I saw Isaac Clarke's face. It was a strange experience, seeing the mug of of someone who for several years has hidden away behind a suit that looks suspiciously like some sort of torture contraption.
It's also the face of the actor playing him. Thankfully that's not
Nolan North – it's Gunner Wright, who you might know as 'Secret Service Agent' from G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra
or 'Jet Pilot' from The Losers
. It's not white-hot news that Clarke has a face now, but it's a little strange to see it. It's like his identity has shifted or grown from the first game. That's OK, though, because the whole game feels bigger in scope than its prequel – the Dead Space
series' identity has shifted, too.
This is in immediate evidence as the new content I'm shown at Gamescom kicks off. Isaac's on top of The Sprawl, the space-bound city where Dead Space 2
is set, and he's got to fix some solar arrays. The vastness of space is beyond, twinkling at you. The Sprawl is sat below looking industrial and stark. It's the sort of place British novelists like Orwell or J.G. Ballard would warn you about. The word that comes to mind is 'Epic'.
So, off Isaac floats. Nowadays, he's not reliant on getting a good push off a hard surface to navigate zero-gravity – he has thrusters reminiscent of Iron Man's to move through space under his own steam. He can pick up a fair amount of speed, but product manager Matt Bendett later points out that rocketing along won't always be massively helpful when it comes to combat. While Isaac might be in space right now, he does have some relatively tight areas inside the city to navigate later.
As he moves to one of the arrays to hit it up with a spot of telekinesis and re-align their mirrors, he comes across a Nest; a necromorph that starts spitting nastiness at him. The the usefulness of 360 degree movement in space becomes evident.
While Isaac might be able to move about in space well enough, he's not so hot on the breathing. That's OK, though. There's oxygen to be picked up. It just means that floating around outside isn't a very restful or calming experience.
Anyway, because Isaac's a handy engineer sort, he gets the arrays sorted and a beam shoots down to power up the entire city below him. With that accomplished, he gets indoors and a thing happens. A plotty thing in which a bird called Ali gets distressed about something or other and Isaac responds, “I'll be there! I'll be there!!!”
For the record, he sounds American, but not too
American. He narrowly dodges that horrible wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky chap that an actor who I won't name again brings to so many action games. In my head, Isaac's bald, grizzled and old. He sounds like someone slashed his vocal chords when he was 12 and had to stitch them back together himself with razor-wire. That's not to be, but Gunner Wright seems to be doing an OK job.
Anyway, to avert the plot thing that has Ali so distressed Isaac promptly shoots himself into space at high speed. This is the bit that made me think, 'f*ck my t-shirt, I can't wait for this!' It's a flying section, with Isaac's rocket boots firing at full burn, but with bits of The Sprawl falling off and getting closer at a very rapid clip. The combination of debris and boost creates a very palpable sense of speed, while the fixed camera means that this doesn't become overwhelming and you can manoeuvre round the objects flying your way. Slipping through a hole in an entire building shooting toward you is very
“The entire Sprawl is actually rendered in the game, it's not a background”, Bendett says. It is, indeed, getting bigger and more detailed as you draw closer. Not that you'll be likely to notice when you're playing. You'll be busy staying not-dead.
Then, when Isaac crashes through a duct onto the station and bashes into everything in his way going down, you feel it.
He lands in an airless transport hub and some more traditional combat ensues. A group of necromorphs called The Pack swarms him while he's vulnerable and he's shooting away. They're not very strong but there's a lot of them and they just keep on coming. The atmosphere's been sucked out and the combination of enemies and environment makes for a tense encounter. As an enhanced necromorph with armoured legs emerges, the combat also shows off the work Visceral's done on close-quarters combat. The melee's faster while the stomp's more powerful. The necromorph doesn't like it.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying: Dead Space 2
is looking impressive. Right now, I'm excited. If action and/or horror's your thing, you probably should be too.
Dead Space 2 is out on January 28th, 2011, on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.