One Friday afternoon, as I happened to be walking past a church in the middle of London, a fully suited Isaac Clarke – equipped with a plasma cutter – beckoned me into a crypt. Inside, there were all sorts of monsters (no, I’m not talking about Christopher Judge, I’m talking about the EA staff dressed as necromorphs) and Dead Space goodies for me to get my hands on!
Dead Space 2 – Single Player
Visceral Games say they have focussed on three main elements for the game: Horror, Action and Multiplayer. We will touch on the multiplayer separately later so lets talk about the horror first.
Dead Space was, perhaps, known for being the definitive survival horror game. With Dead Space 2 they didn’t want to lose any of the fear and horror. In fact, they wanted to bump it up a notch. Is it scarier than Dead Space? Visceral seem to think so but whether it will actually scare you will vastly depend on your environment.
Playing the game with a lot of people chatting around you and people knocking over glasses and bottles (which happened quite a lot, free alcohol does that to people it seems) isn’t the right setting to get your spine shaking. Some things still can’t be talked about so you’ll have to wait for TSA’s verdict in the full review but visceral have certainly spent some time trying to achieve another level of fright.
This is where Jason Graves, the composer for the music of Dead Space 2, comes into it. When making the soundtrack, he says he had to throw the rules out the window and had the orchestra doing all sorts of unnatural and strange things to their instruments. In a bid to create the sound of the unknown, with the unknown being the ultimate fear, you will hear all sorts of strange and spooky sounds coming from Dead Space 2. Even the main four notes used in sequence to create the recognisable, main part, of the soundtrack happen to be the notes D, E, A, D.
The action in Dead Space 2 has also been ramped up from the first. One way they have done this is by improving the telekinesis. If you see a pole lying on the ground simply pick it up with the telekinesis and fire it into a necromorph pinning him to a wall. You can then take a claw from him and fire that at another necromorph and pin him to another wall or floor. This is extremely satisfying as when ammo is low or non-existent then this is your only lifeline. As you throw limbs, heads, dustbins, etc. bouncing off the enemies, you really get a sense of exhilaration as a pole or claw goes flying through the air and sends them splattering into a wall.
Enemies are also more varied, with some areas seeing you fight multiple types at the same time, making it a challenge to judge which to aim for as some are faster and more dangerous than others. Some require you to shoot certain areas to cause them to explode or lose a necessary limb.
Dead Space 2 – Multiplayer
The multiplayer gives you the chance to play as either one of four types of necromorph, each with slightly varied abilities, or a human soldier. In the mode that I played, one side was defending some objectives while the other was attacking. Sometimes this included carrying an item to the objective or holding down a button for a period of time once you reach it.
As you rank up (you can earn points through things such as killing enemies and even healing yourself), you can unlock things such as different suits and weapons for the soldier class. Ammo can also be picked up from the dead along with health packs which can be carried around and used when needed.
At first, this may seem like the soldiers are overpowered compared to the necromorphs. In some games that was true as it doesn’t take too many bullets to bring a necromorph down, especially the smaller ones. However, in other online games I found it completely the opposite as people started to learn how to use the necromorphs tactically and, in fact, had us soldiers running away from our imminent doom.
You see, the necromorphs have a few cool tricks. The first is the ability to see the soldiers through the walls, making it easier to find them and sneak up behind them. They can also respawn from vents on the floor, on the roof or on the side of walls which are plentiful throughout the maps. When dead you are able to look through the map as though you were in spectator mode and target one of these vents, choosing which one to spawn from. This makes it possible to spawn right above your enemy and land on top of him giving him the shock of his life.
The necromorphs also have some small variations which may only survive a few shots of a plasma cutter but are fast. There’s even one can even climb up walls and glide through the air after it has jumped, making it capable of jumping onto a soldier’s face.
Most have some form of ranged attack too, from shooting a wide shot of some explosive bullet type things from the mouth to a spitting acid like substance to a projectile vomiting one.
When a necromorph does get extremely close to a soldier and you don’t manage to rip them to shreds it can enter into a mode familiar from the single player where you have to tap a button as quickly as possible to decide the victor. This always ends in a bloody and brutal way. In addition to these abilities for the necromorphs, there are also AI controlled necromorphs walking and running around. These are much easier to kill and a bit dumb but they create an extra job for the soldiers and they do tend to drop some useful ammo if needed.
Dead Space 2′s multiplayer will divide opinions. When it is at its best it can be a lot of fun and have the same atmosphere that the game does where you are cautiously edging around the corners in case something jumps out at you and not wanting to walk into the dark parts as you don’t know what might be crawling on the walls.
At other times though, it is a case of your enemy waiting in your spawn point so that until that point is changed you will die as soon as you arrive into the game. This can be very apparent with the necromorph class where you need to make sure you don’t spawn in front of the soldiers – by the time the short couple-of-second spawning animation has been completed you can be dead.
Also, on the game type I played, I found that most of the time people either ignored objectives and went around killing and dying or they camped on objectives making it pretty much impossible to complete. This could sometimes leading to quite dull gameplay and the feeling that there needed to be a bit more depth to the multiplayer in order to have the players keep returning to it. This was, however, just based on one game type and there may be more in the full game. The multiplayer is more miss than hit but overall, if you get Dead Space 2, then the multiplayer is worth a look at for the experience alone.
Dead Space on iDevice
The news came out early this month that Dead Space was making its way to iDevice with some screenshots and video too. The first thing I noticed when picking up the iPad and jumping into the game was how spectacular the graphics were with the lighting and the characters standing out in particular.
It’s worth noting that this is, in no way, a port to iDevices but rather a new game built specifically for the platform. Some may find playing on the iPhone easier due to its smaller screen but after a few minutes I felt completely at home on the iPad.
Given the touch screen control scheme of the iDevices it’s worth taking a moment to look at the game’s controls. Direction is simply controlled by dragging across the screen, a system that’s easy to pick up in the first few minutes. To reload you simply tap the gun, and to fire you tap once to aim and tap again to fire (and you can even tilt the iPad to use the weapons secondary).
Aiming can be reasonably difficult, and it’s likely that you will miss a lot. This allows the necromorphs to get close to you, which causes the game to enter a quicktime sequence. This includes tapping and swiping and usually ends with you slicing the head off your enemy while losing a portion of your health. If a necromorph is trying to sneak up behind you, you simply double tap the character and he spins around 180 degrees which is a handy trick to counteract what could have been quite a cumbersome way of turning around.
It isn’t all just killing either. While I was playing I found a door which had malfunctioned and I was told I needed to slow the door down to work my way through which meant me going down in a lift to find the necessary device. There was also a nice variation in level design including sections where you will be fighting on a moving platform.
The music has also crossed over from the console games and with headphones plugged in and a good amount of concentration you could easily find yourself starting to feel scared as you navigate around the ship.
While playing the game I did hit a bug which stopped me from going any further but the developer assured me the version I was playing was still in QA, even though the game will be ready for release in a matter of days.
Dead Space Aftermath and Salvage
At the event I also got a chance to get my hands on the graphic novel “Dead Space Salvage” and a look at “Dead Space Aftermath” the animated movie. While I’m not usually into graphic novels, this one has certainly caught my attention. The art is by Christopher Shy who has done a brilliant job at aiming for photo realism when it comes to his characters, which he achieves splendidly, and the variation in colour tones on the pages is beautiful. In fact it’s so stunning I find myself coming back to the book time and time again.
Salvage is set in-between Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2 and follows a group called the Magpies who stumble across the the USG Ishimura. The insanity that takes over the crew during the novel is reflected in the artwork, making for an interesting use of art style to assist in telling the story. It’s clear that a lot of passion has been put into the graphic novel and it really deserves its own separate review to do it justice.
Dead Space Aftermath is an animated movie which follows a team sent out to hold the planet Aegis VII which become unstable. The animation is sharp on Blu-ray but feels fairly simple. The voice acting (including actors such as Christopher Judge from Stargate SG-1) doesn’t really give you the “Dead Space” feel. Overall it feels quite simple and empty in comparison to what you will experience in the game, meaning it’s not really essential unless you’re the most hardcore of Dead Space fans.
We’d like to thank EA for inviting us to this event. If you’d like to know more about the franchise head on over to: http://www.ea.com/uk/dead-space-2. Our full review of the game will be on the site on Tuesday evening.