Dead Space 2
Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
This review is Dead Space 2 spoiler-free
Let’s face it, the horror genre in video games lost their mojo after the first Silent Hill and Resident Evil games became the defacto nightmare makers. Sequels and new titles followed, but they never quite delivered the nail-biting experience developers and publishers promised us.
Many weren’t (and still aren’t) sure about the first Dead Space, a brand new horror game coming off EA’s Redwood Shore studio (now known as Visceral Games). It’s about a guy fighting for survival while shooting off the limbs of horrible monsters called Necromorphs. “Big deal” some might said. But it was much more than that. It was the story of Isaac Clarke, a simple engineer sent to investigate and repair the Ishimura, a mining ship gone missing for unexplained reasons. It ultimately ended up being linked to an illegal excavation of an ancient relic - known as The Marker - by the followers of the Church of Unitology on the planet Aegis VII. What happened next? The relic made the ship’s occupants go berserk, killing each other and reanimating their corpses into deadly, disgusting Necromorphs. You should understand that at that point, Clarke’s intentions were not only about survival, but destroying the relic and saving his stranded girlfriend Nicole as well. In fact, she was the main motivation behind Isaac’s willingness to go on the Ishimura in the first place. In the end, he makes it out alive, but the experience left him psychologically afflicted by The Marker and filled with remorse by the loss of his darling. Can I spoil a 2008 game? Seriously, I don’t know since there are still folks who haven’t played it yet. Anyway, Nicole dies. Matter of fact, she had been dead for some time when Isaac arrived on the Ishimura. Thing is, the Marker recognized the emotional link between the two and used her “image” to make Isaac its puppet. At least, until he learns the truth about Nicole via a recording; realizing that she was a figment of the relic’s dementia, and managing to destroy the diabolical item.
If I’ve lost you, I highly recommend picking up the first game (which can now be yours for less than $20 or less) or watch the little “Previously on Dead Space” video within the main menu, although the first option would be best. It will provide a better understanding and greater appretiation of this new chapter, which picks up three years after the Aegis VII incident. Here, an amnesic and scarred Isaac wakes up in a hospital on the Sprawl - a city orbiting Saturn - and called once again to fight for his life as a Necromorph outbreak happens. Another Marker you may ask?
I would be lying if I said that Dead Space 2 plays completely different than the first game. Aside from a few novelties, the sequel mainly banks on what made the first game a fun ride (the gory, ultra-violent and enjoyable action) all wrapped in a tragic and quite engaging storyline. Isaac has no super powers. Despite that, with his ability to survive what many couldn’t, we could say he must have a little “super hero” within. But the events on Aegis VII and the Ishimura didn’t spare him completely. He’s damaged goods. Thankfully, he will cross paths with various characters that, in their own way, will help him find out more about this new outbreak, even though he’s on the verge of losing his sanity altogether. Nicole still appears to him via hallucinations, taunting him with his survivor guilt but also, explaining how he can destroy the new Marker and “find peace”. Not only will Isaac be battling the Necromorphs, but he will also fight himself, trying to differentiate what’s real and what’s not.
Even though the story is more poignant this time around, combat remains the game’s key component. In between Zero-G sequences and small puzzle moments, Isaac has access to both new and returning weapons - which not only have a primary and secondary function - but also fully upgradeable. Whether its his trusty Plasma Cutter, the powerful Line Gun or the incredibly helpful Detonator, Necromorphs won’t stand a chance if used wisely. Throwing objects with Kinesis or slowing down enemies with Stasis (which now recharges on its own after a while) for easy limb severing is once again among the deadly offensive strategies you can pull off. Upgradable suits will also become available for purchase through the stores as the game progresses, each carrying special feats such as reducing damage received, increase the firepower of certain weapons or even reduce the cost of other items at the store. Visceral also gave Isaac physical tweaks, making him move around faster and melee better than in the previous game.
I remember when Visceral Games said a while back that the game would pack more action than the first. I’ve asked myself how can it be more action-packed without hurting the level of suspense? The combination of varied enemies and weapons, less backtracking and an improved Isaac is what makes Dead Space 2 different than its predecessor. Is the sequel easier than the first entry? Well, a Dead Space game wouldn’t be special if it didn’t carry different difficulty levels. Here again, the game’s set-up from Casual to Normal is quite different, limiting all helpful items and increasing the enemy’s difficulty. However, those who hated the first game’s “restrictiveness” will find this one a bit more welcoming mainly because - just like Isaac - you’ve been there before and know what you’ll be dealing with. Surviving and succeeding in Dead Space 2 comes by managing your inventory and upgrades carefully.
If for some odd and unexplainable reason this is your first encounter with Dead Space, its better to set your first playthrough at the Casual level. Not that Normal isn’t recommended, but since it isn’t your regular “Normal” and you can bring all upgraded weapons and items to your 2nd playthrough, its better if you give yourself a fighting chance. Wait until you get to try the “Survivalist” and “Zealot” modes or even “Hardcore”, with no checkpoints and only three save slots. Two words: Simply. Brutal.
Being a sequel of a late 2008 game, Dead Space 2 is striking. It doesn’t feature a groundbreaking visual overhaul, but definitely has something to applaud, particularly the high detailed Necromorph models and exterior environments. The heads-up display via holographic projections and the little details on Isaac’s suits are as genius as they were back then. Add to the equation a haunting Sprawl filled with disturbing sounds, unwelcoming lighting and jumpy instances. Mind you, Dead Space 2 won’t “scare the heck out of you” per say, but you’re still in for a treat, thanks to the excellent sound build and macabre set-up. If you have one of those surround-sound headsets, I highly recommend to play the game with them...with the lights off.
Improved game mechanics and visuals, new weapons and enemies, great story...is there anything wrong with Dead Space 2? Being a fan of the franchise (the first Dead Space and its Wii prequel Extraction), it was hard for me to find notable flaws during my first playthrough. Of course, just like in the first game, Dead Space 2’s linearity might be seen as a minus for some, but one thing that I’ve learned throughout my years as a game reviewer is that linearity could never hurt if the overall package is well delivered. The lack of exploration has never stopped an action game from being genius and enjoyable. In Dead Space 2’s case, Visceral pushes you forward continuously, makes you visit different environments (some more spooky than others) and toss all this new stuff at you - whether its a devastating new weapon or this disturbing new Necromorph - that all you want to see is what’s coming up next. Plus, even though it could have been developed further, Isaac’s characterization is both intriguing and sad. The more you advance, the more you really want to reach into your TV and give him a big hug!
However, if there was something unsatisfactory for me to pass on to you about Dead Space 2, it would be the brand new multiplayer mode. While I’ve spent many hours playing the different modes in both the beta and final build, it wasn’t as fulfilling as playing the single player twice. If you played Left 4 Dead, Bioshock 2 or the obscure Singularity, Dead Space 2’s online component won’t feel that new. A team of humans versus a team of Necromorphs battle each other in five adversarial objective-based modes. A levelling system with unlockables is also featured. Online players will find it somewhat interesting because of the Dead Space vibe, but will quickly rollback to their CODs, Halos, or other favorite online experiences. It’s a valiant effort from Visceral but not satisfying enough to maintain any staying power. Don’t get me wrong, playing with friends and fooling around is what often saves an average online experience from being abysmal one, so please, take my comments with a grain of salt.
A quick reminder about the Playstation 3 version, which comes with an HD remake of Dead Space Extraction, the aforementioned Wii prequel, with Playstation Move support. There’s not much to say since its the same game (which was our Best Wii game of 2009 and gathered an almost perfect score), only that it looks and controls better than the Wii version. Extraction for PS3 can also be played with a regular controller, but its not something I would go for unless I had to. If you have Move, never played Extraction and are interested on learning more about the Dead Space universe, picking up the PS3 version over the Xbox 360 version is recommended, especially since they both carry the same price tag. Who can say no to a free game, right? Alternatively, Extraction is also available as a separate digital purchase via PSN, if you absolutely need Dead Space 2 on the Xbox 360.
For me, Dead Space 2 is the definition of a “if its not broken, don’t fix it” type of game. A sequel that improves upon its predecessor without changing the winning formula, only improving upon it. With the incredible number of highly anticipated games releasing this year, I can’t guarantee this game will be a Game of the Year contender, but it definitely sets itself among the great experiences to be had in calendar 2011.
+ Amazing sound build, solid voice acting
+ Creepy and unsettling atmosphere
+ Begs to be replayed
+ Great story...
- Newcomers will find it challenging
- Lack of exploration might turn off some
- Multiplayer is a letdown
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Release Date : 2011/01/25
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : Visceral Games
Category : Action
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
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