Clarke's arsenal doesn't just extend to straightforward weapons. He's also got something called a TK Gun, which is essentially Half-Life 2's gravity gun - and can be used to turn environmental objects (or dismembered limbs, of course) into lethal weapons when ammo runs low. He also has the ability to put creatures and objects in stasis, slowing down time for them, but unlike the TK Gun this ability needs to be recharged before use. Both abilities are dual-purpose - handy in combat, but also used in solving puzzles.
When she crossed over, she was just a ship...
So far, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this sounds much like a rather improved Doom 3 - and there's certainly some validity in that comparison. Dead Space is a better-looking game than Doom 3, and certainly seems to be more aggressively paced, but the atmosphere is similar in some regards.
Combat, however, is rather different; even with the arsenal of weapons at Clarke's disposal, battles still end up being close-range, visceral and genuinely nail-biting. It's not just your enemies that can suffer grisly deaths; watching Clarke having his legs ripped off or his belly torn open a couple of times will hammer home that getting up close and personal with these foes isn't something with which to be trifled.
Dead Space also improves on most other games with a space setting by really taking advantage of the environment - not just by providing loads of metallic corridors, but also by playing around with concepts like gravity and vacuum. Zero-G environments form a major part of the challenge of the game. Your spacesuit has magnetic boots which allow you to walk on any surface, at any angle, but jumping off into space gives you genuine freefall controls - and a fairly scary amount of inertia. There are also Zero-G sections on the outer hull of the ship - we can't imagine that jumping here is a good idea in the slightest.
Vacuum, too, is used in a spectacular way. Dead Space actually treats sound in a vacuum perfectly - when the air is sucked out of a chamber, you can only hear noises from inside your suit, and sounds transmitted through the soles of your feet. Gunshots and enemy noises are totally inaudible - but your own breathing, grunting and heartbeat are incredibly loud, and the rumbles of the ship on your boots are the only noises transmitted from outside. It's haunting and intimidating.
At the moment, Schofield tells us, only a small amount of the game is up and running in a polished state - but with nearly two years of development under its belt, Dead Space is on target to launch on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC by the end of this year.
He's also adamant that while the sections we've seen are non-stop action, the team isn't ignoring the storyline and atmosphere by any means. Much of the story will be told through video, audio and text logs that you encounter as you move through the enormous ship, but there will also be survivors and other characters in the game. Interestingly, Dead Space takes another leaf from Half-Life 2's book - all storytelling will come through scripted events that go on in the background, with absolutely no non-interactive cut-scenes to lift you out of the experience.
Despite being mis-sold slightly as a survival horror, Dead Space is looking fantastic - a tight, tense and exciting shooter for the adrenalin junkies, mixed with some superbly atmospheric and sinister overtones (and some really, really nasty gore) for the horror fans. As you'd expect, it's also fully next-gen gorgeous; we may not need eyes where we're going, but they'll probably come in handy all the same. Look out for more on Dead Space as the year progresses.