The Dead Space 2 demo dropped on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live yesterday, giving us our first chance to get hands-on with playable code that we would hope is representative of the final game set for release on 28th January. First impressions? It's a bit good, isn't it?
What we're seeing is a game that improves significantly upon its predecessor, smoother to play and tightened up where it needed to be. Graphically, Dead Space 2 is a real treat. Just like its predecessor it is still running at native 720p with no anti-aliasing (on either PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360), but owing to the mostly muted lighting scheme, it is not too much of an issue. Just like the previous game, v-sync is engaged to ensure visual consistency: there's not a single torn frame in either version.
We've played the demo code through several times now, taken video, extracted stills and pored over them and we're yet to find anything that really shows any kind of noticeable difference between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the demo. To illustrate the situation, we've put together a Dead Space 2 comparison gallery for you to take a look at. Any differences in texture filtering you might see appear to be just down to the different algorithms used by the ATI and NVIDIA GPUs. There's some variation according to the angle of the texture, but in motion both versions look the same.
Performance-wise, don't expect to see much in variation from the standard 30 frames per second. Dead Space 2 appears to be a remarkably smooth, consistent experience from start to finish, and the overall experience of playing the game is effectively identical between both systems. This eight-minute video attempts to sync up all the gameplay highlights of the sampler code running on both console platforms.
So, effectively a locked 30 frames per second. We see a rare frame or two dropped during the course of gameplay on the 360, which was so rare, and so unexpected across the run of play that we actually had to check the captures frame by frame to verify the result. Meanwhile, PS3 breezes through all the gameplay, only dropping frames in a noticeable manner during one of the engine-driven cut-scenes.
What we like about this demo is the range of gameplay served up - we have tight, confined corridors, large open spaces, massive bosses, the occasional swarm of enemies, some beautifully detailed cut-scenes jam-packed with effects. It's a range of situations that tests many different aspects of the engine and it's fair to say that both versions of the Dead Space 2 demo acquit themselves very, very well indeed.
Of course, final judgement will be reserved for the full game (the original Dead Space had some areas which dropped frames consistently and noticeably on PS3), but as a sampler of things to come, this demo suggests that we only have great things to look forward to.