Futuristic horror shooter Dead Space was not only lauded for its successful scare tactics, but also for the method in which the player dealt with its mutated enemies. Known as Strategic Dismemberment, it involved mowing down infected human foes limb by limb in order to kill them completely.
This remains your main method of attack in Dead Space 2
. Necromorphs old and new will need to be gunned down in specific sections – in theory, it's almost like preparing a chicken for a meal. Only it's the life of engineer Isaac Clarke at stake rather than your culinary reputation.
Executive Producer Steve Papoutsis showcased the new survival action game to attentive crowds at Electronic Arts' Spring Showcase last week, and he seemed eager to identify key areas of improvement over the 2008 original. Mainly by adding '2.0' to the end of everything.
So in Dead Space 2
, we're looking at Strategic Dismemberment 2.0, which offers new ways to splice Necromorphs up along with brand new enemies to mash up in the process. For the former, a new Javelin Gun can be used to shoot off long spiked objects at oncoming enemies – the result is a method of mutilation known as Impalement.
The Javelin Gun actually has a second function in electrocuting impaled foes to a crisp, which can be an effective way of killing them outright or setting up for a follow-through. With the improved system, you can quite literally slice off the limbs of Necromorphs and beat them to death with the soggy end, as severed body parts can be used as rudimentary weapons.
This can be handy as the once-silent Isaac explores the world around him. A new environmental hazard known as Cysts litter the walls and floors, exploding on contact. If you're careful, you can pick up the projectiles these creatures spew up and throw them around like grenades. Other new 'faces' include the Stalker, which hides around corners before charging at you when your back is turned, and the Crawler that's small, nimble and acts as a bomb when killed.
Speaking of Isaac, he's been given a '2.0' designation now too. And his alterations are much more drastic – instead of the quiet errand boy that he seemed to be in the original Dead Space
, here we get to hear his voice, see his face and watch him generally taking more of a leadership role. Papoutsis stresses that Visceral Games hasn't made the protagonist some sort of hench action star, but noted that Isaac needed to be more of a hero in Dead Space 2
. I agree.
While the original was set on the lonely confines of the USG Ishimura mining ship, Dead Space 2
trades the dark and dingy space corridors for The Sprawl, a mining facility on the surface of Saturn moon Titan. The design is notably different – warped sunlight bounces off the colourful landscape to create a moody and foreboding clash of dull red and brown, while heat hazes surround your peripheral vision outside.
Inside it's a different story – clinical and clean whites and silvers highlight the area shown to us, while service tunnels and engineer routes retain the same grimy greys and polluted state that the first Dead Space
was known for. In either case, the improved lighting helps to create a frenzied mood – with surround sound we can imagine the scratches and screams of Necromorphs watching Isaac's every move, as broken office lighting forces the light to sweep from one side of the room to the other.
The environment can be your weapon just as much as the enemy, too – I saw Isaac smash up some tables in a room, pick up some debris and use it to smash open a nearby window to suck all the air pressure – and Necromorphs – out into space. Finding a button above the window and shooting it in time will engage security glazing so Isaac doesn't get sucked out as well. Hopefully this kind of tactical action will be the norm in Dead Space 2
, rather than the exception.
Papoutsis took the time to reveal that this game will indeed come with an online multiplayer mode, but stopped short of telling me exactly what that would entail. Co-op? Deathmatches? To be revealed soon, apparently. But the interest is a testament to the success of the original Dead Space
, and on the back of that there's a lot of pressure to make the sequel even more terrifying.
Let's hope the action isn't emphasised too much over the sheer survival horror atmosphere – Resident Evil 5
fell into that trap, but as it stands right now Dead Space 2
doesn't yet look like it will head down that particular road.
Dead Space 2 is heading for an August 2010 release for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.