If I told you that Dead Space 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and is a lot like the original Dead Space when it comes down to it, would you really be all that disappointed? The critically-acclaimed 2008 title fostered a near cult-like following among those who played it and were instantly addicted to the deep space setting, and survival/horror type gameplay. So saying that Dead Space 2 looks like more of that good stuff with a new setting, new weapons, and new aliens should be good news for fans of the burgeoning series.
The main objective of the developers at Visceral Games was to refine and improve the first game, and not make any complete departures from what made it great. Making the game better begins with making the main character Isaac better. He may have been a lowly engineer at the beginning of the first game, but now he’s seen some things, man, and he’s a lot more grizzled and tough. He’s more in charge now, with better command of his suit and equipment’s power, which provides a greater sense of control and more abilities to play with. That includes increased kinetic powers -- which can turn al kinds of debris and body parts into flying weapons -- and increased agility in your new line of space suits you’ll unlock as you play the game. It’s like Isaac 2.0.
There’s a new setting for the game as well, though deep space is once again the overall background. This time around, the action takes Isaac to a sprawling mining colony on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, where a large city has sprung up around the mine. Instead of exploring one single enormous space ship, you’ll experience diverse environments on Titan, from clean modern building interiors to cavernous mineshafts. In all of these locales, an improved graphics engine renders spooky lighting and shadows that generate the same sense of tension and dread we experienced in the first game. Maybe even more so. But don’t forget that you're still in outer space, and if the glass is breakable, you might not want to shoot it.
The gameplay still revolves around the concept of strategic dismemberment and the flexibility to kill enemies in a number of distinct ways. The new enemies offer new ways to kill (and be killed) as well. The Stalker is a timid monster that won’t confront you one-on-one, but will slowly try and get around behind you with a flanking maneuver. The Crawler, on the other hand, will charge you head-on and detonate near you, causing quite a mess. The Pack is another enemy that likes to charge you too, but they do it in a group, surrounding you with a bunch of small but fast-moving humanoids that look like a gang of zombie kids. Helpful here is the new Javelin weapon's area effect, which shoots an electrically-charged bolt that can spread its electro-shock across a wider area if shot in a group. Finally, there’s the Cyst, which is more of a non-sentient hazard that looks like an organic mine. Of course, avoiding the Cyst is key, but with your advanced kinetic abilities and improvisational skills, you can easily turn it against other enemies.
A lot of other details about Dead Space 2 are being held close to the vest, including changes to the store and workbench functions, as well as what the final HUD will look like. But the overall impression so far is of a game that will deliver the same chills and thrills that the first one did, but with enough new stuff to feel like a true sequel. Dead Space 2 will be available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC sometime this year.