Dead Space 2
D: Visceral Games
P: Electronic Arts
Release: January 28th 2011
Genre: Survival Horror/Shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360
Date added: July 17, 2011
Dead Space 2 Review
Dead Space 2 Review
The original Dead Space ended with a frightening visit from Isaacís dead girlfriend and the beginning of Dead Space 2 keeps that intensity right from the outset. To begin the game, Isaac Clarke is helplessly strapped in a strait-jacket, while a horde of necromorphs close in on him.
The intensity which grips much of the action translates well to the story, which, like the first game, revolves around a delusion-inducing, man-made artifact known as the Marker. It was the Marker that drove the workers aboard the Ishimura (the first planet-cracking ship) insane, and itís doing the same to the residents of the Sprawl, the station aboard Titan (Saturnís largest moon). The story is complete with crazed religious fanatics dubbed Unitologists, a psychotic patient, and a couple of females with foreign accents. Ellie is the good female who aids Isaac in his quest and is of the British variety.
While the external story is engaging enough, Isaac must now deal with a dangerous internal struggle of paranoia and hallucinations. Nicole, Isaacís dead girlfriend, constantly threatens Isaac making the game as dangerous internally as externally. This added element gives the game a heightened sense of tension. There are some problems with the story however, most notably the antagonist, a general Tiedemann attempts to kill Isaac, but we never get a complete understanding as to why. Furthermore, Isaac never gets the straight-forward answers from a crazed patient named Stross on how to destroy the Marker, so it seems odd to let him live.
The gameplay remains largely unchanged from the original as well. The plasma cutter, line gun, ripper, force gun, contact beam, and flamethrower all make return appearances. Shooting off limbs and decapitating enemies feels just as satisfying as ever. The plasma cutter is still your bread and butter weapon, with the line gun and contact beam being the heavy hitters. You have to be a little closer to enemies when using the ripper this time around, but it does saw off limbs more quickly. One of my favorite weapons, the force gun knocks down enemies and blows them to chunky bits. The flamethrower sports a big boost in power and receives a nifty upgrade which allows you to use it in a vacuum.
Among the new weapons, my favorite is the javelin gun which impales foes with a spear from long range. It even boasts a secondary function which electrocutes anyone in the vicinity of the last javelin fired. There is also a detonator which explodes necromorphs into a spectacle of necro-bits. Finally, there is a seeker rifle, a spacey sniper rifle which seems out of place seeing as most of your encounters are of the close up variety, but still it offers quite a juicy punch.
With new weapons, come new enemies: cysts are immobile balls of pus that vomit balls of pus should Isacc wander to close to their gooey exterior. Crawlers are the mutated remains of infants and slowly roll towards Isaac for a suicide bomb attack. Children unlucky enough to escape the grasp of the necromorphs find themselves transformed into the pack; small devil-looking things that attack in hordes. The most dangerous of the new enemies are also the quickest Ė dubbed stalkers, these necromorphs resemble raptors and after playing a game of hide and go seek, lunge at Isaac with ludicrous speed.
Besides new weapons and enemies there are also other upgraded elements to the game as well. The graphics this time around are much smoother, and the lighting is improved Ė though there isnít that much light to begin with, but you get the point. The zero-g environments are also home to more elaborate puzzles due to the increased maneuverability of Isaac. No longer are you stuck with a simple jump, but Isaacís suit is now equipped with tiny boosters which allow him to roam freely in a vacuum. Kinesis also receives a notable improvement, giving the player the ability to impale a necromorph with its own limb, sometimes sending said enemy sprawling over twenty feet. Lastly, there are a few moments where shooting a pane of glass exposes a room to the vacuum of space, sending everything flying outward, including Isaac. Only after shooting a button atop the glass will the broken window seal itself.
While there are a lot of new improvements to Dead Space 2, many of the familiar problems that plagued the first entry return as well. The linear level design is still in place, meaning Isaac will often travel from point A to point B slowly traversing corridors and rooms in a predictable order. Thankfully, there is also more variety in the environments so the lack of exploration never gets too mundane. Some of the new environments include, a school, a shopping center, and my personal favorite, a church. Nothing is as badass as lopping off limbs in the Lordís house.
And this leads us to the main problem with Dead Space 2, the difficulty. Unfortunately, much of the challenge of the game is not dependent on the playerís ability. Instead, deaths often come from a lack of ammo, enemies sneaking up from behind Isaac, and untimely reloads. Upon entering a room where the player previously died, it simply becomes a process of elimination where you learn where not to stand. Also, when Isaac gets hit, he is not immune to further damage immediately after, which means youíre likely to get hit multiple times. Furthermore, Isaac is slow and the methodic point and shoot gameplay is incongruous with the fast paced action. Finally, the game is rather short, clocking in at around 10 hours the first time through.
Despite this, the game manages to remain engaging due a satisfying upgrade system. And there are plenty of weapons to upgrade. The near endless number of nodes and plethora of weapons ensure dismembering necromorphs never becomes tiring. Even through the third and fourth playthroughs youíll be sawing off limbs and impaling devil babies with glee. Without a doubt, this is one of the gameís strongest selling points Ė in the Dead Space Universe, replayability is your friend.
The completely new multiplayer mode will ensure Dead Space 2 is spinning in your Xbox 360 tray for months to come. Multiplayer is split between two teams, a human team and necromorph team. All the modes require the human team to achieve certain objectives like exit the map via escape pods, activate a solar array to destroy a station, or destroy duplicates of the marker. The necromorph team has the option of selecting between four types, including devil babies, and your only objective is to stop the human team from completing their objective. Playing as the human side requires more cooperation and accuracy, while playing as a necromorph allows you to simply melee like a maniac. There are levels and upgrades in the multiplayer, which give certain abilities like increased damage for the necromorph side and new weapons and armor for the human side. Itís certainly not the main reason people will play Dead Space 2, but it does run incredibly smoothly and stands as a nice addition to the series.
Overall, Visceral Games did not alter Dead Space 2 much from its predecessor, but it offers enough new environments, enemies, weapons, abilities, and plenty of awesome death animations which separates it from the original. The unbalanced difficulty and linear level design is frustrating at times, but is offset thanks to the fun gameplay and deep upgrade mechanics. Also, the shortened length of the game is disappointing, but with the addition of a solid multiplayer experience is less of a downside. Besides, with the blood being juicier this time around, and the kills being incredibly satisfying, I can hardly complain. Your mom may hate this game, but sheíll hate you more for buying it, which is exactly what you should do.