Steve Papoutsis, the man in charge of making Dead Space 2 everything everyone hopes it'll be, likes telling jokes. Initially, I find that completely bonkers because the original Dead Space didn't tell a single funny throughout its stupendously atmospheric duration. But maybe horror game creators are a bit like comedians, who, I've heard, are often insular, shy and reserved in private. Maybe, if every day of your working life is consumed by the process of making the scariest, most messed up interactive experience in video game land, then in private you're going to try and make as many people laugh as possible.
That's exactly what Steve's presentation of Dead Space 2, at EA's recent spring showcase, does. It makes us laugh, because he cracks out some proper funnies.
Like this one, about how developer Visceral Games has improved how space engineer Isaac Clarke feels to control: "We've revisited everything that has to pertain to the controls of the game. We even tried a fourth person camera. Just kidding. It's a joke. What's a fourth person camera? It was supposed to be a joke. Sorry."
That was funny, Steve. No need to worry. It's just that game journalists aren't used to this kind if thing. We're used to developers telling us how awesome and maximum kick ass in the extreme their game is going to be. We're not used to jokes.
Here's another one, in response to the question: now that Isaac wears a retractable helmet and, shock horror, talks, will he spend his time telling us about stuff like, oh, let's say… kids?
Isaac's got a few new suits to wear, but we're told the classic original is hidden somewhere in the game.
"Oh you know, he really likes walks on the beach," Steve says. "Ponies. Seriously guys we're not going to do anything hokey with his personality. It wasn't an easy decision to give him a voice because as you can imagine, half the team's like, 'No! You're ruining it!' We just had to say, 'well hey, it's going to be hard to tell a story, especially the type of story we're doing, without having him talk'. So that's kind of where we went. We did hundreds of revisions. We've seen some kooky dialogue, and we were like, 'No way! We're not going to have him say dumb stuff like that! He wouldn't say the mutt's nuts'. Or would he? I don't know."
Stop joking, Steve. Isaac talking is a big deal, to be taken very seriously. In the first Dead Space, which, by the way, I probably treated harshly in my review, the tooled up mechanic didn't say a word. And it was only at the end of the game, after strategically dismembering countless "Necromorphs" on board the stricken interstellar mining ship USG Ishimura, that he took his helmet off for a breather. Put simply, Isaac was a mysterious chap.
In Dead Space 2, not so much. This time, we're going to get to know Isaac a bit better, and find out first hand just how messed up his poor life is. Meet Isaac Clarke version 2.0.
But first, some housekeeping. Dead Space 2 is set three years after the events of Dead Space and aboard The Sprawl, a gigantic space city built into Titan (one of Saturn's moons, GCSE physics fans). The game's extensive lore tells us that Titan was the scene of the very first "planet crack", a phrase Dead Space fans will know well. The Sprawl began life as a small mining colony, but quickly evolved into the… sprawling space city it is today.