Dead Space 2 Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3
Dead Space 2 box art
System: X360, PS3, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Visceral Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Jan. 25, 2011 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-8 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Pending 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Out of the Frying Pan…
by Steve Haske

When Game Informer first revealed Dead Space 2 to the public late last year, it was the subject of much skepticism and debate among many gamers. Dead Space, after all, was arguably one of the best original survival horror IPs to come along in years, so naturally, a sequel would have a lot riding on it.

Dead Space 2 screenshot

However, among the first details revealed about the game were that many people had found the original Dead Space “too scary,” and Visceral was taking steps in response to reach a wider audience because of it. Phrases like “more action” and “evening the odds” were tossed around by the developers, who promised Isaac would have more firepower at his disposal to take on the necromorphs this time around. This, in particular, was worrisome to a lot of horror fans (myself included). Sure, Resident Evil 5 was a good game, all things considered, but its emphasis on action made it a non-survival horror entry in the series. Would Dead Space 2 follow the same trend?

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After this year’s E3, I was less skeptical of how things were developing. Issac may be a veteran of the Ishimura incident, now sporting a sexy new anime ninja-like suit, but this is still Dead Space through and through. The non-playable E3 demo took him through a frozen underground catacombs section of sorts, in an underground Unitology church (a quick primer on Dead Space 2: it takes place three years after the events of the first game, on a massive space colony known as the Sprawl). Throughout the level, Isaac had to do battle with new types of necromorphs (among them a puking beastie, a new breed with insect-like appendages, baby necromorphs with razor talons as well as a typically hulking monstrosity reminiscent of some of the boss battles in the first game), make his way through the church, and finally escape said monstrosity, or so the demo makes it seem. Although the demo, which lasted roughly fifteen or twenty minutes, had a lot of action in it, it was handled with atmosphere, tension, and intensity at the forefront of the proceedings. The classic Dead Space style seems to have been retained, and perhaps, even added to, given the camera seems tighter for a heightened sense of claustrophobia. Though watching a demonstration feels different than playing it yourself, it was a huge comfort to know the mood of the series was still very much intact.

Dead Space 2 screenshot

At this year’s PAX, I got to try Dead Space 2 out for myself. Surprisingly, it didn’t matter that the demo was the same that had been shown behind closed doors at E3; all I can say is there is a noticeable difference from watching something being played and actually doing it yourself. Although it had been at least a year since I had played the original, picking up the controller instantly felt natural again. That being said, the controls in Dead Space 2 are pretty much the same as in original, with a couple of new additions. First, thanks to small jets on his boots, Isaac can move around in Zero-G, which is smooth and controls perfectly. Impalement is also a new mechanic in Dead Space 2, as Isaac is able to pin necromorphs to walls either using the powerful new Javelin gun or, thanks to improved kinesis abilities, even the dismembered limbs of the monsters themselves. Using health has also been streamlined by mapping it to one of the controller’s face buttons, making firefights slightly less stressful. The camera and movement were two things I was most worried about (though admittedly less so since I’d seen the game in action at E3), but thankfully, Visceral has kept the weight and heft of Isaac’s suit intact, and the camera is as tight as ever, never giving you a full view of the action.

Needless to say, that heart-in-your-throat intensity the original Dead Space excelled at is back in full force. Isaac actually encounters no small number of necromorphs (probably about twice as many, on average, as in the first game) throughout the demo, so combat remained an intense and anxious exercise. Even though I knew more or less what was going to happen next, my short time with the game was still nerve-wracking, and a member of the dev team assured me the demo section was actually one of the milder segments of the game in terms of intensity and scare factor. It’s also clear Visceral now has EA in their pocket, so to speak; the publishing giant has obviously just thrown money at this project, which is far more cinematic than its predecessor, even to the point of integration into gameplay. Much like Uncharted 2, this new Dead Space seems to heavily involve set pieces, and if the demo is anything to go by, Visceral isn’t slouching in this department.

Dead Space 2 screenshot

Over the course of the demo, Isaac winds up in a series of harrowing situations where the player is given control over the situation, which usually involves Isaac either pinned down by a hideous mutated necromorph or about to leave the mortal coil due to some powerful outside force working against him. Either way, you’re briefly given control enough to either desperately shoot your way out by hitting a beastie’s weak point (they glow yellow) or follow some other on-screen instruction to survive. These kinds of moments were present to some degree in the first game, but Visceral looks to really outdo themselves with Dead Space 2. Even with more “action,” though, the game feels well-balanced with the odds still against you, exactly how a survival horror game should feel. After the last intense scene, which has Isaac running or his life from a huge monster before ending the demo midway after blowing it to kingdom come in the cold vacuum of space, January 25 can’t come fast enough.

By Steve Haske
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • A new story takes a battle-hardened Isaac Clarke against a new necromoph outbreak three years after the Ishimura incident.
  • The new fully navigable Zero-G sections create a new way to experience terror.
  • Dead Space 2 includes a multiplayer mode that pits humans vs. necromoprhs in 4-on-4 battles.
  • The PS3 version includes HD remastered edition of Dead Space: Extraction.

  • Screenshots / Images
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