Dead Space 2 is a survival horror game, depending on how easily you are frightened. The bulk of Dead Space 2 is made up shooting your way through hordes of enemy Necromorph monsters that are constantly tracking you at every turn. Based in the third person you will control the protagonist, Issac Clarke. An engineer with mysterious ties to the Necromorph alien infestation. Ultimately directed at shooter and survival horror fans with the a distinct taste for the macabre.
Death and despair never looked so good – Dead Space 2 is a great all around package. While playing for the first time I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is a game for gamers. Firing up Dead Space for the first time you notice that no details were spared in the graphics department. It’s just my opinion, but as I reviewed this game for the Xbox 360, I distinctly recall thinking to myself several times ” I am now playing the best looking game that has ever been on this console. 2011 Woohoo.” Exactly those thoughts. Your character model and his “rigs” are extremely detailed, the environments are as well. But where Dead Space 2 really shines in the graphics are on the levels that take you outside of the Sprawl. These missions produce amazing results from the graphics engine.
Varied 3rd Person Gameplay – The bulk of the gameplay is done in the third person, if not all of the gameplay. Moving from area to area just waiting for something to pop up and give you a tension filled battle. The game has a lot of this. This tension. The whole game you are constantly scrounging for ammo, health packs, stasis refills, and anything else that will help you get a leg up on the necromorphs. And while the gunplay might be the primary means of dispatchment for most enemies, there’s alot that goes into even the smallest battles. Stasis can slow down your enemy’s movements and you can use a magnetic field to grab environmental objects and hurl them at your enemies. Similar to the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. The battles are tense, and when you aren’t battling anything it’s tense just because of the anticipation that builds. You will certainly be aiming down your sites when entering a new room, and if you don’t do it at the onset of the game, you will be by the end.
Mixed in throughout is the constant reminder of your atmosphere. Space. Zero Gravity chambers will relay a completely awesome gravity effect on the environment where objectives must be completed to progress. Of the many cool things about Dead Space 2 this is easily the coolest. External sound is drowned out, you can hear the sound of your breath and heartbeat, bodies and debris float throughout, it’s a neat experience.
For the most part the game is broken down into these two types of gameplay. The gravity based and zero gravity segments, and tying them together are some neat interactive set pieces. And I suppose neat is a bit of a bland word for them. The set pieces in Dead Space 2 are some of the best I’ve ever seen and will leave you mouth open saying “woah that was amazing”. But it’s all taken in stride, these set instances are plenty in Dead Space 2. There are quite a few of these moments throughout the campaign.
Bringing gruesome deaths to life – Many games have attempted to do the trick of making dying cool. But not many have succeeded at the level that Dead Space 2 has. In the 13 hours or so that it took me to beat the game, I died literally a hundred times if not more. In that time, I can say that I saw the same death animations only a handful of times. They all have these scripted parts that somehow flow together with you trying to escape by pressing A. Sometimes you succeed, and other times the aliens overwhelm you. This leads to a bloody dismemberment that is never for the faint of heart.
Single player stands on its own – It’s in my opinion that Dead Space 2 could have easily stood on it’s own offering just a single player campaign. There’s a ton to do and see in the single player mode of the game. The main story is somewhat linear but what isn’t linear is how you build your character from the ground up through workbenches and stores. While clearing out the infestation you will be picking up power nodes, which unlock points in your tech tree. You can level up guns, your suit, and your stasis, making you stronger in some ways more than others depending on which nodes you choose to unlock. It can make each playthrough on Dead Space 2 quite a different experience. Finishing the game on normal difficulty will give you the ability to go on to harder levels like Hardcore Mode where as like it’s title says, is certainly hardcore. Giving you only 3 saves the entire game, yeah I’m not trying it anytime soon. The normal difficulty was hard enough as it is.
But wait there’s more – Dead Space 2 has a fully featured multiplayer component as well. This incorporation can have varying effects for games. In some cases it produced Bioshock 2’s multiplayer, which is an applauded effort but doesn’t quite hit the mark. In others you get something like an Assassin’s Creed 2 where the new features are a breath of refreshing air. Dead Space 2 falls somewhere in between the two. The multiplayer is good, and I really like it a lot. However, it’s not great by any means and is somewhat derivative of Left 4 Dead. The multiplayer is objective based survival gameplay pitting four engineers against four necromorphs. There are five levels in all and it’s certainly a welcome addition to the game. Standard multiplayer fare is all there. A class based leveling system with unlockable guns and suits will distinguish you from the competition. And a couple of heated rounds of multiplayer will definitely have you coming back for more because it’s a change of pace for most gamers. Alot less of what you are used to is in Dead Space 2’s multiplayer and I have to admit it is a good time. Although, I’m not too sure what type of longevity the mode has.
Still on the fence – The controls in Dead Space 2 I felt we’re a mixed bag of outstanding all the way down to horrible. For instance with things like shooting, very important in a shooting game, the controls are spot on. You can accurately and brutally dismember your enemies with your plasma cutter and it’s great fun. But then there are things like the sluggish movement of Issac and it’s detrimental impact during an encounter that requires you to be on the move. At the very least you should be able to move and the best way to describe the movement of your character in Dead Space 2 is sluggish. Of course this can partly be attributed to Issac’s slow movement when injured, which you will playing the game from an injured state at around half of the time for lack of weapons and items drops.
And speaking about something in your way, the physics in Dead Space 2 are a mixed bag as well. It’s probably a tough call the developers make when designing a game. Do we leave all of the body parts on the board to give the area a sense of what just took place or do they disappear. It’s a rough challenge because as it is in Dead Space 2, after killing an enemy in any board ,the body, limbs and all remain in the environment. It’s a cool effect but sometimes, not always, you get the floppy limbs syndrome where these body parts will flop around as if somewhat still alive. And depending on how many things you just fought you can have a huge pile of these at any point and it can also impede your progress if needing to get out of there quickly.
Oh, what you do for love – At it’s core Dead Space 2 is more a story about love, than it is about aliens or space. This is a very different and unique path to take in the development process for Dead Space 2. It’s also very risky. Issac is constantly propelled through the story by visions of a lost loved one, but no real development of the story behind this makes an emotional attachment to the gamer. So while it may be progressing the narrative of the story, it’s not further developing anything for the end user. A few flashback sequences I think could have worked wonders here. Where you saw why Issac loves this person so much, why he feels guilty for her death, would have ultimately helped in driving home the real story here.
Too many items for a single playthrough – Aside from the story aspects of the game that I didn’t quite get, there were a few other problems that I didn’t like about Dead Space 2. There are a bunch of items and unlockables found throughout the game but unfortunately you don’t get much of a chance to use them. Rigs found throughout the campaign are priced so ridiculously that it’s suicide to forgo health and ammo to buy the new equipment. As the enemies strengthen in the latter half of Dead Space 2, you will find yourself very low on munitions and health at nearly every step. Making any store you encounter a chance to refill ammo and other very necessary supplies. Thinking of buying a suit or new weapon is an afterthought, and the game never really gives you a chance to do this.
Less scary than the original – Of the things I hated most about Dead Space 2, I really wanted to be scared by this game. Sadly, it’s just not the case. There’s not enough of the creepy instances throughout the game that make it as scary as it’s predecessor. Is it macabre? Yes. There is a ton of gory details throughout the game. And there is a very clear distinction between the Sprawl and USG Ishimura. Both are in Dead Space 2 and the Ishimura is easily the more creepy of the two, but you aren’t there very long. It’s a sad state of affairs when in a survival horror game the thing that scared you the most was a card board popup sun. And this might not make sense right now, but trust me, it will.
Staying Alive -When you take the horror out of a survival horror game, you have a survival game. And in this game surviving is a frustrating experience. Not frustrating because of anything more than Dead Space 2 is a hard game. You are constantly set at check points with little to no energy and ammunition. What this leads to are a ton of deaths and continues. With very little room for error in most instances this is the sort of game that the word hardcore gamer exists for. Not many will have the wherewithal to play a level or portion of a level 30 or more times to get it right. But if you are in the sadist segment of gamers that really truly like a challenge, Dead Space 2 is going to rock your socks because it certainly is difficult. I played the game on Normal the first time and it was hard, Hard was a foolish endeavor, and I don’t even want to think about the Hardcore mode.
Jaded -With it being a hard game, it easy to get jaded and not really enjoy some of the good parts of the game down the stretch. There are some amazing graphics to be seen but it’s all pretty much of a blur for the simple fact that you are either running for your life or just firing eratically hoping to hit something and stay alive for a few more moments.
The Verdict : All in all, I loved Dead Space 2. It’s a bloody “visceral” experience that won’t soon be forgotten. Amazing graphics, unforgettable sequences, and tension that you can cut with a knife make Dead Space 2 one of the best single player experiences I have played in quite some time. Add in a equally tense, great looking, and fully featured multiplayer component and you have got yourself one hell of a game here. Dead Space 2 reinvented itself very well, and I am curious to see what they do in Dead Space 3. When a game is this good you can believe it’s coming.