What We Already Know
Everyone's favorite engineer in space, Isaac Clarke, is back for another horrific time in space. The infection from the first game is back, and Isaac seems to be the only person who can deal with it. After all, he's semi-responsible because he was around when the Marker was in the middle of a tug of war between the Hive Mind and everyone else. But even though he made sure it stayed where it needed to be, things haven't exactly been peachy. Isaac's still suffering from dementia, and there are many questions that need answers.
What We're Seeing Now
First of all, before we even got into the game, EA ushered us into a faux Church of Unitology, which features heavily in Dead Space 2. There were stained glass windows and even pews to sit on, except we were all worshipping an enormous television screen instead of listening to a boring preacher. After watching the demo, I was ready to pledge allegiance to Isaac. This was definitely one of the highlights of E3 for me. Not the church, but the game.
The demo itself opened inside a Church of Unitology in the game, although behind its reverent facade there lurks a dark world of frozen rooms and enormous specimen tubes. There are plenty of "jump out of your seat" moments when steam blasts unexpectedly in front of you, or when you hear strange noises, and right about the time you get used to that, you get attacked by everyone's favorite living undead - Necromorphs.
You can still dismember Slashers via one of your four equipped weapons, but this time around Isaac can use his Kinesis module to pick up and impale other enemies with the cut-off blade arms. We also saw one of the new Necromorph types, a Puker. What is it with the undead and barfing? You'd think there stomachs would be pretty much empty at this point. This guy has no lower jaw (yuck) and he pukes some sort of painful vomit all over Isaac. I'd be upset as well.
There will be more puzzles in the game this time that utilize Isaac's engineering prowess, and as an example of this he has to figure out how to stop three interlocking rings from spinning (sort of like the thing that sent Jodie Foster through a wormhole in Contact) so he can turn gravity off and move upwards through a hatch in the ceiling. Once he succeeds in switching off the graphics, he jetpacks up and through the hole. Wait a minute. Did I say jetpack? Yes, yes I did. It's not actually a jetpack, and more of compressed air thruster, but it lets Isaac maneuver on his own when in zero-g.
After this, Isaac visits one of the suit upgrade stations, takes his helmet off, and ... YOU SEE HIS FACE. Yes, Isaac now has a face. And a voice. He's no longer your silent protagonist. Everyone in the demo room gasped, because that's like seeing Daft Punk without their robo-suits on, or seeing Master Chief. It's just weird. Thankfully the doors close and he emerges in a brand new advanced suit so as to quickly pave over any discomfort you might have from finding out what Isaac actually looks like. There's a bit of an Iron Man moment where he flexes and the suit runs through a brief diagnostic, with vents and things opening and closing. It looks much sleeker than his old suit, which is to say: very cool.
Isaac heads into an enormous Unitology cathedral, and he's quickly attacked by a slew of new enemies: a giant Tripod, which is a huge creature with a gaping mouth, and some kind of wailing baby embedded in its clawlike tail. If that sounds disgusting, it's because it is. There's also a whole group of infant baby Necromorphs calls The Pack who come after you in groups, and it's very weird having deformed killer babies trying to kill you. He has a new weapon to help deal with these enemies, the Javelin. It launches powerful bolts that pick up and carry baddies across the room and nail them into the walls (or ceilings, or floors, depending on your aim). It's a lot like the rocket spear in BioShock 2.
Clearing this room takes Isaac up to a viewing area with an enormous, sweeping view of the The Sprawl: an enormous civilian space station where the game takes place. But a hovering ship drops into view and starts blasting away at Isaac. He attempts to flee, but is cornered by an enormous Necromorph that looks like it's made out of trash. So he's stuck between a rock and a hard place, and that's where our demo ended. You can actually watch those last moments in the E3 2010 teaser trailer, along with some glimpses of the demo area we were in.
Dead Space 2 is out on January 25, 2011, which gives you time to finish all of those Holiday 2010 titles and start the new year with a clean slate. Of horror.