever-kickable corpses of Necromorphs. That sort of proliferation of seemingly useless junk implies a crafting system to me. So I asked the Dead Space man if I was right. He grinned and said that yes, the weapon system was getting an overhaul, but that no, he couldn’t say any more.

Above: Think that gun looks cool? Wait 'til you're firing electrified Babybels out of it

So yeah, customisable weapons and ammo, I reckon. I could be wrong, but I reckon it sounds likely. Which should mean that building an effective arsenal is an even more laborious, thoughtful, and work-intensive process than before, but no doubt mighty rewarding with it once you melt the face off your first Necro using your brand new mousetrap-powered chocolate toaster gun. 

Outdoors in daylight can be scarier than indoors in the dark

Moving a science fiction horror series from the dark and gloomy shadows of claustrophobic ships and space stations to the often wide-open, brightly-lit environs of a snow planet’s surface might have seemed an odd decision to some. But trust me, it’s a brilliant move.

What convinced me? The snow itself. You see the good thing with dark, claustrophobic corridors is that at least you always know where the walls are. Thus, you know where horrible things can come from. Yes, air vents and windows do subvert that from time to time, but as a general rule of thumb, wall = safe direction to point your back.

Above: Again, you're just going to have to trust me on this one. No snowy screenshots. There's a bit on the ground there though, if that helps. No, didn't think so

In a wide open environment though, every angle is a potential angle of attack. Wrap those angles in a blizzard to strip down visibility to a range of just a few feet, and you have a very scary prospect indeed. I know, because I spent an entire daylit, outdoor section of Dead Space 3 utterly crapping myself, even though nothing bad even happened in the end.

Build on that over the course of the game, and Dead Space 3 will be traumatising like a dog with a clown’s head.

A dead clown’s head. 


So yes, Dead Space 3. Full of things that should utterly ruin it as a horror series, but still resolutely Dead Space despite it all. In fact because of a whole bunch of it, in conjunction with the laudable effort Visceral seems to be putting in to making sure everything just feels right. So I'm a happy man. You should be too. Unless you're a woman.


  • sciencepatrol - August 8, 2012 2:27 p.m.

    One of the big factors that helped make the protagonist in the first Dead Space so interesting and likeable was his every-man quality. He was just some working class shlub thrown into a horrifying situation without any combat experience or know-how. He fought with his tools and whatever was laying around the ship. His own personal narrative was compelling. He was slow moving and clumsy, not because of poorly implemented controls or a half-baked combat engine, but because if you were the ships engineer skulking around the depths of some restricted access maintenance bay in a massive protective suit you probably wouldn't jump around into and out of cover like a cop in a John Woo movie. Whatever. Another one bites the dust.
  • Fox_Mulder - July 31, 2012 2:39 p.m.

    Thank you for this, David.
  • code_r - July 31, 2012 11:36 a.m.

    These ideas are pretty weak, cover shooting and daylight are big problems, and not ever going to contribute to a horror atmosphere.
  • AngelsandDemons1 - July 31, 2012 6:58 a.m.

    Wishful thinking by the author spaces mean plenty of space to move around and maneuver. That open, bright tundra is what turned me off the most after the co-op boss fight. The claustrophobic halls create automatic tension when you see big, sharp-toothed, monsters with glowing eyes suddenly charging at you from the "DARKNESS"...isn't this why we like to sleep with the lights on? "Bullet sponges"...everybody hates bullet sponge NPC because designers don't tend to give you more ammo to compensate. It's a cheap way to increase the difficulty like infinite enemy respawns in a choke point. With all due respect, based on the typo in your first paragraph, obviously no one is editing your articles, David.
  • Todd Danger - July 31, 2012 6:56 a.m.

    Even with the new stuff I cannot look past it just because it isn't good to use. I have to look at it because it is in the game. No amount of good or bad implementing is going to save it. I play this game because of no cover shooting and I get to kill horrible monsters not people.
  • ParagonT - July 31, 2012 6:25 a.m.

    I'm not convinced like many others as well. Something seems off about this game and no offence, but I'm in no hurry to get my pre-order from these types of articles. This article just highlighted all the good counters to the criticism, so I think that it's being too approving in my taste (good article although). I'll look into the gameplay myself when there is more released.
  • GuyIncogntio - July 31, 2012 5:05 a.m.

    So how much money did EA pay you to write an article about how we should be happy EA is destroying the survival horror genre?
  • Cruddi - July 30, 2012 5:26 p.m.

    Just one Question. Can the humans be disected like the necros or do they just drop in the end? I was hoping that you could disect the humans or the very least the killing shot could remove the limb it hit. I'm no sadist, but i remember the days when games like Soldier of fortune 2 would allow you to blow arms, legs off and even blow open a characters stomac this generation of games seem to have done away with dismemberment of all "living" characters. Even blood olmen 2 allowed you to cut heads off (if i remember right lol)
  • slimjim441 - July 30, 2012 1:26 p.m.

    This article has completely shattered any doubts I had from E3. I'm excited to be pissing myself with a friend in DS3, but first I need to finish getting platinum in DS2. Great work, Dave.
  • Pwnage19 - July 30, 2012 1:11 p.m.

    "Co-op character John Carver just isn’t in the game when you’re not playing solo." If I'm not mistaken, that was incorrectly written. It should say that John Carver isn't in the game when YOU ARE playing solo.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - July 31, 2012 1:36 a.m.

    Correct. Will tweak. You get today's prize. It is imaginary.
  • ObliqueZombie - July 30, 2012 12:13 p.m.

    I can't thank you enough, Mr. Houghton. Not only did I get a few good laughs before work, but you've utterly opened up my excitement for the game. Dead Space, though not as scary the second- and third-playthrough with New Game+, was always one of my favorite new generation series. On so many levels, the least of which is was that is was devoid of glitches and bugs, it was a triple-A game worthy of its triple-A description. I will share this fantastic bit of writing to anyone who says Dead Space 3 is losing its luster. (Of course, it could still suck. But I trust your judgement of games. After all, you're professional.)
  • Viron - July 30, 2012 11:07 a.m.

    I remember them saying somewhere that there was going to be weapon crafting and that was why they had uni ammo. Guess now you'll have to ration ammo for your plasma ripper.
  • Clovin64 - July 30, 2012 11:05 a.m.

    I'm looking forward to Dead Space 3 overall, but I'm not convinced by your defence of the cover shooting, Hooters. Bullet sponges that can cut you down in seconds? I forsee some irritating difficulty spikes. :(
  • Crypto140 - July 30, 2012 10:21 a.m.

    I think that insted of showing us more and more footage about the new Co-op features, they should show us more of the single player and what will make that great, insted of constantly trying to say "Look at this crazy new Co-op, do you love it yet, do you do you do you do you?!". Show us what will make us love the single player of Dead Space 3, things like what will be the same from Dead Space 1 and 2, or what will be improved from the previous games, like the rolling to avoid the boss attacks. Then once their fanbase is ok with it, then move on to showing us the Co-op and other new features so we know it's still going to be the Dead Space we love first, and not some new game that's just an excuse to give us a new feature(Kind of like Assassin's Creed Brotherhoods multiplayer, or God of War Ascension's mulitplayer). Don't sell the game based on the new Co-op, make us buy it because it will be a fun Dead Space game. The Co-op is nice to have and it might work out to be somthing amazing, and we will use that as an example for future games when they do somthing like this. But the Dead Space devs shouldnt put all their eggs in the Co-op basket. Alright, horribly worded and gramaticly incorrect rant over
  • CrashmanX - July 30, 2012 10:09 a.m.

    I want to buy DS3. I really do. But that'd mean having to go through Origin. DAMN YOU EA!
  • ObliqueZombie - July 30, 2012 12:10 p.m.

    ... Wow. I... ... I never thought of that. :'(
  • RedHarlow - July 30, 2012 10:02 a.m.

    Yeah, I still don't know if I'm convinced yet.
  • Rhymenocerous - July 30, 2012 8:11 a.m.

    Sounds... Alright. But to be honest I'm not convinced by the human enemies - making them bullet sponges isn't a good thing at all. Also, that partner bloke can just appear in co-op, then disappear again for solo play? What?! Hopefully This doesn't read too negative.
  • DaManStan - July 30, 2012 6:15 a.m.

    I think horror games with guns could actually be incredibly scary if done right. Just make the guns work realistically. Imagine a terrifying monster coming at you and your gun jams, or misfires? I'd say STALKER got it the best with realistic ballistics, just add jamming and misfires to that and you could create a lot of tension.

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