Preview: Dead Space 2

Isaac Clarke is back again, ready to dismember the hordes of previously nice people.

I get my hands dirty with the demo to see what hope lies in the darkness of my SquareGo Preview.

Dead Space 2 – Hands On

Dead Space 2 – Hands On

The funny thing about psychotic voracious cannabalistic undead monsters is that they just don’t want to stay down. Never has this been truer than with the Necromorph creatures from the EA classic horror Dead Space.

It’s been just over two years since intergalactic greasemonkey Isaac Clarke had to fight tooth-and-nail with an army of monsters built from the reanimated crew of the doomed Spaceship USG Ishimura. While the stoop-backed silverfox did indeed survive the maelstrom of writhing flesh and terror, it seems that things didn’t go all too well after his lucky escape, as he’s due back in February in the sequel, Dead Space 2 (DS2).

This time, the action isn’t in the depths of the great unknown galaxy; instead, Isaac has wound up on the imaginatively named Titan Station, a habitat base orbiting Saturn’s largest moon. Needless to say, things have gone a bit Pete Tong and old Isaac is woken up to save the day… or do his saviours have other motives?

A Fistful of Fistulas

Of course if you remember when the original game was released, there was a frenzy of supporting materials; websites, ARG, movies and even a prequel game.

The first new Dead Space experience up to whet the appetite is the PSN/XBLA title Dead Space: Ignition; a brief interquel between DS 1 and DS 2. Ignition is a series of puzzle based mini-games linked around a motion comic in which the player follows Franco and Sarah, a pair of engineers (secretly in love) who are performing maintainance repairs on Titan station at the time of the outbreak.

The game shows their battle to survive encounters with the Necromorph as they try to keep the station in one piece and comes complete with several pathways through the story and a number of alternate endings (playing them all wins you some bonus armour in DS2).  Ultimately whichever path is played out, the game always ends with the events which lead to the start of Dead Space 2.

Additionally, there is an animated movie to further expand on the universe and story. We’ll have a full review of the DVD Dead Space: Aftermath as soon as it’s out.

Does my Spleen look big in this?

But what of the main game? Well, as can be seen from the beta and demo, Dead Space 2 has some surprises in store for the player. Titan Station is a mishmash of different styles and architecture, with the dark and claustrophobic corridors leading out into soaring gothic cathedrals and windows opening onto sweeping vistas and spacescapes.  The music is more sombre and atmospheric than before, with a keener edge, building up a sense of constant suspense.

Isaac himself has been given an overhall, sporting a trimmer and sleeker design of armour, more suited to quick movement and agility. Even the inventory menu has been given a faux 3D effect, all adding to the overall aesthetic.

The hordes of undead have been given a spit polish as well; the necromorphs are even more horrifically beautiful than before, with every gruesome inch of torn flesh rendered in loving detail. They leap and wail upon Isaac with the same ferocity as ever but the variety has been increased along with the inclusion of smaller fast creatures as well as new hulking monstrosities.

Float like a Butterfly….

One change in the game is the ease and naturality of the controls.  While the first game wasn’t awkward, there was an occasional stiltedness that suited the cumbersome armour worn by Isaac.  In DS2 the game has been squeezed to fluidity as the slightly plodding pace of the original has been forgone in favour of a faster experience that plays with more accuracy and seamless motion, even from the short playtime it’s clear that there has been some ironing out of the kinks.

Adding to the freedom of movement, the game sees the return to Zero Gravity environments, where Clarkey-boy has now wrangled a booster allowing him to fly around the open spaces rather than simply launching off from a suface in a straight line.

Sting like a Bee…

Of course, Dead Space is still all about the hardware, and it’s business as usual as Isaac’s plentious collection of maiming devices has expanded from the original game’s selection.  Returning are the familiar stalwarts of the Plasma Cutter, Line Gun and Assaut Rifle; all present and correct.  An exciting new addition was the Javelin Gun, which has created an impressive amount of glee around the SquareGo office.  Just point and ‘THUNK’. Hey Presto! One necromorph stapled securely to a wall, just begging to be sliced and diced to chunky kibbles.  Although all of the weapons have a re-assuringly solid sound and feel, the Javelin just takes the biscuit and will undoubtedly be a fan favourite.

Dave….My Mind is Going….

So far, all so good, however it’s not all plain sailing, as anyone who has seen the end of Dead Space, can testify. Needless to say, Isaac has been more than a little traumatised by his encounter with the monolithic ‘Artifact’. As such matters seems to have taken a leaf out of the pages of Eternal Darkness with Isaac suffering moments of madness, as his grip on reality tumbles away and the very walls seem to come alive around him.

Needless to say, this is all shaping up to potentially be one of the first great games of 2011. Only time and blood will tell.

Dead Space 2 is released on January 25th

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