Everything's evolving. That's our over-riding impression during our latest eyes-on with Dead Space 2. From its hero Isaac Clarke, to its deep space setting, to the grotesque Necromorph menace - everything has developed.
Visceral's sequel already looks like a more impressive, powerful and downright terrifying beast than the first game. First up, Clarke. The lone survivor of the horrifying events of Dead Space is a leaner, meaner character here. But the sleek new-look suit is just the start. Since his first dust-up with the Necromorphs, our hero has evolved from a humble engineer to a man of war - and he's not shy about spreading the word. Yes, this time Clarke will remove the iconic helmet and communicate with other survivors in the new setting: a massive city built around one of Saturn's moons.
PACK IT IN
As if the original Necromorphs weren't bad enough, they're now developing just as quickly as our frazzled hero. For one thing they're smarter. A new sub-species called the Pack (nasty child-like creatures) will hunt in groups and force you to adapt your tactics on the fly. Other new creatures include the Stalker and the Crawler - our flesh creeps at what they might be like.
But the aliens won't be the only threat to human safety. The remote outpost is also home to a large population of Unitologists, the crazy chaos-worshipping cult of the first game. Quite what they're up to this time remains shrouded in mystery, but judging from the events of the original game, and Wii spin-off
Extraction, it won't be good. We suggest it involves a closer relationship between the two species. And not the diplomatic hand-shaking kind.
But Clarke won't be defenceless, in fact he's better armed than ever. His new survival suit is an upgraded version of the original, bulkier model and just one of many possible variations. This time you'll be able to tailor Clarke's outfit to your style of play. There's a definite air of experimentation here, and all the evidence points to more advancements, such as the awesome new jets that give you greater freedom when exploring zero-gravity areas.
The first game's arsenal returns too, along with some interesting new additions. The detonator - a sort of industrial trip mine - joins the previously revealed javelin gun, both emphasising the series' new focus on tactical combat.
The developers admit to learning a few tricks from the Wii's Extraction too - notably a quicker telekinesis ability. This enables you to take apart groups of enemies with more flair. Literally. For instance, strategically dismembering an explosive limb and tossing it into the fray with kinesis is not only hugely impressive but smart. For one thing it will save on ammo. Just as well too, as the game's focus on bigger, jaw-flooring set-pieces will test Clarke's mettle every step of the way.
So far Dead Space 2 is looking like everything a sequel should be. Bigger but more refined, similar but more advanced. Believe it, this nightmarish shocker is going to haunt your dreams as much as it currently haunts your most wanted list. For a game series that was originally dismissed as a pretender to Resi's crown, that's quite an evolution.