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Dead Space

(PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
We were lucky enough to take a look at this upcoming survival horror title at the EA Developers Conference in Singapore a few weeks back. It scared us then, it's scared us since, and it's scaring me right now.

Dead Space is the gruesome story of Isaac Clark, an unlucky pawn called in to mop up a mining vessel in deep space that's been overrun by... well, things. Big things with tentacles that explode when you shoot them. Not since Aliens vs. Predator has there been a game that can simultaneously frighten and delight you at the same time; a combination which, if done correctly, can send your pulse rate through the roof.

From what we were shown, Dead Space will contain some of the most advanced artificial intelligence seen yet. Essentially, the creatures are out to get you, and whatever method they can use to kill you, you can bet it's waiting for you around the next corner. If you think that simply means attacking you directly with some of the ugliest appendages you've ever seen, you're going to get a shock when you get grabbed by a tentacle and sucked down a vent, as we did.

There's a huge focus on what weapons you can acquire, from kinetic buzzsaws that dance around the floor, to enormous laser-propelled shredding devices, so we may see the birth of an imaginative class of weapons that finally replace boring old plasma rifles and rail guns.

Dead Space may look from the outset like a hyped up Mass Effect, but it's got some serious potential, and we can only hope they don't have to dumb things down too much prior to release.

Expect Dead Space around Halloween. We can assure you that's no coincidence.

StarCraft II

(PC, Mac)
Blizzard's original StarCraft was released in 1998 and quickly snapped up the title of best-selling computer game that year. It went on to win the 1998 Origins award for best computer strategy game, and has sold over nine million copies worldwide.

It's little wonder then that Blizzard has taken its time with the development of a sequel. They had initially planned to release a follow-up title called StarCraft: Ghost but this was canned when someone pointed out that releasing it exclusively for the PS2, GameCube and original Xbox was hardly likely to do it justice. Indeed, by the time they finished packaging the game there would probably be obsolete mobile phones that could run it.

Happily then, Blizzard last year announced that Starcraft II was in development, and after the death threats from Diablo fans had stopped, they even told us a bit about what to expect.

It seems that it will be set four years after the original StarCraft, and much of the original storyline and character development will be retained. We'll see more from not only the Zerg and Protoss, but Xel'Naga as well, along with the familiar worlds Char, Mar Sara, and Braxis, and if rumours are to be believed, the cut-scenes will be practically cinematic in quality.

Although the spirit of multiplayer StarCraft will remain in the sequel, the single-player campaigns have been totally reworked in an effort to pad out the game and add depth to the StarCraft story. The storyline will remain linear, however you may find a huge variety in the types of missions you choose and what order you elect to complete them.

It's great that at least one developer isn't afraid to revisit an epic title that ruled the RTS genre for so long, and with the knowledge they've acquired on other substantial franchises such as WarCraft and Diablo, expect Blizzard to produce a slick, polished game amped by a marketing campaign that would put bottled water to shame.

Still no official release date other than "2008", however.

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