The Five: Dead Space
The dime tour: The Godfather devs go ultra-dark with this gory tale of a space engineer fighting a ship's resurrected and mutated crew members.
1. Horror games have conditioned us to expect either a soldier, amnesiac or journalist as protagonist. Hero Isaac Clarke (the name should clue you in to a few obvious influences) falls outside the standard parameters; he's just a guy sent in to repair the ship Ishimura. Call it revenge of the engineer. Consequently, the game's weapons are mostly bits of gear meant to cut and repair metal.
2. The Ishimura is packed to the gills with Necromorphs: ghastly reanimated human bodies twisted into new shapes. While the reliable old headshot might seem to put 'em down, they might just play dead or sprout new limbs to attack again. Strategic dismemberment is the key. Isaac's "weapons" can fire blasts of force that will sever tentacles and legs, eventually rendering the beasts impotent. This often takes a while. Cross off fast run and gun blasts as a default strategy.
3. You can't throw a rock at E3 without hitting a game that involves flying, floating or platforming, but Dead Space's zero-gravity environments stand out as unique. Magnetic boots keep Isaac on the ground when necessary, but here "ground" might actually be the walls or ceiling. The zero-g areas become littered with floating blood and body parts, and the effect is both awesome and unsettling.
4. Everyone knows the HUD is outmoded, but info screens remain necessary. Holograms are the new black, and here you'll see loads of nifty hologram pop-ups to convey ammo quantities, Isaac's inventory and other details of the ship and surroundings. Why are we so giddy at the option to pull up the inventory hologram screen, then walk around the ship whilst perusing Isaac's pockets full of stuff? Hey, it's neat. We like neat. And shiny.
5. If it bleeds, it leads, so most of what we've seen so far highlights the fact that action in Dead Space yields entrails and gore. Many moments are shriekingly loud (at least one EA honcho insisted that the game volume be cranked way up to pummel the audience at the company press conference), but we also saw hints that a ship full of decaying flesh is oh, so quiet. We know the action is there, but our hands-on suggested that plenty of slow and creepy stuff also lies in wait.
Spelled out in severed monster parts: Could be an ideal stew of action and atmosphere. Resident Evil what?
This preview is based on a hands-on demo and developer presentation at E3 2008.