With Dead Space 3 now available in stores, players everywhere can experience the latest adventure of Isaac Clarke, a tormented engineer who can't seem to escape the nastiness of the Necromorphs.  However, for this latest adventure, he has an unlikely ally in John Carver, a guy who isn't nearly under the same amount of emotional duress that Clarke has gone through over the years.  With that, he's a lot tougher, but just as susceptible to damage by enemies that strike from out of nowhere, so he'll have to keep on his toes.

Carver isn't a selectable character on his own, as you'll be stuck playing as Clarke in the single player portion of Dead Space 3.  However, he comes in handy as a second player through the game's online co-op, supported by PC, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.  This is drop-in/drop-out cooperative play, meaning someone can jump in – or out – at any time. 

Let's say you're new to the co-op scene and need an idea of just how it works, or how you can be most effective as a partner.  Well, we're here to help you out with a few tips and tricks, so that you won't end up being a stick in the mud when the situation truly calls for it.  (And you rookie players know who you are.  Read on, and then lock and load!)

Understand That Each Character Is Different

There are two sides to the story with co-op, and each character is unique in their own special way.  Yes, Clarke has seem a lot more hell than Carver ever will, but the newcomer to Dead Space 3 has his own demons to face, making him just as likely to have dramatic moments.

It's important to try out each character in co-op, just to see how they fare for you, and then decide when to drop back in to your friends' matches – when called upon, obviously – to see when you do the most good.

Everyone's Gonna Have Something New In Weapons

The brilliant factor behind weapon crafting is that you don't have to stay with one certain kind of weapon.  In fact, if both players have something new to offer in terms of firepower, you might get a lot further than you might expect. (For more on Dead Space 3 weapon crafting, see the full article here.)

For instance, if you have one player with the kind of gun that can freeze objects, the other can use a modified plasma cutter to easily shred them to bits.  This is especially useful on bigger Necromorphs that won't fall so easily, though bosses tend to take a little bit more damage.  And that leads us to…

Working Together Is Crucial For Survival

Let's be honest, if you walk into a co-op session with the kind of "lone gun" initiative that you had with the single player portion of Dead Space 3, you're likely to end up dead.  That's because co-op missions in the sequel were specifically built to get the most out of people working together.  There are several situations we saw in the early part of the game that pointed this out.

One involves a rather nasty boss who rips through the elevator that Clarke's riding on, ready to pretty much eat him alive.  Carver, however, can show up and serve as a distraction while Clarke takes down focused points on the beast, eventually scaring it away.  Bigger – and more horrid – necromorphs await over the course of the game, so it might help to develop some kind of team strategy.  And that includes finding the right style of weapons to bring to each battle – don't be afraid to mess around a little.

And it's not just necessarily about bringing down big enemies systematically.  Sometimes you'll need to have each other's backs in order to excel.  Case in point – a sequence involving a giant drill that suddenly rampages around the room, while lone Necromorphs wander around and attack you when you get close.

Here's where teamwork is a tremendous aspect in the game.  One player can use stasis to slow down the drill and hit its crucial points, while the second is able to fend off the Necromorphs and stay out of harm's way of the drill, or maybe even do some additional damage to it.  There's an offensive/defensive side to it, and it never hurts to communicate through your headset and be on the same page.  Hey, it's either that or you can become shredded beef – it's your call.

There's Just Something About Having an Ally Nearby

For some, Dead Space is usually about "going it alone", and discovering the deep, haunting terrors hiding in the recesses of the galaxy with just Clarke.  But for those who get nervous easy (just admit that you're a fraidy cat at times, we won't pick on ya), it's nice to have a second player along for the trip, even if you're facing enormous beasts that may eat you alive anyway.  Especially if they're a friend you know you can rely on, and has no problem coordinating attacks with you, like lighting an enemy on fire after you've managed to saw off a limb or two.

Communication is key, so we recommend having a good headset at the ready to keep you in check with them, whether it's the Astro A50 Wireless Headset for Xbox 360 or, our personal favorite, the Sony Wireless Pulse Headset for PlayStation 3.  If you're on PC, a number of headsets will do just fine.

Finally, Show Patience

There are times in a co-op mission when you'll have to be patient to persevere, whether it's needing to backtrack to find another item or making sure you pass through a checkpoint when you continue.  The important thing here is to be patience.  Yes, epic action awaits you in the game, but you'll need to think things through on occasion to get the most out of it.  It's best to have a partner that understands these needs, rather than some whiny kid who yells out, "Can I kill some damn aliens now?!"

Dead Space 3 is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Get the complete, official Prima Games eGuide.