At the tail-end of last week, in a crypt situated beneath a church on a quiet side-street in East London, EA held their Dead Space: Exposed event; less a reveal of this week’s massively anticipated Dead Space 2, and more of a vastly impressive multimedia explosion. Although Dead Space 2 was present in playable form (in both single and multiplayer) also on show was the upcoming iPhone/iPad Dead Space title, which is looking very special indeed. Most remarkably of all though, the event was populated by an elite team of creative types; artists, designers, an author, a composer and an actor; all of whom have been integral in crafting Dead Space’s distinctive personality.
Dead Space 2‘s Art Director Ian Milham was first to the stage, and his primary goal was to reassure a handful of worried fans that wall-to-wall action definitely hadn’t become the solitary order of business here. He promised that Dead Space 2‘s action sequences were merely there to “cleanse the palate” of players, so as not to dilute the impact of the (apparently copious) sequences of intense horror and suspense. He also revealed that the returning zero gravity gameplay – which was somewhat restricted in the first game – now features a full 3D control scheme, allowing Isaac to fly, essentially. His presentation was followed by the opening twenty minutes of gameplay, played live at the event by a character who we were all encouraged to loudly berate if he allowed Isaac to die. Luckily for him, he didn’t.
Recounting what happens during Dead Space 2’s opening tier would involve reeling off spoilers galore, so we’ll simply say this: it looks outright stunning, and the plot is gripping from the get-go. We did notice some interesting things however. The game’s world is strangely reminiscent of Mass Effect‘s Citadel, albeit dilapidated and immeasurably more foreboding. The (apparent) nods toward Bioware’s masterpiece don’t end there though; the light red hue of some of the architecture calls to mind some of the Normandy’s danker interiors, and the very beginning of Dead Space 2 strips you of your all weaponry, which is immediately reminiscent of Mass Effect 2‘s opening.
Following Milham onto the stage was Jason Graves – the BAFTA winning composer who has worked on both Dead Space games- who spoke about the challenges involved in “interpreting the unknown” with his musical score. He said that he threw most standard musical conventions straight out of the window – including time structure and chords – in order to mirror Isaac’s very fragile state of mind. The music stops and starts almost at random, with speed, tempo and pitch fluctuating wildly to create a palpable sense of veritable unease. A piece of music from the soundtrack entitled “Isaac’s Lament” was then played live by members of the London Philharmonia. The most revealing thing about this performance is that many of the flourishes that we have been programmed to suspect are computer generated – like sudden shifts in pitch and volume – are actually done by the musicians themselves.
Novelist Brian Evenson was then welcomed onto the stage, and he read a few passages from his book Dead Space: Martyr. Like everyone else, Evenson appeared to be thoroughly humbled by the experience of working on the novel, describing himself as a “fan with questions”. His desire to flesh out a little backstory for the universe is what attracted him to the project in the first place: a recurring sentiment. Evenson’s appearance was superseded by one from Christopher Shy, the lead artist on the graphic novel Dead Space: Salvage. He too spoke about wanting to expand and augment the franchise’s world, bringing his own influences to the table; the “retro futurist” likes of Aliens and Blade Runner most notably.
After chats from EA Mobile’s Andres Constantinidis, who showed off an extraordinary morsel of gameplay footage from his team’s Dead Space iPad game – which still looked incredible despite being blown up onto a large HDTV screen – and actor Christopher Judge, cult star of Stargate SG-1 who appears in the upcoming Dead Space: Aftermath, visitors were then finally invited to get stuck into Dead Space 2, either alone or against each other in multiplayer. To hear more about what we thought of the game, keep an eye out for our Dead Space 2 review, which is due later this week.
Dead Space 2 is released in the UK and Europe on Friday 28th January. Don’t forget, if you pre-order your Xbox 360 copy of the game at zavvi.com, you’ll receive an exclusive free ‘Rivet Gun’ for use in the game.
Watch the Dead Space 2 launch trailer here: