Like one of its horrible beastly necromorphs, Dead Space 2 is creeping up on us with unnerving silence. EA's action horror is out in three months, which means it's time to sit down with creator Visceral Games and find out what the hell is going on in here.
Multiplayer, that's what, according to executive producer Steve Papoutsis – a man who seems impervious to jet lag, if his ability to talk only a few hours after getting off a long-haul flight from the US is anything to go by. Perhaps such physical toughness is the result of a life spent trying to make gamers crap their pants. That, and worrying about strategic dismemberment.
Eurogamer: I've seen the multiplayer called Left 4 Dead Space. Is that a fair comparison or does that piss you off?
Steve Papoutsis: No, I think it's awesome. Left 4 Dead's an awesome game so it's a super nice compliment. Any time you mix in a horror element with zombies people are going to think about Left 4 Dead. But our game is completely different. We couldn't do something like Left 4 Dead in our game, and I don't think they'd do something like Dead Space in theirs.
Eurogamer: How would you describe the feel of the multiplayer?
Steve Papoutsis: The first thing players notice is the two sides feel completely different. Being able to wall walk as a Lurker in multiplayer is quite different than running around as a security officer from a Sprawl security team.
In terms of the action, it can go anywhere from being really frantic to being strategic. To succeed as the humans you want to stick together and work together towards the five different objectives we have. As the necromorphs, teaming up on guys – trying to go after one person as the Pack, for instance, isn't going yield the best results – but if you have two or three guys going after a human it's going to be a lot better and a lot more fun as you terrorise them and run around and slice them to bits.
Eurogamer: Dead Space was a cracking single-player experience. Why is multiplayer even in Dead Space 2?
Steve Papoutsis: We don't want to force people who don't want to play multiplayer to play it. Our goal with it was to create something unique and innovative for the Dead Space franchise. That was number one.
Number two, we like playing games with our friends. While there is a vocal group that thinks multiplayer may just be an unnecessary addition, there is equally as many if not more that wanted it. Actually that was the number one feature request we had from people that played the game.
A lot of people, when we started talking about multiplayer in very vague terms, they were thinking anything from what we have to co-op in single-player campaign. There was a lot of panic around that. The balance we struck is perfect.
Eurogamer: You talk about epic moments in the single-player. Are they rare? What do they set out to achieve?
Steve Papoutsis: These moments are breaks in the standard progression through the game. We showed, at gamescom, Isaac restoring power to The Sprawl and manipulating solar rays in a Zero G puzzle, and having a fight with that nest creature. And then out of the blue you're rocketing down to The Sprawl in almost a HALO jump type of experience.
The goal with them is to augment the pacing of the game – to keep players guessing. If you think back to older games where, let's say, I'll go way back to NES, you're playing a game like Golgo 13 – one minute it was a side-scrolling shooter, the next you're in an underwater section, the next you're doing a sniper mission. Those moments kept you excited and waiting to see what was going to happen next and see where the story was going to go.
That's what we're doing with the epic moments. We want to keep people on the edge of their seat throughout the game, but not just from being intensely terrified; also with the interest of, what's going to be around the corner? What other cool thing am I going to wind up doing? It's in addition to the tension.
If you think about a piece of music where, let's say Dead Space 1, things happened on the twos and the fours. Maybe in Dead Space 2, they'll happen on the ones and the threes, and then happen on the twos and the fours. We don't want to get into a repetitive pattern where you walk up to something, push a button, it's a monster closet. We want to keep that varied. So these moments give us an opportunity to cleanse the palette, so to speak.