Dismemberment is not a nice word. But when dealing with dead humans, peeled apart and reassembled, all their wobbly, fatty, shiny bits on display, you get to feel comfortable with lasering their limbs off until you can stomp them to death. That was Dead Space. Gory, grim survival horror.
Dead Space 2 has a new, horrible word in its dictionary: impalement. It's a return to the battle with the Necromorphs for Isaac Clarke, survivor of the first game. On Titan, one Saturn's moons, the aliens are spilling from a man made rent in a place portentously called 'The Sprawl'. As the only person to survive an outbreak, Isaac zips into his suit and gets impaling.
I was introduced to the new Dead Space's menagerie at EA's Spring Showcase in London. In the darkness of a mine, first to attack from the depths was a Stalker: a sneaky, flanking man-dog thing that creeps up on you to get in melee range. Their slow movement makes them perfect for impaling. I watched as the creature was slowed even more via Clarke's slow motion stasis mode. Then the Impaler came out. It took two spikes to weaken the nasty before the third rammed it into a wall, leaving it dangling there like a scab.
There's more to impalement, though. The spikes have an alt-fire, either a burst of electricity or fire. You can use the creature's toughness against itself: pumping enough bolts to keep it walking, then leading it into a group of enemies and zappo-blamming them all.
Such a group might include Crawlers: reanimated babies that crawl across the floor towards you. Their swollen stomachs pop in a gloopy explosion. If you pick them off early enough, you can use them to take out the surrounding bads.
There's an ecology of violence in Dead Space 2, where you can use the awful powers of the creatures against each other. Cysts are basically mines, spitting out explosives when you're near. Slow their spittle down with stasis and you can lead enemies into these slow-mo bombs.
Even the scenery, a static thing in the original, breaks into Necromorph-slicing chunks: shards of glass, debris and even body parts can be used with Isaac's telekinesis. In one building he was confronted by The Pack: a group of naked childlike aliens that swipe with extruded claws. Isaac shattered a window, and decompression dragged debris and aliens out of the hole, hauling him towards the rent also. Handily, there was a bullet activated emergency shutter.
It might sound like this is a run-down-the-corridors, hundred-bullets-per-minute redesign, but Dead Space 2 remains a slow-paced sci-fival horror (phrase: coined!) game. The action is still glacial, and there are still awful, ugly things hidden in the dark.