They say that in space no-one can hear you scream. Well they can hear you all too well at games preview showcases, and that’s just what I felt like doing as I got a terrifying sneak-peak at Dead Space 2 yesterday.
Set three years after the original Alien-inspired Dead Space, our engineering hero Isaac Clarke is in a mining facility on the mega-city “Sprawl” of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Isaac has been left more than a bit shaken by his previous encounter with the Necromorph ghoulies on the USG Ishimura, and the aftermath of his emotionally traumatic experiences will be fully explored in Dead Space 2. Isaac will have a voice of his own this time around, speaking at length with other characters and even revealing his face thanks to a new retractable helmet.
The newly-talkative Isaac is only one facet of what Visceral Games are dubbing “Isaac 2.0”. He’s been refined both in terms of controls and looks, with new suits to be collected, an improved foot-stomp and new abilities. An engineering mini-game has also been added to the mix, allowing you to unlock air-locks by hot-wiring their electronics.
Combat seems the biggest update from what we’ve seen of Dead Space 2 so far. Strategic dismemberment makes a return, weakening the alien horde by blowing off their limbs. But an updated Javelin gun gives Isaac more of an edge this time around, allowing you to spear enemies, impaling them on the wall to be finished off with an electrifying follow-up blast.
And you’re going to need all the help you can get here as a slew of new gruesome enemies are introduced. First up are the Stalkers, a werewolf like breed of alien that will work in packs to cut you off and surround you. The Pack are child-sized gangs of necromorphs that look a bit like goblins who attack in large waves to overwhelm you. Cysts suck onto flat surfaces and spit out puss-filled pods that explode and burn Isaac on impact (though industrious players can use kinetic powers to turn their projectiles against foes). Creepiest of all though are the Crawlers, small ground-based foes that look a bit like woodlice on stilts with the heads of disfigured babies. Nightmare inducing stuff, seriously.
Environments are far more interactive in Dead Space 2 too. Fully destructible, an overhauled physics system lets you use telekinesis to grab shards of glass and metal blown from your surroundings and hurl them at the necromorphs. The damage modelling on the office-like area we saw looked convincing and comprehensive, with Isaac laying waste to any object in his path.
Damaging certain areas of the Sprawl will also lead to some nail-biting context sensitive events being triggered. In one instance we saw, Isaac shot out a glass window that hadn’t been reinforced, causing a space-vacuum to occur in the room, sucking Isaac and baddies out into the void. Those with a quick trigger finger will be able to shoot out a safety switch which will seal the breach and leave Isaac alive, but if you’re not quick enough he’ll get caught in the door mechanism and sliced in half. A clever use of a risk/reward play-off for the player, using these environmental tricks to your advantage adds a smart layer of strategy for those looking to conserve ammo.
All in, Dead Space 2 is looking a worthy successor to its horrifying predecessor. From the improved lighting to the more varied mix of natural and industrial environments, it looks to be improving on and adding to the strong mix already present in the first title.
Dead Space 2 will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC later this year. We cant wait to see more of the game, and will have spare underwear especially ready for the occasion.