As frightening as the new Dead Space 3 may hope to be, the thing that most gamers feared from it was the new drop-in/drop-out co-op feature. Many were worried about what having a second person next to them would do for the survival horror aspects of the title. We had a chance to test out this new feature recently, however, and I can attest to the fact that if you thought Isaac Clarke was messed up in the head, just wait until you meet EarthGov Sergeant John Carver.
I was allowed to play as John while another journalist grabbed the reigns of Isaac and we went off trudging through the snow in an unspecified section of the game. The first, and most obvious, major advantage of having a partner popped up almost immediately as we were swarmed by some necromorphs and with two weapons unloading at the same time, we made short work of the twisted creatures. Once we moved inside and out of the cold though, the differences in our experiences started to come forward.
It seems that John Carver has some demons haunting him, much like Isaac, since as we entered the base the walls were adorned with Nutcracker inspired toy soldiers. At this time we were told to look at our partner’s screens and both myself and the person I was playing with were shocked that only my screen had the toy soldiers. A shared play experience with singular hallucinations was definitely an interesting twist as players who communicate well with one another could actually freak the other person out depending on what other surprises the Visceral team had in store for us. And indeed the toy soldiers were not the end of our different game play experiences.
After dispatching maybe a dozen more necromorphs who had crawled out of the vents, we approached a door that only Carver could open. As I laid my hands on the door though, Carver was transported to a world within his mind with children taunting him and shadows clawing at him from all directions, doing monumental amounts of damage. Meanwhile, my partner simply saw my character suddenly spasm and start freaking out as the Carver on his screen was screaming in agony with his hands over his temples. And necromophs love nothing more than screams of torture and torment as a swarm of them came out of the walls.
While I was fighting (mostly running) from John’s demons, Isaac had to make sure neither of our actual bodies got torn to shreds. If I escaped from my moment of insanity, I could help Isaac clear out the necromorphs, but should I have succumbed to my demons, the game would be over and we’d have to start a checkpoint just before my craziness started. I know this, because I did succumb several times before realizing it’s better to run from the demons than fight them.
After finishing our short hands-on time, I can say that the personalized hallucinations and detailed back-story that John begins to exhibit have definitely renewed my faith in the co-op mode for Dead Space 3. The fact that Visceral took the time to fully develop and craft a story for this character lets us know that there is a lot more going on with John Carver than what we’ve seen and what kind of a survival horror game would it be without a few surprises? Knowing that you can play a role possibly in scaring the other player just as much as the environment or enemies around you is a great idea and one that will make me want to play the game through a second time for sure. I only wonder now what special moments may be in store for Isaac that leave John wondering just what is going on inside his partner’s head.