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Impressions: Dead Space 2


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In the run-up to Dead Space 2's full unveiling at E3 next month, Visceral Games executive producer Steve Papoutsis recently gave me an all-too-brief run-through of some environments from the game, introducing me to a new array of nasty necromorphs -- but also some fancy new weapons with which to carve them up. Papoutsis was also keen to reassure me that, despite rumblings on the internet (oh, that thing) the game is not a run-and-gun shooter. Having seen it in action, I can assure you that it's not a run-and-gun shooter.

The demo took place deep into the game, according to Papoutsis, so the weapons and suit that Issac Clark was sporting were far cooler than what you'll start out with while fighting to stay alive inside (and outside) of a mining complex -- the "Sprawl" -- on Saturn's moon. Though I could see the towering spires of a cityscape in the distance, we were headed into the mine itself for our first stop on the tour ... of terror.

Gallery: Dead Space 2 (05/13/10) | 6 Photos

Right away, I could see that Issac's animations have been improved, making him appear more spry. This happened to fit well with the first gameplay change Papoutsis showed me: the telekinesis power is a lot less clunky this time. The enhancement is meant to encourage players to take advantage of it more often, grabbing makeshift shields or throwing objects at enemies. Isaac's melee and boot-stomp attacks have also been sped up, again to be more useful. Weapons are still upgradable via workbenches but the inventory system wasn't in shape to be shown just yet.

The first new necromorph I was introduced to, the Stalker, was used to showcase two things: the game's new A.I. "pack mentality" and a new weapon capable of firing sticky mines (with laser "tripwires"). The area was comprised of tight quarters, with support columns scattered throughout. The Stalkers -- velociraptor-like beasts -- came at Isaac, weaving in and out of the columns as he carved some up with his basic gun, throwing their large pointy bits at others using the faster TK system. One creature remained, and had retreated to the shadows, fittingly stalking him. Papoutsis fired an explosive charge onto one of the columns and got the Stalker to chase him. It hit the trigger beam and was blown to bits.

The next area was part of the actual mine, an underground chamber filled with floodlights and mining equipment that offered quite a different aesthetic from the first game's Ishimura (or even the previous area). Moving on from here into more familiar, industrial corridors, Papoutsis used the new javelin gun to spear enemies, showing off an alternate fire that caused its projectiles to explode with the push of a button. He explained to me that this is great for firing into groups of enemies, or even into the floor, walls or ceiling to be triggered when enemies are nearby. This did prove very helpful against a pack of new enemies that looked almost like demon children, who ran at Isaac with arms extended.

Proving that one can't just run through Dead Space 2, the next area was peppered with large cyst-like necromorphs, some on the floor, others on walls. Should Isaac get too close, they'd jettison an explosive sack. This can be played to your advantage, though. Creeping up on the cysts lets you get just close enough to trigger their attack, at which point you can shoot the sack and destroy them. Or, you can lure enemies over the cysts and do the same. Another example of using the game's creatures against each other came when Isaac encountered the new Crawlers. Papoutsis used the TK power to rip out one's gut sack and hurled it at another enemy. It exploded on contact.

He clung to the opening for dear life, only to be cut in half by the emergency door that closed to seal the room.

Finally, I got a look at a much tidier part of the Sprawl. Papoutsis maneuvered Isaac through a brightly lit, fully intact administrative office area. Well, intact before he got there. This is where I saw just how destructible the environments in the new game are. Using melee attacks, Isaac knocked wall panels loose (which can be used as TK-held shields) and broke through glass partitions, the shards from which could be thrown into enemies using TK. He also shot out a support on one of the room's fluorescent lighting fixtures so that it swung from the ceiling, showing off the impressive new lighting.

To end the demo, Papoutsis stressed that the team wants to play off the fact that there's a total vacuum outside of the Sprawl. Walking through the office area, he was ambushed by a pack of enemies, and chose to shoot at the floor-to-ceiling glass behind them. It shattered, and they were blasted out into the void -- but Isaac was also pulled towards the breach on his back. He clung to the opening for dear life, only to be cut in half by the emergency door that closed to seal the room. The light Papoutsis had shot earlier was still swinging and papers slowly floated to the ground. However, it was possible to avoid death in the situation. He played it again, but this time aimed at the emergency door's large red switch and fired, making it close before he reached it. It was really cool.

So, things we don't seem to have to worry about: the game is still very scary, it's still survival horror and it looks great (the demo never strayed from a smooth 60 frames per second). That's how it looks; we'll get to spend some hands-on time with Dead Space 2 at E3 and will let you know how it feels.

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