Feb. 5, 2013 at 9:08 AM ET
Tip 1: If you're going to play "Dead Space 3," the first thing you must do: Turn down the lights. Then: Turn up the surround sound.
So advises Steve Papoutsis, executive producer for the newly launched horror game and a man who knows a little something about enjoying a good scare. The best-selling Dead Space franchise is filled with grotesque monsters, creepy space locales and a whole lot of mind-bending madness, and it has been scaring the space suits off gamers since the series began in 2008.
This week Dead Space returns with the third installment, and this time around it has some new twists designed to spook players both veteran and newb. There are new terror-filled locales and new monsters with all new tricks up their, um, barb-spewing tentacles and blade-shaped arms. Meanwhile, for the first time, two players can tackle the atrocities that lie in the cold, dark reaches of space together cooperatively.
"It's the most ambitious and largest game we’ve ever done," Papoutsis told me in a recent interview.
To help you get the most (blood spatter) from your "Dead Space 3" experience, we've collected the following tips from Papoutsis as well as from my own time playing the game. Read on ... if you dare.
Tip No. 2 - Get to know your Necromorphs
Playing "Dead Space 3" means playing poor tortured space engineer Isaac Clarke. And as Isaac, you'll have to kill a great many undead former humans known as Necromorphs. The thing about Necromorphs is: They come in more than one flavor.
You've got your Wasters, Leapers, Exploders and Twitchers ... just to name a few. And they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The key: Learn their weaknesses. Fast.
Take the Lurker for example. Shooting at this creature's bulbous body is a waste of valuable ammunition. Instead, take aim above its head where its three (THREE!) barb-spewing tentacles meet. One well-placed shot with a Line Gun here and you'll sever the three tentacles clean off and be done with this terrifying business.
Tip 3: Stray from the path
If you consult Isaac's hand-dandy Locator gadget, it will tell you exactly where you need to go next in the game. But I suggest you go the exact opposite direction as often as you can. Visceral has hidden helpful goodies (ammo, materials to craft weapons and the mysterious Peng Treasure) throughout the game. But you'll need to hunt to really score the extras.
And don't just keep your eyes open for goodies. Keep your ears open too, Papoutsis says. "Dead Space 3" gives players a new Scavenger Bot to help find and retrieve hidden loot, and there's a particular audio cue that signals a good time to unleash it.
"When you hear that sound, if you deploy your Scavenger Bot, he’ll go off and scavenge around, and you have a chance of getting a much richer cache of items," Papoutsis explained.
Tip 4: Use your words
If you're playing "Dead Space 3" on an Xbox and happen to own a Kinect, then here's a chance to put its voice recognition capabilities fun use. Speak a variety of voice commands and you'll see immediate results in the game. For example, say "reload weapon" or "switch weapon" and Isaac will do just that.
Meanwhile, "Dead Space 3" is the first game to use voice co-op voice commands. And that means reducing time spent fumbling with inventory. For example, if your partner needs ammo simply say "give partner ammo." In fact, here's a handy-dandy list of what to say to get what you want.
Yes, talking to the television takes some getting used to, but if you want to truly immerse yourself in this horror show it's worth giving a try.
Tip 5: Play with a friend
When you play "Dead Space 3" in co-op mode, one of you plays as Isaac and the other plays as John Carver — a soldier plagued by moments of terrifying dementia.
Visceral has made co-op a seamless drop in/drop out experience, so that you can play with a second person as long as you like and then leave when you like without losing your progress or your items.
Meanwhile, if you play with a friend, you get a deeper look at the Dead Space world, access to unique missions and, most interestingly, a look at Carver's disturbing story. You also get some seriously hair-raising moments caused by his battle with own mind.
Tip 6: Choose weapons wisely
With the new weapons crafting system in "Dead Space 3," players can customize weapons in many ways. And so Papoutsis suggests that, when playing with a friend, "mix and match your strategy and the upgrades on your weapons so that you complement each others’ play style."
For example, one player might decide to take the lead when it comes to taking out enemies and thus choose a weapon with an attachment that maximizes damage. Meanwhile, the other player could take the support role and use an attachment that heals both players.
Tip 7: Pick your partner carefully
Ultimately, when it comes to playing co-op "Dead Space 3," Papoutsis said it's important to team up with someone who wants the same thing out of the game. Do you want a partner who keeps the friendly chit-chat to a minimum so you can immerse yourself in the tension-filled horror mood? Or are you looking for a fun partner to take a romp through a sci-fi epic?
"I think both can be equally fun," said Papoutsis." You just have coordinate that with your friend."
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.