Dead Space is still one of the generation’s best and ever since that horrifically enlightening experience (I say “enlightening” because we all sort of envisioned survival/horror in one certain way prior to this game), we’ve been anxiously awaiting a sequel. Well, that sequel is less than a month away and if you’re on the fence about a purchase, you can download the demo on the PSN. It’s not long but it offers you a taste of the edge-of-your-seat experience that should be just as satisfying as the original. In playing this sample, one thing becomes abundantly clear: while Visceral wasn’t stupid enough to mess with a winning formula, they did take a few progressive steps that make the gameplay even more riveting. The visuals also seem to be tighter and more impressive, although I admit I haven’t played the first title in over two years so my memory might be off.
At any rate, Dead Space 2 boasts the return of Isaac, the highly capable engineer who barely survived his first harrowing adventure on the Ishimura. This is a direct follow-up to the first story, in that Isaac has the benefit of a sleeker, more efficient suit, but he also suffers from some sort of mind problem caused by his extensive dealings with the rampaging Necromorphs. We get a glimpse of that issue at the start of this demo, and we also get a chance to check out various elements of the enticing gameplay design. It’s not just a freaky third-person shooter; Isaac has his extremely useful Stasis skill that is essential for certain puzzles and obstacles. It also helps greatly to keep your targets semi-stationary for a time. To top it all off, you can expect the return of zero-grav environments that were fantastic for altering the feel and flow of the original. In short, the DS2 demo is a microcosm of the awesomeness that will be the final product.
Several familiar weapons are at your disposal, including the handy-dandy Plasma Cutter and that invaluable Line Gun. Another crowd favorite – if used appropriately – is a weapon that pins nasty foes to the wall with a few well-placed spikes/spears. One of my favorite parts of Dead Space was the weapon selection and I can tell it’s going to be even better in the sequel. I also love the strategic aspect: the juggling of available ammo, health, and Stasis; one must assess one’s resources before engaging the enemy, and that sort of micromanagement is great. Plus, that highly reliable and responsive control has returned. It’s both accessible and beautifully mapped to the controller: the L1 and R1 buttons aim and fire respectively, you can sprint with the L2 button, cycle through your weapons (four can be equipped at once) with the directional buttons, use your Stasis ability with the Triangle button, and use R2 to stomp the snot out of corpses to yield goodies.
It just solidifies the theory in my mind: Dead Space 2 will be a must-play. They won’t be skimping on the atmospheric intensity, either, and that’s the primary reason to go through this white-knuckle quest. Visceral proved themselves with the first and they’ll further establish themselves as a top-tier developer with the second. Some of the horror purists may not like this supposed emphasis on third-person shooting but as far as I’m concerned, this sort of blending is exactly what the sub-genre of survival/horror needed. So take what you see – and feel – in the demo and multiply that by 10…I’m willing to bet that’s what the end product will be like. January 25 is the day and along with LittleBigPlanet 2 (which launches one week earlier), Dead Space 2 will be one of 2011’s first stellar titles.