Dead Space™ 2
Developer: Visceral Games | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Release Date: 2011 | Genre: Action / Horror / 3rd Person Shooter | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam
The original Dead space was one of those titles that just came out of nowhere and blew everyone away. I still have fond memories of playing the game on my new surround sound system. As a lifelong Silent Hill fan, I didn’t think Dead space would faze me but I was dead wrong. The game has left some pretty big boots for its successor to fill and I eagerly awaited the continued adventures of engineer turned exterminator, Isaac Clark.
Dead space 2 comes with a nice little “previously in Dead Space” video that will get new players up to speed and refresh the memory of fans. Once you start the game, however it wastes no time on niceties. You are thrown right into the thick of things and your life is in jeopardy right from the get go. This chaotic and action packed opening chapter also sets the mood and pace for the rest of the game. While in Dead Space 1 you were the lonely traveler making your way through the dark, in part two you have a score to settle and a mission that doesn’t just involve getting out alive.
After seeing the aftermath of a Necramorpha outbreak in the first game, this one lets you experience it firsthand. Isaac wakes up on “The Sprawl” which is a large man-made facility on what’s left of Saturn’s moon Titan. Three years have passed since the events that took place on Aegis VII and The Ishimura, but Isaac, along with the player has no idea what happened in that time period. Apparently Isaac didn’t take his encounters in the last game too well, which might explain the straight jacket he is wearing when he wakes up. Still tormented by visions of his dead girlfriend and hunted by Necromorphs every step of the way the poor guy just can’t get a break. It soon becomes apparent that another Marker is behind the pandemonium and Isaac might just be the only one that can destroy it.
Dead Space was a brilliant game with bags of (oppressive) atmosphere and despite what everyone claims nowadays, was genuinely frightening at times. Faced with enemies that didn’t just lie down and die after a headshot and sense of loneliness and doom it set itself apart from other survival horrors. While this sequel still continues and builds upon the last game’s strengths, it also injects a bucket full of action into the mix. I was skeptical when I first heard this, as Isaac is just an engineer trying to survive against impossible odds and not a highly trained space marine that specializes in suicide missions. After playing through the game I can appreciate the new action packed route it took, but can’t help but mourn the atmosphere and pace of the last game a bit.
Exploring The Sprawl almost brought back memories of Bioshock, as you see all kinds of deserted areas that were previously inhabited. There’s definitely a lot more variation than the last game, and certainly a lot more light. The creatures are no less menacing, however. Seeing something lumbering in your direction down a brightly painted school hallway is just as alarming as something flailing at you in the dark. Provided you play the game on hard and how much ammo you have left of course. The game still tries it’s best to be disturbing as well. Mutated exploding babies that crawl along walls and shrieking child Necromorphs that attack in packs probably didn’t endear themselves too much to the ratings board. After playing for a while, I found myself turning around and automatically shooting the Necromorphs that inevitably spawned behind me when there’s something coming at me from the front. You’ll also find long stretches of no attacks, only to enter an area and all hell breaks loose. The less said about the inevitable Necromorph gauntlet near the end of the game the better.
Still, the combat is good and Isaac is better than ever at strategically dismembering foes. Using your telekinetic powers to pin enemies to walls with their own sharp appendages never gets old either. There are only three new weapons, but upgrading equipment at benches are cool and there are just never enough power nodes to really make all your stuff awesome. This is where multiple play throughs are recommended, as you get to carry over all your goodies. It will take a brave person to go for hardcore difficulty though. No checkpoints brutal enemies and only three saves for the entire game.
Dead Space was a haunting, lonely experience with Isaac’s continued silence making it even creepier. He has found his voice in Dead Space 2, however, and now has quite a bit to say. I guess creeping dementia loosens the tongue a bit. Along the way Isaac will also meet up with other survivors, some slightly less sane than others. Overall, the voice acting is good, but in a few cases it felt like the characters under reacted to situations that were happening. There’s even a bit of humor at times, which is a first for the series.
I was expecting Isaac’s mental condition to provide a few more scares, but apart from Nicole popping up a few times to say hi, it didn’t play that big a role. Isaac is clearly a man driven to the edge, but it didn’t feel like there were any startling new revelations. Isaac still pretty much goes where people tell him to go and fixes almost everything along the way. At least there’s no backtracking this time round, and some of the set pieces are quite spectacular. The zero gravity sections are very nice and your suite thrusters offer way more maneuverability. With the station administrator hell bent on stopping your progress towards the Marker, you’ll be thrown into quite a few harrowing situations. Visceral Games have done a great job with creating sequences of action packed events that will leave you breathless at their conclusion. I also loved how they handled the creature that drags you into the walls. I was dreading an encounter with one the whole game and definitely wasn’t disappointed. A new enemy that shows more restraint and actually stalks you is also a cool addition. Getting charged and knocked off your feet if you are not quick enough provides some tense moments. Neglecting to upgrade the capacity and reloading speed of your weapons is also a recipe for disaster. Your reward will often be a very gory creature specific death animation of Isaac.
The game now has a multiplayer mode, which is a noble if perhaps obligatory addition. Being able to play as the Necromorphs is a nice touch, but multiplayer isn’t exactly what I was craving in a Dead Space game and it looks like I am not the only one. The interface is still as perfectly streamlined as the last game, although Isaac feels a bit more responsive this time. Stomping enemies reveals cash and items so take the time to tango on any corpses you leave behind. The new hacking minigame is ok, but nothing special and clearly there for console players. Speaking of console owners, they are once again treated to new DLC like weapons and suits while PC owners are regarded with suspicion and slim chances of getting anything due to piracy. A new two chapter single player add on has already been confirmed for consoles.
Dead Space 2 manages to instantly feel familiar, yet different due to the emphasis on action. It’s not a bad thing, but I can see why some fans might bemoan the lack of tension. It’s still a game that must be played in the dark, but don’t expect the sense of doom and gloom that permeated the first game. The ending opens up some new questions for the franchise and I’m looking forward to seeing if Visceral Games can make it a hat trick. If you like your game thrilling, action packed and don’t mind being led around by your nose a bit, then Dead Space 2 comes highly recommended. My first play through clocked in a 13 hours and reflecting back on it, there was way more good than bad.
*Review originally published in 2011.
- Processor: 2.8 GHz processor or equivalent
- Memory: 1 GB RAM (XP), 2 GB RAM (Vista or Windows 7)
- Hard Disk Space: At least 10GB of hard drive space for installation, plus additional space for saved games
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or better (7300, 7600 GS, and 8500 are below minimum system requirements), ATI X1600 Pro or better (X1300, X1300 Pro and HD2400 are below minimum system requirements), 256MB Video Card and Shader Model 3.0 required
- DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c