I didn't play co-op, and I wasn't outside on an ice planet. I piloted returning protagonist Isaac Clarke through much of what you'd expect from a Dead Space game: creepy, atmospheric spaceship corridors pocked with vile mutant humanoid creatures trying to eat my flesh. My mission was an optional side quest in Dead Space 3's flotilla section – a mess of once operational ships now relegated to graveyard duty. But despite the level's original Dead Space feel, executive producer Steve Papoutsis tells me the demo wasn't intended as a response to the mixed fan reaction garnered from the third entry's action-focused E3 2012 reveal.
"Every time we show something new, we understand that when it isn't what we've done in the past, people are gonna have questions and wanna know what the meaning of it is or how it all fits together," he says. At E3, Dead Space 3's co-op was revealed in an action-heavy scene that some fans felt wasn't representative of the series' past entries. Papoutsis directly addresses that concern.
"We're well aware of making a Dead Space game, what it takes, and what we've done in the past. This is the fourth full Dead Space game we're making, and we have no intention of forgetting what we've done in the past," he says. "At E3, we were really looking to go out and show the world what's new."
In that sense, what I played is the more traditional, quiet part of Dead Space 3 – the Felix to Dead Space 3's Oscar-like co-op. My mission was to listen to a story or gather something or other to get it to someone or other – that's not important. What was important was that it felt just as isolated and lonely as past Dead Space entries. I strategically dismembered necromorphs, I solved some basic puzzles, and I panicked once or twice as a creature snuck up on me from behind.
It may just be some side missions, but there are at very least major parts of Dead Space 3 that are just as eerie as previous games. How much of the game that eeriness comprises, of course, remains to be seen.
Dead Space 3 launches on the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC in February 2013.