Dead Space 2

A great sequel to an excellent game, and proof that the franchise is worth expanding.

By Buckley, Posted 02 Mar 2011
Visceral Games’ futuristic 3rd-person survival-horror shooter Dead Space came in slightly under the radar in October of 2008. But since it was received very well critically, it gradually drew the attention of the gaming public. By the time the year was over, it had earned the Gamespot Reader’s Choice award for “Most Surprisingly Good Game of 2008.” So when Dead Space 2 was announced, it no longer had the advantage of sneaking in undetected and taking would-be players off-guard. By now, everyone knows about Dead Space, and its sequel must be that much more impressive to live up to the series’ progenitor. Thankfully, Dead Space 2 gives us everything we loved about the original Dead Space while also including more varied environments, a more personal connection with the characters, and some nice throwbacks to the first title, but it doesn’t shake off all of its disadvantages.
The sequel once again puts the player in control of engineer Isaac Clarke, but there are some stark differences. Whereas the first game never revealed the face of Clarke until the ending sequence and never gave him a voice at all, Dead Space 2 begins with not only a mask-less Clarke, but a speaking one as well. The game begins aboard a space station called the Sprawl, a city built on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. As it turns out, Clarke’s experiences battling the monstrous Necromorphs on the USG Ishimura starship during the first game have scarred his mind. By the end of the introduction, Clarke is being rescued from a mental ward and still wearing a straitjacket when his rescuer is suddenly killed and turns into a Necromorph himself. Gameplay begins with Clarke running through the hallways wearing the straitjacket, seeing destruction all around him, having no idea how he got there to begin with.
Dead Space 2, DS2, Review
While giving a face and a voice to Isaac Clarke is a risky escape from the original title, Dead Space 2 pulls it off. Clarke’s voice acting is done very well, and there are even a couple of refreshing, humorous moments when conversing with other characters in the game. Keeping him silent through the first game may have aided in the feeling of isolation, but the trade-off seems worth it here. Character interactions feel more meaningful, and we are given better insight into what is going on in Clarke’s mind while the narrative progresses. This ultimately makes the story carry more weight and helps add a cinematic feel to the game.
Eventually, Clarke dons his familiar engineer suit and scores a plasma cutter, the iconic weapon from the first game. The combat is identical to that found in Dead Space, focusing on the dismemberment game mechanic. When a Necromorph threatens, it can be killed with repeated shots to its body, but it will take a lot of ammo to do this, not only wasting what is a scarce commodity in the game, but allowing the Necromorph to get closer to Clarke and potentially hurt him. Instead, Dead Space 2 encourages the player to target the limbs and literally dismember the enemy, allowing it to be defeated using only a few well-placed shots. Just as it did in the first game, this mechanic requires a different strategic approach than most shooters, encouraging an escape from the incessant head-shot that dominates the genre.
Clarke will come across occasional stores in the Sprawl where he can purchase new weapons, armor, and ammunition. He will also find schematics in certain areas of the Sprawl which unlock new purchasable items at the stores. The varied and creative weapons from the first game all return, from the basic plasma cutter and a flamethrower to a rapid-fire pulse rifle and the ripper, which shoots a spinning, stationary blade that you can guide through enemy limbs and sever them, which is particularly grisly and fun to use. There are also some new weapons, including the javelin gun which fires spikes literally through enemies and can pin them to walls, and the detonator which lays explosive mines, good for setting traps and approaching some situations in new ways. Just as in the first title, each of these weapons can be upgraded using power nodes collected throughout the game.
Dead Space 2, DS2, Review
The stasis and kinesis abilities also return from the first game and are invaluable to success. Stasis will freeze enemies in their tracks and is particularly useful against the faster Necromorphs found later in the game, allowing you to take your time aiming and dismembering the enemy. Kinesis is used to solve puzzle sequences, manipulating the placement of large structures, but can also be used offensively. Now, when a Necromorph is dismembered, you can use kinesis to pick up an enemy limb and fire it at another enemy, which goes a long way to help conserve the limited ammunition.
Perhaps the biggest new twist to combat is the ability to shoot out windows in certain rooms, creating a vacuum that pulls every living thing in the room out of the window. If you position yourself correctly, you can use this mechanic to wipe out an entire room of enemies and still have a chance to shoot a key target that will close off the breach and leave you safely inside. It’s particular cool-looking and fun to do, but the opportunity doesn’t arise quite enough to make it a truly viable strategy throughout the game. And other than this, there aren’t many differences with the first game in combat, or consequently, strategy. When it comes to pure combat, if you’ve played the first Dead Space title, you’re going to eventually feel like you’ve played this game before.
The zero-gravity sequences return as well, though they will be a little less familiar. In the original Dead Space, you could only move in straight lines, pushing off of a wall towards a spot on another wall in a system that seems like it was borrowed from Ender’s Game. In Dead Space 2, however, you have complete maneuverability through space thanks to Clarke’s armor’s built-in propulsion system. This does create new possibilities and even offers a cool moment that takes place outside the station in open space, but I can’t help but feel like there’s something to be said for the limited mobility found in the first game’s zero-G mechanic, as it required an entirely different approach to solving those situations. It’s truly an apples-to-oranges comparison, though, and both have their advantages. The new mechanic certainly does not detract from the gameplay and is used well.
Dead Space 2, DS2, Review
The atmosphere from the original Dead Space is intact, and that is a very, very good thing. Many of the damaged hallways will look very familiar, but there are many new environments, such as a church-like area, a child day care, and several living quarters. Each of these creates new opportunities for particularly creepy moments. The sound design in particular is fantastic. You will always feel like something is happening somewhere, and the urge to look over your shoulder lingers. At no point do you truly feel safe. It is these aspects that really drive the fear factor in Dead Space 2, especially when they culminate in an enemy bursting into the scene out of nowhere. There are more than a few moments that will make you jump.
But while the atmosphere and the sound design mixed with the dismemberment combat mechanic creates quite the creepy setting, there are several missed opportunities that could have made this game a bit scarier. Because so many aspects of this game are similar to the original Dead Space, if you’ve played that, there won’t be many new scares in Dead Space 2. It will be very familiar, almost to the point of predictability. And while Clarke’s unstable mind and delusions offer some unique scares when they come into play, they become repetitive and present themselves in virtually the same way every time. And as the game progresses, enemies begin to come in droves, exchanging suspense for shooting galleries. The single-player campaign will last roughly 12 hours, but once you are a few hours in, you’ve probably seen everything, and much of the fear factor is gone save for a few moments. Much of this makes me yearn for the “less is more” approach. Dead Space 2 could have been much more frightening if the combat sequences occurred less often and were more dangerous and intimidating when they did come around, dispensing with the occasional throwaway “bang, bang, dead” enemy encounter. This would have nurtured the suspense and let the player be scared by what doesn’t happen while letting the imagination run wild, which is often much more effective and less predictable.
However, there is more to Dead Space 2 than the single-player campaign. This game marks the entry of multiplayer into the franchise. In this mode, each map consists of two teams, the humans versus the Necromorphs. The humans control in exactly the same way that Clarke controls in the single-player campaign, but the Necromorphs effectively add an entirely new dimension to the gameplay. The human team is given several mission objectives that vary between maps and a time limit to complete them. The Necromorphs simply want to keep the humans from completing their objectives until time expires. Humans can take more punishment, but Necromorphs can choose from a vast amount of spawn points in the form of grates, enabling them to appear precisely where the humans are each time. There is no accomplishing these objectives without teamwork, so while it can be frustrating to end up on a team with one or two players who are less concerned with completing missions objectives and more concerned with shooting things, it is equally as rewarding to find a team of people dedicated to working together towards the common cause, and it results in some exciting, nail-biting matches. Each map is played twice with teams swapping sides between matches, so no one will be stuck permanently as a human character or Necromorph. More multiplayer modes could have generated more replayability, but this mode easily remains fun for many hours, and is a surprisingly solid addition to the single-player campaign.
Dead Space 2, DS2, Review
While available on PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, it is the Playstation 3 version that carries with it more value at launch. The first printing of this version is considered the Limited Edition, and it includes an HD remake of the underrated on-rails shooter for the Nintendo Wii, 2009′s Dead Space Extraction, which serves as a prequel to the original Dead Space. The Playstation Move motion system controls this game in exactly the same way as the Wii version. The standard DualShock controller can be used as well, but motion controls are the much better choice in this case. What’s more is that this edition of Dead Space 2 does not cost any more, so if you’re planning on purchasing the game, it is worthwhile to do it sooner than later.
Dead Space 2 sticks to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” formula, and the majority of the gameplay is carried from the first title. Since the original was an excellent game in its own right, this is largely a good decision, though it does lose much of the awe-inspiring draw that the first game created through introducing these mechanics for the first time. There can often be too much of an emphasis on combat and sheer number of enemies which ultimately detracts largely from the game’s potential fear factor. Still, Dead Space 2 carries the torch of excellent atmosphere and incredible sound design from the franchise’s beginnings, and providing Isaac Clarke with a face and a voice creates a more personal identification with the protagonist and gives the narrative a bit more weight. Ultimately, Dead Space 2 is a great sequel to an excellent game, and proves that there is real value in expanding the franchise.
Matt Buckley, NoobFeed
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  • I have the copy of this game. Haven't just started playing it yet.

    Posted Mar 04, 2011


General Information

Dead Space 2


Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Developer(s): Visceral Games
Genres: Third-Person Shooter
Themes: Sci-Fi, Action, Horror
Release Date: 2011-01-25

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