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Visceral: Dead Space 3's controversial elements let us "create new kinds of horror"

Ice planet and co-op don't soften the tone, producer insists

Up for one more bang on the "is Dead Space scary enough" drum? Speaking to OXM at a preview event last week, associate producer Yara Khoury has outlined how certain of the game's less anticipated features actually compliment and advance the existing Dead Space formula. In brief: (1) just because you're out of doors doesn't mean you can see everything coming, and (2) the co-op is "asymmetrical" in terms of more than just your weapons and gear.

As has now been extensively reported, Dead Space 3 takes place on and above Tau Volantis - an ice planet housing many a deep-frozen cache of Necromorph nastiness. It also includes a co-op component via new character Carver, designed to settle naturally into the single player storyline without being compulsory.

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"Absolutely, I totally agree with that," Khoury commented when I asked whether it was hard to frighten returning players, three instalments in. "I think at this point we've mastered the art of doing closet scares, you know, necromorphs jumping out of vents, etc - and I think that's why it will be interesting to go to Tau Volantis - to see how we've been able to use the blizzard with its sensory tricks.

You can't really see what's ahead of you, there's the snow that can, you know, hide some things. There's also all the noise - the blizzard is actually really loud, and we've really played with these things to trick the player and create new kinds of horror. The ice planet that worried players at first because it's an external environment, actually turns out to be one of our allies in terms of creating new ways to scare our players."

As for co-op, Visceral has exploited the split perspective for dramatic effect. "The other very interesting take that we've taken on horror is in co-op. We really explored the psychological horror that we had already kind of instigated in Dead Space 2, you know, through the dementia effects. In Dead Space 3 however, in co-op we can create nice co-op mechanics around it.

"So one player is going to experience some things - he's going to have visions. The other player is not going to see them, and players are going to interact with each other, you know - "What's going on? What the hell?" Isaac is not going to see the same things Carver does, he's going to be like, you know, completely confused about what's going on, and that's how also we've furthered horror in Dead Space 3."

Has negative fan feedback to some of these changes had an impact on development? "No, we didn't make changes. I think what happened is that people started talking about it without really knowing what we were going for. So we introduced co-op and we made sure to mention that the single player experience was still there, that there would be no AI follower, and people still imagined things, you know - that there would be no horror, that you would have an AI follower and things like that.

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"I think when you introduce so much changes you need to let people kind of adjust to everything that you're showing," she went on. "And at E3 we introduced so many new things: you know, new enemies, Tau Volantis' exterior for the first time, cooperative play - it was a lot for players to not be worried about, you know?

"But I think with Gamescom we really brought it home, showcasing everything that makes Dead Space 3 a Dead Space game - horror, claustrophobic tight corridors, etc. I think it just takes a little bit of time for people to understand and accept change when they're so very much invested in to a product."

How reassured are you feeling, right now?

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