Life on The Sprawl
The original Dead Space surprised gamers in 2008 by resurrecting and improving a nearly forgotten genre. This year, Dead Space 2 continues the story of lone engineer Isaac Clarke as he is once again plunged into the darkness and horror of an alien infection, the Necromorphs. The USG Ishimura was lost in the events following the first game, and Isaac now finds himself on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. The game takes place on a massive space station called "The Sprawl" which can almost be described as Bioshock's "Rapture" underwater city... but in space! This concept should really draw in the science fiction crowd as this setting is full of life and wonder, just not the good kind.
If there existed an award for Best Start to a Game Ever, I think Dead Space 2 would clean house. The game wastes no time in getting you acquainted with your rather grotesque foes and makes you feel completely helpless right from the get go.
The Sprawl is a very welcome addition to the game's ingeniously-crafted settings and shares the same unsettling atmosphere as the Ishimura. There are plenty of dark hallways reminiscent of Doom and FEAR, and the ambiance is just as creepy as ever. The maps feature plenty of corpses and a lot of gore splattered around, but I wouldn't expect anything less. The developers also factored in the use of randomized spawn events, so the action is varied and more unpredictable--at least more than in the first game. The scripted sequences (which are arguably the best in any game) are exiting and thrilling to experience from a 3rd person perspective. The balance between fighting and isolation is tasteful and the chapters transition nicely.
There are some minor changes in the game play however. The controls feel sharper and more responsive than in the original, and if you are using a controller the button layout is nearly identical. Stasis, Kinetics, and Melee actions work in the same way and the lovely corpse-exploding stomp attack also makes a comeback. Power ups and other items can also be collected from crates, felled enemies and other bodies lying around. The save system, stores, and benches work in the same fashion and the system for upgrading weapons and armor is virtually untouched. These are things that worked well in the first game, so it's nice to see that they didn't fix the unbroken. There is a new hacking element that also works very well and provides a bit of a break from the main action. It is very basic but at the same time is unlike anything I have seen implemented before.
Overall, Dead Space 2 is better than it's predecessor, which is great news for fans of the genre. I would highly recommend this game to people who play third person shooters, science fiction games, and enjoy scares. If the action in this game doesn't get your heart pumping you may need to consult a doctor right away! If you finish the game early, you can enjoy the unique multi-player experience which pits human survivors against Necromorph monsters. The action in multi-player modes is similar to what you find in the campaign, but adds a twist to the mayhem and gives players a chance to see things from the opposite perspective. To sum things up, Dead Space 2 is a very complete sequel and a great game in its own right; a must play for those who enjoyed the original.