Dead Space 2 First Impressions - Out on a Limb
Written Saturday, May 15, 2010 By Martin Gaston
Isaac Clarke was a mute as he reduced alien foes to limbless chunks of blood and mush within the twisty corridor confines of the USG Ishimura in the original Dead Space. In the sequel, though, he’s not afraid to flap his gums. You’d think it would be the opposite, but it’s just more proof (if proof were needed) that Isaac has a stronger constitution than most.
After cracking hundreds in half, he’s also seen fit to grow his own spine. He’s not the errand boy anymore – this, according to developer Visceral Games, was the biggest flaw of the original – and is now taking charge of sorting out the latest undead invasion pickle.
It looks, sounds and feels almost the same as the original. But the familiarity should not breed contempt; Dead Space after all was a splendid action-cum-horror game that was the greatest tragedy in 2008’s flood of underappreciated titles, and the core of the game requires very little tweaking to competently put competing titles to shame.
Three years have passed since the original, and the Necromorphs have relocated to Titan, the location of the very first planet-crack. We’re mostly pottering around The Sprawl, a massive space city peppered with a now defunct mining industry and the good old working class salt-of-the-stars industrial types who have remained whilst the rest of the C.E.C. have gone further into the cosmos to hoover up resources from other planets.
Well, in actuality they’re probably all dead and it’s their tender fleshy bits that have been reanimated to form the bulk of the latest Necromorph army, meaning they’re now the ones running around trying to skewer Isaac through his own fleshy bits. Visceral are being cagey with divulging specifics about the plot, but I’m going to go out on a Necromorph’s disembodied floating limb and guess something very bad has happened.
The main focus on EA’s latest demo is not the story, however, but instead their flashy new ‘Strategic Dismemberment 2.0’ engine that powers all the limb flaying. Now you’ve got the ability to slice off a razor barb, pick it up with telekinesis and pin your target to the wall with it.
Or you could just use the new Javelin launcher, which fires a pointy spike of metal and can electrocute your targets after skewering them. But remember, just because you’ve pinned something to the wall doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead.
The game also promises greater interaction with the décor alongside the new ways of fiddling with glistening, pus-stained limbs of reanimated flesh. Plenty of things can now be shot to bits, knocked down, blown open or just generally messed up by getting caught in the fracas - this including plenty of light sources, too, which means you might want to be a bit more careful in the middle of a firefight.
In one instance we’re also shown how certain glass windows can be shot out to trigger an emergency – and potentially risky – decompression. It’ll suck any Necromorphs in the room out into space, but if you fail to trigger the shutters in the nick of time, Isaac will find himself caught up in the emergency airlock as it triggers, and sliced in two, his torso will float off into the cold expanse of space. On the flipside, it gives you the ability to clear out a room with only two bullets, which will be excellent for people trying to chug through the game on hard.
Visceral’s sound design is still top-notch, with Isaac’s desperate grunts eerily echoing through his suit as he swings his arms as he stomps baddies to bits. The Necromorph swarms remain super freaky as they gurgle and hiss whilst trying to poke Isaac’s brains out of his skull.
There’s also some new baddies lurking in the dark. One of the new mutations are the Stalkers; beasts that peer around corners, pulling their head back as the flashlight shines off their beady eyes. The scary part is what follows: they work in packs and stay out of sight, meaning they’re at their most deadly when you can’t see them.
A few well-chucked Javelins and some cheeky shots from the returning Plasma Cutter are more than enough to put them down though.
Cysts are rooted to the ground, and give away their position by a deep gurgle. They’re the Necromorph’s spin on a bounding proximity mine, and spew out an explosive sack of gore when they detect something nearby. However, if Isaac’s reflexes are quick enough to catch it in time with his telekinesis, he can fire it back at the source as a makeshift grenade.
The other new enemy Visceral were showing off was The Pack, a group of charging Gollum lookalikes whose strength comes from blind rushes. They’re easily dispatched by a couple of shots from the Plasma Cutter, but could prove all kinds of freaky when mixed up in groups of other enemies.
Visceral are also hoping to bring Isaac’s competent engineering skills to the forefront, though in the demo this comes about by way of a hacking mini-game where Isaac stuffs his arm in a box of tangled wires and, by feeling around with one of the analog sticks, needs to yank down the right clump of components to override a door.
There was no word on the recently announced multiplayer modes, but if terrifying monsters jumping out of dark places and going “boo” is your idea of a good way to spend ten hours, then Dead Space 2 looks set to make itself a firm favourite come its release in early 2011.