I eventually encountered an environmental puzzle that first forced me to stick Isaac's hand into a piece of machinery to tinker with its inner workings (you'll remember he's trained as an engineer; mutant killing is just a part time gig), then use his enhanced telekinesis skills to lower a series of metallic arms so that I could power up the large spinning device seen above.
I didn't have a chance to check out any of the sequel's open space sequences-the deathly silent zero-G scenes in the original were some of the most memorable for sci-fi junkies like me-but I was told that they've been enhanced. Isaac now has free movement in space and can occasionally use the vacuum as a means of dispatching his enemies.
And it looks great. The developers once again eschew a traditional HUD for more organic in-environment and on-suit information displays, and Isaac's ever-evolving suit-itself almost a character in the first game-looks so real and animates so naturally that I found myself wondering when some enterprising geek will get around to crafting a real-world replica.
Simply put, it looks to be a quintessential Dead Space experience. And it's not due until after the holidays, which means there will be no need to speed through the scares to make time for other games. I can't wait.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (X360, Windows, PS3)
Assassin's Creed II will have been on shelves for one year less a day when Brotherhood hits on November 16th this fall.
You might wonder about the quality of a game slated for release less than a year after its most recent predecessor, but the compressed development cycle didn't show as I watched an Ubisoft Montreal rep play through several parts of this gorgeous-looking, Rennaisance-era third-person actioner.
The majority of it is set in just a single city, Rome, but I was told that it is four times the size of cities that have appeared in earlier entries in the series. However, I didn't get to see much of the Italian capital. Instead, I saw our returning hero, Ezio, attempting to defend the villa that players spent hours building up in the previous game from a swarming army of Templars. He ran from one cannon to another atop the town's catwalks trying to take down the enemy's siege towers as they slowly rolled toward the city. It was an epic, spectacular battle unlike anything I'd seen in previous Assassin's Creed games.
Eventually the religious military order managed to storm the walls, forcing Ezio to engage in hand-to-hand combat. This is where things got really interesting. Ezio can fight more proactively than before. He can take the initiative rather than maintaining a perpetual defensive stance. He also has a small gun attached to his wrist, which he shoves up under enemies' chins prior to pulling the trigger, and in one scene he stole an axe from one foe before hurling it at another. It looked to be a grandly satisfying move.
Sadly, I wasn't shown the game's ballyhooed multiplayer mode, but I did get to see the titular Brotherhood clan in action. Ezio can now train assassin helpers and use hand movements to make them carry out tasks for him. I watched a lone assassin skitter across a rooftop to stab a guard standing watch on the street below, a quartet of hooded killers leap from the rafters of a cathedral onto unsuspecting victims, and a group of archers shoot down a squad of soldiers. My guide made it look easy, but I was assured that it takes plenty of time to train your followers to this level of skill. It looks like it will be worth the effort.
Some stuff I didn't learn: How Ezio copes with the bombshell revelation at the end of the second game, and the status of protagonist Desmond Miles in the present. But that suits me fine. Some things are best experienced as developers mean them to be; over the course of a two-dozen hour game rather than during a 20-minute tour at a crowded preview event.