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Review: Dead Space 2

Saturday, March 5th, 2011 by

I’ll put it out there right now: Dead Space 2 unnerved the hell out of me. I’m not sure exactly why the game affected me so much; either I’ve become soft in my old age or, more likely, it’s just more terrifying than the original. Either way, Dead Space 2 is perhaps the best game I’ve ever played that I didn’t really want to play.

And that’s only because the first one was so damn creepy. Sure, 2008′s Dead Space was the quintessential update to the survial-horror-action formula established by Resident Evil 4, but it was tough for me to play at times. I mean that as a testament to how genuinely horrifying Dead Space was.

Even with the memory of the first game still fresh in my mind, Dead Space 2 somehow managed to give me more anxiety than the first, which is no small feat. There were times, more than I care to admit, where it became prudent to just put the controller down for a while, walk away, and breathe for a bit. Lucky for yours truly, no pants were soiled in the playing of this game, but I confess that the little girl in me wanted to freak out.

The opening events of Dead Space 2 waste no time in making you feel panicked, and just when you catch a break from the intense introduction, the dread begins its slow roll as you are plunged once again into Isaac Clarke’s struggle against the abominable.

Taking place after the events on the Ishimura, Isaac finds himself this time in an urban sector known whimsically as “The Sprawl”. The setting allows for all kinds of new scares (that’s not to say there’s any shortage of cheap ones) and despite traversing a city, you still feel very much alone as you blast your way through hordes of necromorphs.

Speaking of necromorphs, they’re back (naturally) and they’re more grotesque than ever. Necromorphs are pretty much what they sound like: human corpses reanimated and hideously deformed by alien infection, whose sole purpose is to create more dead people to infect. They were gnarly in the first game and they’re even nastier this time around. There are plenty of old familiars and a good variety of new breeds, like the velociraptorian Stalkers and twisted little Crawlers (creepy little buggers who might resemble human infants were it not for that explosive, fleshy sac).

Much like the last game, you’re encouraged to “strategically dismember” the limbs of your attackers. This is the best, most effective way to put them down. Dead Space originally taught us to unlearn the headshot, and aiming for limbs is still the ticket to conserving ammo in Dead Space 2. However, the importance of dismemberment feels diminished this time; many weapons seem to deal plenty of damage even when hitting the torso. It’s nothing worth complaining about, though. It just goes to show that perhaps the novelty has worn away a little.

Shooting is at the core of Dead Space 2, and the controls are expertly designed to make it as painless as possible. Like Dead Space before it, Dead Space 2 showcases some of the most logical controls you could ask for in a third-person shooter. Performing situational actions is easy thanks to the controls’ intuitive layout, although it may take some practice if you never played the first one.

Isaac has a lot of cool weapons at his disposal. They’re all fairly different and finding the right combination that works for you can be fun. Your trusty fall-back weapon will always be the plasma cutter, which can cut both horizontally and vertically (useful for hacking off legs and arms, respectively), but there are others that work better in the right situation.

Review: Dead Space 2

For example, the Ripper will allow you to continuously saw away at adjacent enemies, and the Force Gun will blast a large area with tremendous, uh, force, pushing back larger enemies and obliterating smaller ones. There are plenty of new armaments in Dead Space 2 along with a good selection of more familiar stuff, and every weapon has an alternate firing mode to help round out your options. Isaac also has his trusty stasis and kinesis modules, which can be used to solve the game’s few environmental puzzles.

With the ability to respec (or, move all of your upgrade nodes from one weapon to another) you can easily test out all the weapons at their full potential. This is a welcome improvement over the first game, where you were pretty much locked into improving one or two weapons over a single playthrough.

Isaac Clarke is no longer a silent protagonist; he’s been given a voice and Dead Space 2 does a nice job of fleshing out his character. You’ll develop an earnest attachment to Isaac as you guide him through his nightmarish journey. Isaac suffers from a mysterious form of dementia, and throughout the game you’ll be startled with eerie, unsettling hallucinations. These visions are always nerve-racking and hit when least expected, and they’re as puzzling as they are freaky.

Dead Space 2 is polished to a high standard; graphics and animations are clean and very lifelike. The game’s fearsome environments are made even more spooky when illuminated by your paltry flashlight. The architecture of The Sprawl is imaginative and totally believable, which is especially impressive in zero gravity zones. Speaking of zero G, you’re given more freedom this time around; thanks to your boot thrusters, you can freely navigate through space in all directions. It’s still disorienting as hell, but hey. It’s outer space.

Review: Dead Space 2

Special mention should be made of Dead Space 2′s sound, which is used to brilliant effect. Sound is the very foundation of what makes Dead Space 2 so supremely unsettling. Every noise feels like an omen, and you’ll never feel at ease thanks to Dead Space 2′s creepy, relentless ambiance. Much criticism has been leveled at Dead Space for being more of an action shooter than survival horror, but it’s all a bunch of smoke. When it comes to conveying a horrific sense of struggle, Dead Space 2 is most definitely the real deal.

Once you’ve tired of playing solo, you can try out Dead Space 2′s multiplayer, provided you have an online pass. The pass is free if you picked the game up new, otherwise you’ll have to fork over 800 Microsoft points or $9.99 USD, depending on your preferred network. I wouldn’t recommend paying for the online privilege since the multiplayer mode is relatively lean. Matches pit a team of engineers against a team of necromorphs, and while it’s entertaining to rip up some unsuspecting dudes with your creepy necromorph of choice, it gets old fast. It’s fun, sure, but it’s short-lived fun and decidedly not worth ten bucks.

Dead Space 2 represents the most terrifying experience currently available on console, and one of the most powerful entries ever in the survival horror genre. Few games can evoke the same caliber of dread as Dead Space 2, and those that do just aren’t as fun to play. Visceral Games has succeeded in creating a masterpiece that outshines its predecessor in every way, and if you’re searching for the perfect scare, look no further than Dead Space 2.

We feel our scores are accurate in reflecting a game’s general satisfaction of play but understand that some might prefer to see a more detailed explanation of our rating system. Click here to learn more about our game rating methodology.

Platforms: PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360 | PC

Note that the PlayStation 3 version of Dead Space 2 comes with a bonus copy of Dead Space: Extraction, an HD port of the Wii game of the same name. That’s a hell of a deal if you ask us.

About the Author

Mark A. Brooks uses the A. initial in his name so as to seperate himself from the teeming legions of other Mark Brookses (there are at least 65,000 in the state of Michigan alone). Keep up with him on twitter, because why not. @unoriginalG

Mark A. Brooks has written 642 posts on Delta Attack
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  • Markham Asylum

    Sounds totally awesome. I loved both Resident Evil 4 and the first Dead Space, and this seems to be an upgrade over what was already a solid game.

    Groovy on the respec thing; there were indeed weapons I barely used in the first game.

    • mulletsaurus

      Respec is one of the nicer tweaks, it costs some money but lets you experiment with weapons you might normally ignore.

  • http://www.bubbsnugg.com Snugg

    I never thought anything would top silent hill for creeptastic sound effects until dead space 2.

    • mulletsaurus

      Can’t unhear.

  • Markham Asylum

    I just finished it. Man, it really is even creepier than the first one. Not to the point that I ever stopped playing it for any reason other than running out of time, but it sure did scare the Bejeezers out of me. Great story, too.