Pre-production work on Dead Space 2 has only been official for less than six months, but it was never in serious doubt. Isaac Clarke’s first encounter with the alien virus that created the necromorphs was a hugely atmospheric blend of action shooter, with grim tones of survival horror. Admittedly, it was a survival horror in which you had enough bullets, and the exposition was clumsy. If we were dying, we’re not certain we’d use our blood to scrawl “Shoot off their limbs” on a nearby wall.
Discovering that you can only survive on a deserted spaceship by severing the limbs of members of your own mutated species can leave a man scarred, and Isaac was certainly affected by his time on board the Ishimura. Over the three years that have elapsed since the first game, he’s transformed from a faceless engineer with great aim and a snazzy line in helmets into a committed soldier, dedicated to killing necromorphs. That’s why he finds himself in the Sprawl, a mining colony in the Rings of Saturn that’s flourished into a cosmopolitan must-visit space destination.
There are three areas currently on display. You spend some time in The Church of Unitology, the religious cult that was behind the illegal operating front in the first game, and the reason the Ishimura’s crew went down with a severe case of post-life aggression. For a space cult, they’re pretty old-school, with a fondness for candles that’d embarrass a goth. Another striking scene is the entrance into the city on an elevator: the breathtaking ascent interrupted briefly when our companion has his breath literally taken from him, as a bloated necromorph tears him to shreds.
New mutations require new methods of brutal dispatch. The defining weapon of the first game was the Plasma Cutter, which was best aimed at the arms and legs of the necromorphs. Blow their legs off, and they’ll find it significantly harder to reach you – and if they start dragging themselves over to you with their arms, lightly sever those, too. One of the new weapons on display is the javelin gun, which pins necromorphs to the wall like a biology experiment, allowing you to vivisect them at leisure. This weapon won’t be so effective against the mutated baby monsters, however. Known as The Pack, they attack in groups, making your javelin an unworkably slow solution. Might we suggest sir uses the flamethrower?
Secondary fire modes add variety: with the classic severing gun you could rotate the barrel, allowing you to aim more effectively at removing legs and arms. The javelin can be charged with electricity, saving you the bother of dismemberment, by frying the necromorph into a screaming wall-mounted firework.
The final scene we’re shown is equally dramatic: an errant blast from a plasma rifle shatters one of the outside-facing windows, creating an instant and lethal depressurization. Everything is sucked towards the window, and Isaac only has a short opportunity to blast the safety shutters down, before he’s flung into space. Happily, during this demo he’s allowed to float outside. Luckily, the shutters trigger automatically. On a less positive note, Isaac’s halfway out the window and is chopped in half. It’s possibly an apt time to mention that the guy from Visceral let the bloated alien from the second scene pull Isaac’s arms off. Anyone would think he didn’t like the guy.