Since the 2008 release of Dead Space, Visceral games have quickly established their particularly squishy sci-fi horror universe as a major video game franchise. After only two games, Dead Space is now counted along-side land marks in survival horror such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, and rightly so.

The Dead Space games have all the dark corridors and jump scares we've come to expect from a survival horror, and one of the best antagonists in gaming; the limb-careless, undead Necromorphs. Refined to near perfection in the second game, the combat mechanics, which are unusually fluid for the genre, combine with a set of weapons just as nasty as the games creatures, giving players the ability to dish out some grim death of their own. This allows the player the option to fight back rather than running shrieking from an encounter to fiddle with some plants in a corner, like Alan Titchmarsh having a luxury breakdown.

After playing through and very much enjoying the first two installments, I’m looking forward to the demo of the third game in the series, the unpretentiously titled Dead Space 3!

On loading up the demo you are greeted with an option to choose from co-op or single player. The first game was single player only, Dead Space 2 introduced a multiplayer element, so clearly co-op is the new tweak to the franchise.

Setting aside the idea that crawling the corridors with your bro might lessen the impact and tension of the experience, online and private co-op might prove to reveal a totally different side to the game, as you and your wing-man bludgeon your way through the levels stopping only to instagram some of the funnier Necromorphs along the way. I’ll come back to the co-op later.

Starting with single player, you wake in the wreckage of a ship as a bloodied and upside down Isaac Clark, hero of the series. Isaac is an engineer called in as part of a rescue mission to recover crew of the… yeah you can guess the rest; alien monoliths, the dead coming back to life, unbelievable health and safety oversights etc etc. Transitioning seamlessly from cut-scene to gameplay you stumble outside into the great outdoors, which appears to be a frozen wasteland: you can barely see ahead of you due to the whiteout.

Isaac's look hasn’t really been altered, nor have the controls. Despite it being some time since playing Dead Space 2 I was able to slip straight back into the game immediately.

PhotobucketA couple of Necromorphs, jumping out at me and a quick time event later and I’m still outside which is a departure from the series' typical metal labyrinths. A rather perfunctory boss fight with a giant beetle creature and an attack from some snow gear clad humans follows. With the arctic setting, the giant beetle boss and the snow gear I was reminded a little of Lost Planet, which is never a good thing.

Despite the introduction of a nasty new creature that appears to be a disembodied head that re-attaches itself to any dead body left lying around, the feel of the demo level still doesn’t quite evoke that of the previous two games. Having said this, a series does need to progress and move on and I had a lot of fun playing with the demo.

Judging by the short video montage that plays at the demo's finish, there are going to be lots of interiors to negotiate. There are also many bad guys both old and new on show.

Dead Space 3 features a new weapon crafting mechanic. Isaac can now take apart his weapons and re-configure them in a number of ways, using blueprints and materials found in-game. This should deepen the experience even further, as materials, blueprints and your own weapon designs can be shared online with your co-op partner.

Going back to the new drop-in, drop-out co-op; I managed to get halfway through the level before my co-op partner rather unceremoniously ‘dropped out’. However up until that point I was having a blast. Some new cut scenes are added that you don’t see when playing solo, which is good, but there is a little waiting around here and there while players catch up with each other. This can slow things down a bit and was a little frustrating. However with two of you lopping limbs off the enemy, the combat really speeds up and you race through the level. I guess you could see that as a good or a bad thing, and the presence of another character does pretty much destroy any tension, so I’m glad I played the co-op after going through on my own once as it’s a very different experience.

I have some slight misgivings about the tone and setting from what I played, but this is, after all, only one level. Everything new I liked, including the co-op option, and based on the strength of the previous two games I’m eager to play more of Dead Space 3.

Dead Space 3 is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on Feb 8th.