Psychosis Never Looked So Good
They may not be able to hear you scream in space, but I need to start this review by apologizing to my neighbors, because here on Earth I think most of my apartment complex heard my piercing wails of fright while playing Dead Space 2. And although not the longest single player campaign, my gameplay experience was spread across several more days than usual for me because I could only make any significant progress while the sun was up.
Now that I’ve thoroughly embarrassed myself and admitted how much of a wuss I am, let’s look at the next chapter of a series that, if it hasn’t already knocked Resident Evil off its “king of survival horror” perch, it surely has with this masterpiece.
Dead Space 2, developed by Visceral Games and published by EA, takes place three years after the end of the first game and Issac Clarke, our unlikely engineer protagonist from Dead Space 1 , finds himself aboard the Sprawl, a space metropolis built into a large shard of what’s left of Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. Of course, we as the player know where Issac is, but he’s as confused as can be because when the game opens up he is strapped down to a gurney and in a straightjacket. Only amidst the chaos caused by some very familiar looking creatures can our hero free himself and start to make sense of the situation he currently finds himself in. A situation in which Issac will find that he must not only confront the horrors of a new Necromorph threat, but also the deep scars left on his psyche from the Ishimura incident of the first game.
From the opening cut scene and sequence, which may be the most intense first 15 minutes ever in a game, to Issac muttering swears under his breath as he curb stomps fallen Necromorphs, Dead Space 2 is one of the most engrossing gaming experiences you can find. This game simply reeks of atmosphere and the painstaking detail that went into each level and experience you come across is evidence of that. From the distorted shadows thrown against the cold steel walls by flickering lights that make your heart feel like its going to jump out of your chest to the sound of dragging claws and inhuman screams in the ventilation ducts that make your skin crawl, there wasn’t a moment in this game that didn’t have my pulse pounding. And to complete the full immersion into the game, Dead Space 2 has some chilling mood setting music and great voice acting from everyone involved, whether Issac himself or the dozens of audio logs you find scattered across the Sprawl that help fill in the details of what has transpired over the past three years.
These details are really where the horror comes from. Man’s most base fears come from what he can’t understand and the unknown, and you become so immersed in Dead Space 2 due to the tremendous detail in this game that, even though it’s done in the third-person perspective, you feel like you’re in Issac’s shoes as you round every corner and explore each nook and cranny of the now desolate and abandoned metropolis you find yourself navigating.
But atmosphere and looks alone do not a great game make. No, what puts Dead Space 2 into an elite class is that it combines that great storytelling and atmosphere with creative gameplay, tight controls, awesome weapons, and some unreal monsters. Not only do a lot of the standard Necromorphs from Dead Space 1 return like your tri-tentacled babies and razorfist regulars, but since this is a sequel and you have to follow the unwritten rule of going bigger and better and now there are monstrous brutes, pre-pubescent packs of marauders, and my personal new favorite, the Stalkers. The Stalkers look and act like the raptors from Jurassic Park as they always attack in packs and use bait and run tactics. The only other thing you would need when they appear is Bob Peck whispering “clever girl” whenever they decide to pounce.
New enemies though mean new weapons to help dispatch them as well. You have some old favorites returning like the Line Gun, the Flamethrower, and the Ripper that simply mow down all who come in their path, but now you also have new goodies like the Javelin Gun. The Javelin Gun is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a gun that shoots spears and is a testament to the physics system of Dead Space 2 as you can send Necromorphs flying across rooms and impale them against the wall like frogs from your high school biology class.
A big upgrade between Dead Space 1 and 2 is the larger variety of experiences you encounter, especially in terms of the zero gravity situations. Whereas in the first Dead Space , there were a lot of zero gravity rooms that you would traverse by aiming and leaping from surface to surface, now your suit has thrusters attached to it which gives you the feel of actual 360 degree zero gravity combat as you move around aiming at Necromorphs who just love launching themselves at you like undead missiles. There are also new environmental hazard situations to maneuver through as well as full level segments in deep space as you work your way through various areas in and around the Sprawl.
The biggest addition to this chapter of Dead Space though is of course the inclusion of a multiplayer that seems to be heavily inspired by the Left 4 Dead series. Lacking a traditional versus or deathmatch mode, the multiplayer consists of two teams of four players each, one team comprised of a variety of Necromorphs and the other a team of humans. The humans are tasked with completing a series of objectives as quickly as possible while the Necromorphs must work together and take advantage of their ability to utilize their surroundings like crawling in ventilation ducts to prevent the humans from finishing their objectives. As you continue to play, there is a leveling up system that comes into effect that will allow you to purchase new weapons and their secondary fire abilities. Unfortunately, the lack of mode variety and small teams means that this multiplayer is nowhere near as dynamic as it needs to be and feels as if it was a late add-on to an absolutely stellar single player campaign.
Of course the more things change, the more they stay the same. Dead Space 2 has the same controls as the first game and is one of the smoothest third-person shooting experiences you’ll find. The static camera glued to Issac’s hip might take some getting used to, but is necessary due to the return of your HUD being displayed on your back showing your stasis, health, and oxygen levels as you travel around the Sprawl and face off against the Necromorph threat. You can still carry four weapons at a time and can upgrade only the items you’re carrying at benches scattered about the Sprawl as you put Issac’s engineering skills to the test. The game is also very linear and this may turn off some fans, but considering how much this game will make you jump, it is probably better for those out there with heart conditions that there aren’t more dark corners to explore. There are also five difficulty modes, with the Hardcore mode only being unlocked after beating the game the first time, ensuring that you completionists and achievement whores out there will need at least two playthroughs to get everything in this game.
When all is said and done, Dead Space 2 is everything you want in a sequel. Bigger and better weapons and enemies, it brilliantly forwards a compelling story arc started in the first game, and pulls you into the experience to the point that you feel as if you’re in the main character’s shoes. The only person I would not recommend this game to is someone who hasn’t played the first game due to it being referenced on many occasions and so to them I say go buy both Dead Space 1 and 2 right now.
Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.
Graphics: 9.5: A few minor glitches here and there with dead Necromorph bodies is really the only problem I could see with the look of the game, otherwise this is simply brilliant looking.
Audio: 10.0: What makes Dead Space 2 so creepy is the fact that you may not see enemies for long stretches of levels. But you can always hear them. Everywhere. And this combined with some great voice acting by all involved makes the audio simply top notch.
Gameplay: 8.5: Some would say the gameplay gets a little repetitive by the time you work your way through the game’s 15 chapters, but there were always enough thrills to keep my mind off that. My only real complaint about the gameplay is that I wish it was longer since you’ll probably blow through your first playthrough of the game in a dozen or so hours and with so many new and great experiences added to this sequel, it was sad to see it end so quickly.
Plot/Plot Development: 10.0: A perfect combination of forwarding the story from the first game while also spinning a uniquely entertaining and thrilling tale of it’s own, Dead Space 2 is the epitome of what you’re looking for in a sequel’s plot.
Replay Value: 7.0: The new multiplayer system was really disappointing with only eight players allowed at once and only one mode of play. It seemed cobbled together at the last minute and although does work on many levels, isn’t entertaining enough to bring you back for more when other AAA titles hit the market. At least for all the fellow achievement and trophy whores out there, the game will require at least two playthroughs for you to get everything if you’re insane enough to take a go at Hardcore mode.
Overall (not an average): 9.0: You want every sequel to be bigger and better than the previous and on every level Dead Space 2 delivers that. The multiplayer seemed unnecessary after seeing how it was implemented and I’d have rather of had two or three more story chapters. Despite this, Dead Space 2 is a must have for any third-person shooter fans out there, although I recommend playing the first game in order to truly appreciate just how great this game is.-Ray Carsillo