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Preview: Dead Space 2 (A Review of the Demo)

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

Over the holidays a demo for Dead Space 2 hit Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. Read on for CC2K Games Editor BR’s impressions.

The Dead Space 2 demo opens with a brief refresher for anyone who hasn’t played the original game (or those who played it and are slow to recall details of the story), which you can view below (hat tip to ThatVideoGameBlog):



With that intro, much like the demo for the first game, this one drops you mid-level somewhere in the middle of the game with a selection of some of the available weapons (some old, one new). The controls and mechanics are essentially the same this time around and will be very familiar to experienced players (no HUD, a “live” pause menu, etc.). There are some slight refinements here, but mostly we’re dealing with an “if it ain’t broke…” situation. The most noticeable difference from the original, and Visceral Games’ attempt to remedy one of the most frequent complaints about Dead Space, becomes obvious as you progress through the demo.

Almost 90% of Dead Space took place on the USG Ishimura, a large, “planet cracker” space vessel. Despite it’s size, much of the ship’s interior was indistinct, filled with similar-looking rooms and nearly identical passageways. It may be a valid criticism, though I defended the decision of the game’s design in my original review as follows:

“What I find easier to forgive, and easier to understand, is the retreading of paths, i.e. the lack of diverse “levels” in the game. The way I see it, it’s a confined space. Yes, it’s a damn big ship, but it’s still a starship, and space is at a premium. Can you really expect to constantly be moving through new and different environments? Hell, even without a television series production budget, I imagine all the corridors on the Enterprise would look the same.”

That said, I was excited to read that Dead Space 2 would take place on Titan Station, “an Earth governortropolis on Saturn’s largest moon.” Indeed, in short order Isaac Clarke ventures from more familiar, confined spaces to new environs on “The Sprawl,” as it is called, including the gothic interior of a Church of Unitology (a mysterious religion with connections to the necromorphs and the marker, who no doubt will have a larger role in the sequel). The new variety in scenery is definitely exciting.

The biggest question I’ve had in mind regarding the sequel centers on the genre of this franchise. Specifically, now that the cat’s out of the bag and the novelty has worn off a bit, can Dead Space 2 match the original in scare factor? Visceral Games certainly means to try, as evidenced by this trailer, released several months ago:

Moving from an effectively rendered and edited trailer to actual gameplay, so far at least, proves that Dead Space 2 is up to the task. The sequel matches the original’s atmosphere, and almost immediately I was thrust into that same tense, unsettled frame of mind that the first game trapped me in throughout. In fact, the demo includes a taste of the disturbed mental state of Isaac Clarke that has been referenced in trailers and by developers in various media releases. The prospect of controlling an increasingly unreliable protagonist fending off insinuating madness, while simultaneously trying to survive a necromorph infestation on a highly populated space station (on Earth’s galactic doorstep, no less) has got me hooked. I won’t be waiting for the sequel to become a platinum hit before playing it. I suggest you don’t either.

Dead Space 2 drops January 25.