A great follow up to a great game.
A franchise lives and dies by it's core concept, and thankfully Dead Space 2 has stuck closely enough to honour it's predecessor but has made enough advances to make this a welcome new experience.
First of all let me stress that I loved the first Dead Space game. I thought that although it didn't revolutionise the genre in the way Resident Evil 4 did, it was a well made game that hit all the right notes. (Read my previous review for my full opinion) So before I even I started playing the game I had high hopes.
The horror genre is one of my favourite genres. The sheer amount of heart pounding tension created through games, movies and books in the genre is an experience that makes you feel exhausted afterwards, ready to take a break and let your body recover, but it is a good feeling. It is this reason why I choose to limit myself to a handful of horror games a year. A lot are good but few are great. Dead space 2 is great.
The story is surprisingly good, even if it is a little too familiar, and now logically moves onto a space station a few years later.. I don't want to explain too much because the atmosphere and story really are the backbone of this series, but it does take you forward logically and to areas that justify the different environments that you will see. This is one area where the game has done a nice job of improving; more variety of areas. The first game had understandable restrictions on environmental variety due to the ship setting but here the space station provides more opportunities to experience other areas, such as a nursery. And if you are feeling nostalgic then be happy because you do get to visit the Ishimura again. I really buy into the dead space universe and this game is right on track. I do recommend playing Dead Space 1 first though.
The guns this time around feel a lot more balanced too. The plasma cutter, when upgraded, is still the don of the selection but I never felt as if it was too powerful. The other guns have also been tweaked. The telekinesis seems to be encouraged more this time around though, especially if you are playing on harder settings; the areas are often littered with all kinds of household goodies used to impale an enemy against a wall. A broom javelin toss anyone?
The inventory system was also something that I really dug about the first game and I am glad to say that it is just as good this time around; allowing you to see the inventory as a projection in front of the camera, so no escaping into a paused inventory system when things get hairy, and it will get hairy.
The graphics are also breathtaking. The subtle use of light in the darkened areas to create tension is genius. Even going so far as to sometimes make it almost impossible to see enemies accurately without taking advantage of some of the available light sources around the environment. The sound is also just as good and is so much better with surround sound, using background noises to make you jumpy and on edge.
The enemies are believable and best of all they are actually threatening. They move slowly when they know that you are trapped or in a tight spot but when far away they are quick to close the gap. The range of enemies is also good, changing from your standard Necromorphs to ostrich like runners and dog like ones. There are enough types to keep you changing your combat strategies throughout.
The game has even given the upgrade system an overhaul. Using nodes that are collected or bought you can improve all your weapons, your suit and your stasis. This time you even have the option to remove all previous placed nodes for a particular weapon, but for a monetary price. It is a welcome feature and it was great to not have to worry about locking out other weapons that could prove their worth in the later stages of the game, especially if you plan on playing on the hardest difficulty, which, by the way, is particularly hard but feels so good to beat.
In many ways it felt like playing Demon Souls in that you have to become a better player instead of relying on weapon and suit upgrades, which, don't get me wrong, do help as well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't played the multiplayer, not that it's bad but it doesn't hold much interest for me personally with the wealth of other great multiplayer games out there, but from what I have seen it seems to hold some entertainment value but I don't think many people will prioritise this game as their go to multiplayer game.
Overall, I am thrilled with how Dead Space 2 turned out. It ticked all the things I was looking for and some things that I didn't even think about changing. If you love the first game and you want some more of that good stuff then please don't hesitate to pick this up.