Dead Space 2 Review
Isaac Clarke is back but unfortunately for him so are the Necromorphs and that can mean only one thing, Ishimura dismembering needs to be done! Dead Space 2 can easily be described as the Aliens to Dead Space’s Alien or an Uncharted 2 to Uncharted; it’s as if James Cameron has hijacked EA’s survival horror franchise chucked in a load of blockbuster set pieces but then forgot to add the 3D. So Dead Space 2 aims to improve upon its predecessor by adding more but more doesn’t always mean better, does it emerge unscathed or come up short like a Necromorph with no legs?
The biggest change from Dead Space 1 is that Isaac now talks, in the original he was a voiceless, emotionless monolith only ever breathing deeply or grunting when stomping (there is simply not enough stomping in video games). You barely got to see his face even with only true emotional outburst coming at the end. That’s all change now with a less plain avatar like approach, Visceral have added a cinematic element by giving a talking, acting face to Isaac. He’s not afraid to remove his helmet and show his face to the world in the cut scenes, which really helps to develop the story as you start to empathize with him. The plot is fantastic in keeping you engaged with Isaac’s plight as you discover what has really happened in the last 3 years since the incident on the USG Ishimura.
The environments are varied too taking place all over the new location; The Sprawl, a space city built on one of Jupiter’s moons involving all sorts of locations. There are some great vistas to behold and some fun excursions outside into space which help to create a sense of… well space. This is not a large free-roaming romp though as Dead Space 2 follows the familiar claustrophobic rules set by the survival horror genre so expect plenty of long corridors, tight elevators and travelling on small vehicles. The action is well handled with ebbs and flows never quite allowing you to relax, just when you think its safe Dead Space 2 is always ready to throw something new at you. There were moments where I managed to notice hazards before they happened, rather than feeling like the game was too obvious it made me feel smart as if I was learning my enemy and surroundings. The action is again broken up with puzzles though they are quite scarce; I always enjoy puzzles in survivor horror titles and wished they would include more. The hacking sections are enjoyable though and it becomes more critical that you get them right quickly towards the game’s climax…
Along with the new environments the Necromorph variety has also increased thanks to the Sprawl being a city rather than a ship containing workers they have mutated humans of any age. There is the creepy, pack, a gang of kids and crawlers – exploding babies that can leave you literally nursing your wounds, no kidding! Another new Necromorph is the Puker whose name is pretty self explanatory, their spew will actually slow you down which can prove a nuisance when surrounded by others. The bird like Stalkers change up the pace quite considerably with their cat and mouse (or should that be bird?) like games as they charge at you from behind cover. Fortunately there are plenty of new weapons to deal out dismemberment punishment with. The Seeker rifle (a sniper rifle), Javelin (like a bolt/nail gun particularly useful when fully upgraded) and the Detonator (a mine layer). They add to the already bustling weapon line-up including old favourites like the Plasma Cutter, Line Gun and Ripper. On a first play through they offer up almost too much choice as you’re never quite sure which weapons to use especially as it can be hard to predict the type of encounters that lay ahead.
Dead Space 2 has followed the way paved by Uncharted and Bioshock and added a multiplayer component to what was already a solid single player experience. It takes the form of a 4 v 4 match with one team of humans against Necromorphs; the humans have to carry out objectives based on the map whilst the Necromorphs must simply kill/stop them. That’s all there is to it, it requires good team work to be successful but as is often the case with multiplayer games that feature teams of different species there is a problem with balancing. It doesn’t quite have the balance seen in AVP that had different weapons countering each other’s or even combinable abilities for the monsters like in Left 4 Dead. It also gets repetitive quickly making it at best a quick blast to complement the single player; there are also no trophies so Trophy Hunters won’t be forced to endure many hours of grinding. EA and Visceral should be applauded for this, too many good games have had awful online trophies like Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock 2 and Killzone 2 and I had wrongfully presumed DS2 would follow suit. Speaking of Trophies if you thought impossible was bad, wait till you see hardcore mode, this means no check points and you can only save 3 times. Oh and don’t think you can carry all your upgrades and earnings over onto it, oh no you have to start a new game with nothing.
Technically Dead Space 2 is out of this world with a rock solid frame rate of 30fps that never falters, its also a true case of platform parity for once. The lighting engine not only looks outstanding but it’s also integral, enhancing the atmosphere of the Sprawl. There are some truly breathtaking moments including one room involving a gravity machine that constantly changes the lighting of a room with its revolving parts. Sound design is also spot on as the soundtrack never utilises a continuous melody leaving you constantly on edge with its unpredictable tangents and sounds. One problem I had audio wise though was with the sound levels for voices, I could barely make out some radio chatter but a quick tweak of the audio levels fixed it up (80, 100, and 80 if you’re having the same problem).
Dead Space 2 has plenty of re-playability to obtain all weapons and suits along with the various difficulty modes and multiplayer. It’s as Brilliant to look at as it is to play and every feature from the graphics, to sound to plot have all matured to an outstanding degree, the controls are just perfection with their precise responsiveness never letting you down in the most chaotic of moments. It hard as nails and strikes a fine balance between barely having any provisions but giving you enough to survive, too many games become too easy once you’ve built up a cache but not DS2 where you find yourself in the deep end at the start and it doesn’t get much better come its gruelling finale. It brings a whole new meaning to survival horror it can even be an effort to motivate yourself to play it. It’s a deeply immersive world and every time you boot the disc up there’s a feeling of impending dread as you know your adrenaline glands are going to kick in again soon. It’s so enjoyable though that you can overcome your fears and push on as you know that next set piece will be a blast. Dead Space 2 does everything you wish a sequel would do, it is bigger, louder and better making it Issactly what you hoped for.
* The story mode was played to completion on normal… after dying a lot on Survivalist. All multiplayer maps and character types were played and I almost jumped as many times as limbs were dismembered.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Dead Space 2 provided by EA.