demoskinos's Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360) review

Shoot dem' limbs!

We first met Isaac Clarke in 2008 and man has the guy had a rough couple of years.  He barely survived an outbreak of freakish monsters, insane cultists AND his girlfriend is dead.  Fast forward to 2011 we join Isaac again this time with Isaac waking up in a mental hospital inside a space colony “The Sprawl”

After what could be described as one of the most intense opening scenes in recent memory you’re quickly thrust into another adventure with Isaac.  The controls are still tight as ever and Dead space fans will feel instantly at home as the controls are largely unchanged.  A few minor improvements to the controls like adding a button to quickly recharge your stasis energy makes the controls fluid and allow you to quickly adapt to your battle situation.

One of the main complaints and also a personal complaint of the first game is that you were for all intents and purposes an errand boy.  While this moved the story along it didn’t make for compelling characterization of Isaac or of any other characters.

In Dead space 2 Isaac is on his own journey.  There is no guy jabbering in your ear set telling you to “Isaac fix that” and “Fetch this”.    Along the way Isaac struggles with are personal demons and struggles as his dementia blurs the lines between his realities.

The locales in Dead space 2 are much more varied than the bland industrial corridors of the Ishimura space station.   Isaac will trudge through Malls, Hospitals and even a child’s day care center.  The sprawl constantly oppresses you with grisly images of the death and suffering the outbreak of necromorphs has caused.  This plays to the game’s strength as you constantly feel a genuine sense of tension.

Helping you on your way through the sprawl are tons of new guns.  The Javelin gun what essentially amounts to a harpoon gun is among the crazier of the new weapons.  You can use your new found arsenal to shoot at the myriad of new necromorph types that are infecting the sprawl.   Nice little added touches like shooting windows and causing the room to decompress and suck everything into space give you quite a few tactical options when dispatching your decaying flesh craving foes.

A few other changes include the inventory system.  You quickly acquire your old engineering suit.  However, rather than upgrade this suit as you did in the previous game this time upgrading your inventory  and armor rating requires  you to find suit schematics and buy them at the store.

The upgrade system remains unchanged.  As in the previous game you will find power nodes that you will use to upgrade the guns.  The bright side of this system is it allows you to pick the upgrade path to your weapons.  The downside is like the previous game you are going to most likely want to focus on about 3 weapons to get the most out of the upgrades.

Visceral games went out of the way to make sure they keep you coming back for yet another adventure.  The game features 4 difficulties with the new ability to do a New Game +.   This allows you to take all of your previously earned gear and tackle a new difficulty level.    The masochistic players will enjoy the newly added “Hardcore” mode.

Hardcore mode plunks you into the hardest difficulty with only 3 saves for the entire game.   Only the most dedicated players will ever attempt this but it’s a nice gesture for the people who want to attempt it.  Anyway you look at it most players will most likely take at least 2 runs through the game.    The game itself is about 7-10 hours depending on your play style.  It should also be mentioned that the Xbox 360 version is 2 discs.

Extending your playtime is the newly added multiplayer mode.  Many people groaned at the thought of Dead space multiplayer when so many games add in throw-away multiplayer at the last second.   Dead space’s multiplayer is for better or worse very comparable to Valve’s Left 4 Dead.

On the 4 -5 maps on the disc the two sides of the Humans and Necromorphs will clash.  The Humans objective is to complete a number of objectives in a set amount of time.  Playing as a human will unlock you new guns and cosmetic upgrades with new suits.  The progression is very comparable to the “Call of Duty” model.

The Necromoph side could easily be argued to be the more interesting of the two.  You get access to 4 types of Necromorphs.  Everything from the small child-looking “Pack” with razor sharp claws to the ranged “Puker” who spits corrosive acid on your foes.

The Necromorphs are in a constant war of attrition with the humans.   Necromoprhs are easily dispatched and require team work to take down and delay the humans’ progress.

If you buy Dead space 2 you should at the very least check out the multiplayer.  It may be a sideshow attraction to Isaac Clarke’s adventure but with more polish Dead space’s multiplayer mode could blossom into something that people come back to constantly.

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