Until now, EA has been happy to show Dead Space 2 trailers, host multiplayer events, and give interviews, but it hasn't let IGN get its hands on the controller and give Isaac a whirl. Now, with Chapters 2 and 3 behind me, I've got a taste of what the full game will feel like, and I definitely like it. The Dead Space franchise is all about scaring you and letting you marvel at its terrific twists. That said, I'm going to keep this preview spoiler free in terms of story stuff and focus on mechanics and ideas a bit more.
Still, we do already know a lot. Dead Space 2 picks up the tale of Isaac Clarke, a guy who was a regular old engineer but had to fight off hundreds of horrible Necromorphs (corpses reanimated by a parasitic infection and only able to be killed if they were dismembered) on the USG Ishimura in the original Dead Space. Three years have passed, and Isaac's on the Sprawl -- a space station full of nice people who are now being attacked by a Necropmorph outbreak.
My demo picked up with Isaac back in a version of his familiar engineering suit, which gives him some protection from the beasts along with telekinesis and the ability to slow things down. A woman named Daina is leading our hero, but there's also a guy named Nolan Stross trying to get in contact with Isaac. Daina claims he's a psychotic that killed his own family.
And that's all the story I'm going to give you because that's really all I saw in my two chapters. Still, there's plenty to talk about on the gameplay side because controlling Isaac feels better than ever. The original Dead Space was a great game, but I doubled back to play it the other night and found it aged -- Isaac didn't feel fast enough, the stomp was all but worthless, and refilling my enemy-slowing Stasis took too many steps.
That's all different this time around. Dead Space 2's control scheme will instantly be familiar, but Isaac feels lighter on his feet. The stomp and melee moves are also faster and more efficient. That's a good thing because both are now crucial: pounding a beaten foe gives you loot like ammo and health. Whether you're just walking down a creepy corridor or in the middle of a massive fight, health and Stasis can be refilled with the push of a button if you have supplies in your inventory -- Stasis even recharges over time now and you can make that process go faster with upgrades. If you're worried about weapons, the plasma cutter and a bunch of new friends are back, packing alternative firing modes, and ready to have their attributes maxed out.
Workbenches are back for improving your equipment with the power nodes you find in the game and so are a bunch of other Dead Space staples. Save stations are still found on walls. You can sell, buy and store items at the store kiosks you run into. Disfigured bad guys (with terrifying arms sticking out of their backs) still pop out of the walls to scare the pants off of you. I saw a lot of familiar Necromorph faces like the Slasher (the most common Necromorph with its slashing arms) and the Leaper (nasty beasts that crawl on the ground and attack with their tails), but I also got to take on the Pack for the first time.
If you've been watching out Dead Space 2 coverage, you've probably seen the Pack even if you don't know them by name. These guys are the bipedal, kid-sized Necromorphs that rush at you in a group and leap on you. They used to be the Sprawl's burgeoning children population, but when they got infected, the kiddies turned into these baddies.
This is one of the coolest thing about Dead Space 2; the Sprawl is -- or at least was -- a living city so the things we're going to see should be very varied. I took Isaac through a residential section and found apartments wrecked and covered in blood -- bodies still in their beds. Next was a polished mall motif and even a Marker-worshiping Unitology recruitment center. Of course, all of these areas are seriously screwed up: lights are hanging from the ceiling, TV screens are smashed, and there are random fires around the place. All hell has broken loose, and it's evident from the people you find wailing in the common areas or the Necromorph conversions you yourself witness.
So what exactly happened here? Well, we don't know for sure, but you can bet it's connected to a Marker. If you're just joining the Dead Space universe, Markers are worshiped by Unitologists and pretty much the worst thing in the world -- they make the Necromorphs. Isaac destroyed one at the end of Dead Space, but a conversation in what I played today says that Tiedemann -- the guy in charge of the Sprawl -- made another one. My money's on this fact being what brought the Sprawl down, but I'm sure the game will tell us all about that in due time.
The other thing I'm interested in seeing from the final game? Isaac's mental state. Our hero is plagued with visions of Nicole, his girlfriend who was killed in the original game's Necromorph outbreak. In Dead Space 2, she's a bloody mess and only pops up in scary ways. Is he OK? Did the events of the first game break him? We'll need to wait until Jan. 25, 2011 to find out.