Dead Space 2 reveals varied environments and horrific bosses

Our recent Dead Space 2 demo experience left us impressed and excited, but also cursing the long wait until the game comes out. The section we experienced also did not dispel the worries that DS 2 may have strayed too far away from atmospheric horror and toward more action. Indeed, during our twenty-plus minutes with the game, enemies came fast and numerous, with little breathing time between. There was one puzzle section in the middle, but the constant onslaught of enemies didn’t really give a sense of pacing.

Above: These punks puke on you. We also saw one necromorph that seemed to still be wearing his Unity priest clothes

This doesn’t mean there won’t be more deliberate, creepy sections of the game, since showing a demo in a crowded, loud space isn’t really conducive to ambience, so it’s possible the area shown was chosen because it was action-heavy. In a way, it was thrilling to see one fantastic shock follow another, each topping the next in horror-levels.

We got to see Isaac, traumatized protagonist of the original Dead Space, trekking through some wonderfully varied environments. First we saw some type of cryo-freeze plant, where Isaac trudged along frosty corridors where necromorphs burst from glass chambers along the walls. Then we saw the inside of a Unity church – something quite unexpected for Dead Space, seeing as without Isaac’s suit and weapons, you might think you’re in some Gothic horror game. The church featured lush red carpets, stained-glass windows, and appropriately creepy statues.

Soon after Isaac stepped into the church, a disgusting boss necromorph leaped out of nowhere and pinned Isaac to the carpet with a long tongue ending in a single, huge talon. Except this tongue had a baby impaled on it. Naturally. Said baby had a glowy stomach just begging to be perforated. The sequence became an analog to the parts of Dead Space 1 where a massive tentacle would burst out of the wall and grab you, and you had to shoot its glowy part before it dragged you to your doom. Here, thenauseous necromorph took stabs at Isaac before finally letting go and crawling up the wall to who knows where.

Above: Artist - "Nope, not ugly enough. Let's add a baby in there somewhere. How about on the tongue?"

Great time to let the heart rate drop – oh, what’s that? A child-sized necropmorph perching on the railing? Dead Space 2 has definitely upped the child/baby monster quotient. These particular undead-children abominations have long, needle-like fingernails… and they swarm Isaac by the dozen. We’re assuming the demo was set to Normal difficulty, but this section was not easy. The child necromorphs came from all angles, and using the stasis typically would only slow down some of them, while others disturbingly sprinted forward and chomped on Isaac’s neck.

The one puzzle section we saw was pretty cool, involving stopping a kind of revolving centrifuge using both kinesis and stasis, which then disabled the artificial gravity. Here was where Dead Space 2 introduced all new possibilities of fun and terror with Isaac’s new ability to fly whereverhe wants, instead of just leaping in a straight line from one surface to another. Using a tiny jet in his back, Isaac floated upward, barely stopping before a giant spinning fan could shear him in two. A bit of stasis slowed the fan enough to float through, and then it was up and away to a higher deck to reinstate the artificial gravity.

Above: There's a new hacking procedure (not quite a minigame) where you have to feel around inside machines

We didn’t get to see any necromorphs flitting about in zero-G, but we’re sure it will happen. We did get to something close to that, but first let’s explain how we got there. In a section teased by the E3 trailer, Isaac faced off against a helicopter-like ship that sprayed bullets in through a window that looked out on the skyline of the Sprawl. We don’t know who these people are (or if indeed there are people at all inside the gunship), but there was no time to consider that. When the windows blew out and the subsequent depressurization created a maelstrom of wind careening Isaac toward open space, our hero barely clung to a rail before ripping open a floor hatch and tumbling down a shaft into darkness. Where the E3 trailer ended was when immediately after getting to his feet, Isaacconfronted a huge, long-armed boss necromorph.

Above: Look closely to find the tiny human face on this thing. The mouth is actually below that, and boy does it have a serious case of buck-tooth

With the demo continuing, the beasty grabbed Isaac by the leg and once again it was a matter of shooting the yellow weak spot before the thing could bite Isaac’s head off (the margin for error was short enough that we saw many people get decapitated by the rake-toothed monster). From there, the juggernaut pursued relentlessly. There was afantastic, fear-inducinglong shot where Isaac got to his feet and saw the great, ugly thing far off down the corridor, thundering alarmingly toward the camera. Here a stasis shot slowed it down long enough for Isaac to open a gate with kinesis before stoppingin frontmore windows, and of course our friend the gunship returned to once again shoot out the glass.

This time, however, Isaac could not hold on, and so flew out into the vacuum of space. The familiar disappearance of most game sounds rushed in, leaving only Isaac’s breathing and the muffled thumps of space debris. Unfortunately for Isaac, the boss necromorph also got sucked out the windows, and as it plummeted past him it grabbed a hold of him once again. In this final encounter of the demo, Isaac had to fire at propane tanks that were spilling out of space wreckage. We didn’t get to see what fate awaited after that, but wow, what a sequence.

Above: This shot actually doesn't look like it's from any of the zero-G we saw, which means it's teasing some more jetpack flying sequences

The sheer amount of fast-paced action brings back the worries of Resident Evil 5-itis, but whereas RE 5 managed to be fun while not really scary, everything we saw in Dead Space 2 was downright terrifying. The creature designs alone, combined with their horribly relentless nature, kept things bone-chilling. We’re hoping we’ll get to see more quiet, eerie sections of the game so we can get a better picture of how the whole thing will play out.

Jul 21, 2010