With Dead Space, Visceral Games and Electronic Arts have done the unthinkable with the survival horror genre.  They’ve effectively stirred things up to create not just a series of games, but experiences.  The original game was revolutionary at the time, creating an ambience of true fear and chaos as you fought through a ship filled with nasty Necromorphs, humans that have since evolved into nasty dead creatures.  It also introduced huge enemies, including a mother of a final boss that took quite a bit of time – and thinking – to bring down.  Even then, we weren’t guaranteed a happy ending.

With Dead Space 2, Visceral continued to buck the trend, introducing a new series of creepy beasts while weaving the same thrill-packed storyline, with the main hero, Isaac Clarke, fighting against the odds merely for the sake of survival.  As a result, fans were pleased with how the game turned out, and also got to take on their friends through some rather engaging multiplayer sessions.  (And, no, the Necromorphs didn’t get all the advantages…)

It was inevitable that a third chapter of the series would make the rounds, since EA really likes to produce its sequels and there were enough fans to make it profitable.  But little did we know what kind of focus Visceral would be putting on the series with Dead Space 3, which we got a quick peek at a month ago at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.  While there is a change of pace that not everyone will be quite used to, the new additions and co-op mode will definitely make fans feel welcome.  Not to mention a whole new batch of Necromorphs standing in the way.

The game picks up where the second left off.  After escaping their latest threat, Isaac, alongside his flying cohort Ellie Langford, find themselves crash-landed on the frozen planet of Tau Volantis.  Now, while that may sound like something out of Capcom’s Lost Planet series, this takes an interesting turn.  Following the crash, Ellie is separated from Isaac.  Vigilant enough to make sure he doesn’t leave without her, Isaac begins exploring the planet.

Along the way, he learns that there’s a key within this hostile environment that could very well pave the way towards a solution to the end of the Necromorph invasion.  But, as expected, it’s buried beneath tons of slow, so Isaac will have to do all sorts of digging – not to mention battling the Necromorph creatures that are inhabiting this tundra.

But there’s one more interesting piece to this puzzle – a new antagonist in the series, Sergeant James Carver.  Isaac runs into him over the course of his journey, and he could very well have ties in to what’s happening on this planet.

What’s cool about Carver’s involvement is that it can play out one of two ways, depending on how you decide to go through Dead Space 3.  If you go through the game on your own, in a single player excursion, Carver will pop up on occasion, providing assistance before vanishing again.  However, in the game’s new drop-in/drop-out cooperative play mode, he’s by your side, as one player controls him while you control Isaac.

Along with the cool new team dynamic, Visceral Games has also added a couple of traditional action elements to Dead Space 3.  Now, instead of just running and running like the first two games, Isaac and James can actually roll out of harm’s way, should a Necromorph come charging in.  They can also take cover, or react in a certain way should an enemy get a little too close.  While these traditional improvements to the game may make fans think it’s more like an action title than the usual survival/horror set-up (and it kind of is), Visceral has confirmed that the game will still have plenty of scary moments to go around, and judging by what we’ve seen from the game footage – including a point where it looks like you’re devoured alive – we could easily agree.

As far as looks go, the developer continues to buck the trend with atmospheric touches, creepy enemy designs and plenty of cold terrain to cover in Dead Space 3.  The exterior environments are simply stunning, as you’ll run through the cold while barely staying alive in your suit.  The indoor locales don’t offer much solace either, as they provide the Necromorphs plenty of opportunity to pop out of nowhere and try to chomp away at you.  It’s a well-rounded experience overall thus far, even if we’ve only seen bits and pieces of it.

Despite some things that may make the game more Aliens than Alien (that’s the closest comparison we could get), Dead Space 3 looks to be a huge step forward for Visceral, both with the new locations and the addition of a second player in co-op.  It’s unknown what the other multiplayer portion of the game will be, but don’t be surprised if it’s similar to what Dead Space 2 had to offer.  You can check out everything this sequel will have – and more – when it arrives early next year.