Title: Dead Space 2
Developer: EA – Visceral Games
I look back at Dead Space with fond memories, the original is arguably an all time classic and Dead Space 2 similarly has moments in it that I still remember 3 years on…. The third instalment however was largely ignored and with no word on a Dead Space 4 the franchise may have had its day in the sun (or dark). I would like to add I was right about the multiplayer, no one played it! Enjoy my writing from the past.
So I am here again reviewing another sequel, I know what to expect the first Dead Space came smashing onto the scene in 2008, and seemed to have come from no-where. It reinvigorated the survival horror genre, a sequel was inevitable but will it be any good? Dead Space 2 sees the return of Isaac Clarke, and his struggle against the hordes of Necromorphs. So what are we waiting for? There are limbs in need of shooting so lets get to it, but first… If you going to play a survival horror game you have to do it right, So I sit down in the dead of night, change of underwear at the ready, volume up high.
The story of Dead Space 2 is easily explained however not all that clear during the game. We begin our journey of survival in a straight jacket. Unarmed, and quickly set upon by Necromorphs the pace of the game is made apparent from the get go. There are lots of them, 1 of us and not a great deal of resources. We are vulnerable. To survive we need to fight smart. In the midst of surviving we gradually begin to unearth what is happening. It’s been 3 years since the events of the first game, we are on a space station known as The Sprawl. As the story progresses Clarke learns of the creation of a new Marker, we then must begin to unravel the conspiracy behind its creation and ultimately do something about it.
My synopsis is of course spoiler free, to explain the story of Dead Space 2 would hugely detract from the experience. Thankfully for me, the true masterpiece of the game is not the narrative but in the character. That’s right the one and only Isaac Clarke has broken his stoic silence and gained a voice! And with it has gained a greater depth of emotion making him that much more complex, not only having to deal with the physical foes but battling his very mind. Tormented by visions of his dead girlfriend Nichole, he deteriorates as the game goes on. Isaac is steadily losing his mind and it makes for a very interesting character to be. With the addition of three allies (I use the term loosely) Stross, Daina and Ellie. The latter seems to take the role of directing you round the hellish space station, explaining objectives. Where as Stross just remains mad as ever. You make for a rather dysfunctional team.
It then turns into what can only be described as a wild goose chase through a hostile fright filled space station full of puzzles what seems to be an endless amount of doors!The story is relatively straight-forward though motives are never clear. There is also opportunities to flesh out the story through the text logs and audio diaries which are dotted frequently throughout each chapter.
As I mentioned earlier, to survive Dead Space 2 you have to fight smart. Make no bones about it this game is hard (providing you don’t play it on easy, word of advise it is a survival horror game, knowing you will survive all attacks considerably detracts from the fear factor). Being prepared is key for example half way through Chapter 9 there is a room full of Stalkers that almost brought me to tears. Their incredible speed made Isaacs’s clunky movement very evident. It is times like these where you have to fend of frustration and just persevere. Surviving against the odds and being terrified every step of the way is what this game is all about. Full of gore and quite frankly disgusting foes, balancing fear with skill is a hard art to master. Taking advantage of all that is at your disposal is key. Get inventive with your combat use stasis, melee and the new improved kinesis as well as your guns to dispatch your foes, Get it right and you will soon find your self tearing through limbs.
There are as you would expect a few new guns, for me the Javelin gun was a great edition its slow yet incredibly powerful fire rate got me out of some scrapes, not to mention the ammo is the cheapest. Less accurate players may find the Pulse Rifle the easiest way to go, ‘spray and prey’ as I call it. Fully upgraded the weapon is insane. To keep the kills flowing, be sure to take full advantage of The Store system. It is a great way to stay stocked, allowing you to spend your acquired credits on supplies. As well as an opportunity to purchase new items such as suits and weapons proving you have found the schematic earlier in the game. Dead Space 2 sees the return of the upgrading system for your suits, kinesis and weapons adding that minor RPG element we have all come to expect in modern games. Like I said fight smart, Just remember stamp on your foes, stock up where ever possible and use all your abilities if you go through Dead Space 2 only shooting you will die… a lot. So what is that is killing me so much? Dead Space 2 has some new enemies to deal with as well as all the old favourites.
The two that caused me the most grief were The pack: a large group of toddler sized beasties that are weak when alone but pose a great threat in numbers. However the true banes of my existence were as mentioned earlier the Stalkers: fast Velociraptor style foes that as the name suggest stalk you, they are smart agile and hit very hard ‘we’re being hunted’. Boss fights are few and far between, and in all honesty could hardly be called boss fights, just big enemies that are easier to kill than the average attack.
Visually this game is jaw dropping, The Sprawl makes for a much more complex colourful environment than Ishimura though some how retains the same terrifyingly dark dank uncomfortable feel. Amazing interfaces that made Dead Space famous return, menus pop out of your suit flawlessly. It is truly a visual masterpiece. Graphic violence is of course from start to finish, that when combined with the most terrifying sound effects I have ever heard, bring a level of intensity I haven’t felt from any other title. The incredible atmosphere is very sound based, high pitched frequencies in areas give you that ‘I don’t want to be in here’ feeling that is very hard to achieve. There is something magical going on with the sound, that often has you creeping down a corridor stiff with fear as you hear a screech, we brace for the impending attack that never comes… the suspense is at times unbearable. I know a lot of gamers out there listen to music whilst they play, but seriously the joy of Dead Space 2 is in immersion. Sit back in the complete darkness and let it consume you.
Now thus far I have been singing the praises of this title, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out some problems with it. If any of you out there have played Dead Space 2 and are about to say ‘that didn’t happen!’ I would like to point out I have a very meticulous play style which tends to unearth niggling issues. Okay first off it is linear, now sure lots of games are linear. But this game is as linear as Streets of Rage, I mean literally one path all the way through the game. This is something I get very bored of, especially in a survival horror game in which resources are key. I would like to think I could go look about and get a few extra clips. The linear style of Dead Space 2 is made even more stupid with the addition of the ‘Objectice tracker’ I mean really!? The game is an 18… I don’t need my hand held every step of the way. In the final chapter there is a beautiful line where Isaac says he doesn’t know which way to go. I did! It was the only door that was open…
In terms of combat there were a few hiccups along the way, firstly I found that some enemies have cut off points, they wont cross certain boundaries for example: Second encounter with stalkers you can just move toward the stairs and you’re safe. In a survival game I don’t want ‘SAFE’ to be a factor.
The Online mode in Dead Space 2 is nothing ground breaking, you either play a guard from The Sprawl, or one of 4 different types of Necromorph. The humans have objectives such as launching an escape pod and the Necromorphs have to kill them; simple stuff and nothing worth raving about. Its only re-playable factor is the ability to upgrade your characters. In all honesty I wasn’t impressed multiplayer has essentially taken the weakest aspect of the game (the combat) and made it the focal point, its not a genre that lends itself well to multiplayer mobility issues such as the inability to jump, crouch and climb. It just feels slow and clunky without the atmosphere its just a bad shooter. Thankfully I believe no one is buying this game for multiplayer. Note to EA not all games need a multiplayer, especially when the single player is so good.
Dead Space 2 builds upon what its predecessor started, without taking away anything that we loved about the first game. The sprawl makes for a great backdrop to the horror, the coming together of great design stunning visuals and incredible sound effects make this game an intense emotional roller coaster of immense proportions.
At the core of backdrop we have Isaac who has know found a voice performed by Gunner Wright he is likable character that we want to keep safe, making the survival aspect even stronger. I mean if he was annoying we would probably want to explore all the death animations (to which the sick puppies at Visceral seem to have put far to much thought into), late in the game you we will really be tested on whether you want to hurt him. Your feelings at this point will show just how successful the game has been in creating that emotional attachment.
Okay to wrap this up. Its awesome, a true masterpiece of survival horror. Fine it has a few issues, its linear design is not to my taste. However I understand that not everyone will share my need for exploration. My advise would to rent it, it is a must play game. However after a weekend playing through the 10 hour single player, it does not need to be re-visited. Like a horror film after the first run through it loses its bite, thankfully that first bite is unforgettable.
- The atmosphere is superb, and genuinely thick and rich
- Some incredible set-pieces
- Excellent pacing
- The HUD and UI is still groundbreaking
- Production is superb, with zero loading breaks unless you die
- There’s a great cameo…
- The introductory re-cap video feels a little bit last minute
- It’s not really scary in so much that we’ve seen most of the monsters before
- The relentless jumps start to grate, and the spawning behind you is often cheap
- Some checkpoints are a little too spaced out