Review: Dead Space 2

2011/01/28 22:57:47 +00:00 | Jonathan James

Dead Space 2 has everything that a good sequel should. It has more of what you liked, improves upon what lacked, and still manages to throw in some surprises here and there. Visceral Games could have very easily pumped out cookie cutter sequels for years, but instead took the extra time to create a sequel that exceeds the first Dead Space in every way.

The original Dead Space left Isaac Clarke’s fate uncertain, but rest assured, he’s doing just fine… well, as fine as someone can be who survived a necromorph outbreak. So, maybe Isaac isn’t in the best mental health, but that isn’t going to stop him from doing everything he can to stay alive and stop necromorphs from spreading.

The game starts off 3 years after the events of the first game, with Isaac in a medical facility on the Sprawl, a civilian space station located near Saturn. Unlike the first game, Dead Space 2’s story is on a much bigger scale and the setting of the game helps give you that large feel. While there are plenty of tight corridors and passageways to sneak along, you’ll also see more open areas and get a better feel for the world this game takes place in.

Of course, the necromorphs expand to the Sprawl and no one is prepared to handle the amount of civilians that are almost instantly converted into hideous creatures…. except for Isaac Clarke. Very quickly you are thrust into the middle of the chaos going on at the station, and have to stay alive to destroy a marker that has emerged on the Sprawl and is responsible for the necromorph outbreak.

Everything about the game feels more polished. Graphically, Dead Space 2 is impressive and the level design is much more varied than the original game. Without going into spoilers, you’ll see indoor areas, outdoor areas, shopping centers, caves, and more. Many of these areas have their own unique design and color theme which really helps keep things fresh.

The mission designs also feel much tighter than the original game. Previously, there would be a lot of back and forth running around, which would become tiresome. Now, missions rarely ask you to return to the same area you’ve been to and the game follows a more linear path. This helps give the game a more cinematic experience and also allows the developers to better plan scripted scares and events.

The creatures and scares are very well done, as they were in the first game. Throughout most of the game, the developers have specific scripted scares that will trigger, in many cases, when you least expect them. The scares are so effective because they rarely use the same scare twice. There are over a dozen creature types, and the developers come up with multiple ways to scare you including darkness, fog, strobe lights, images flashing on the screen, screams and more.

The weapon, item, and upgrade system isn’t horrible by any means, but this feels like the area that is least polished. It carries over much of the same from the original Dead Space, including the workbench upgrades, inventory system, and unique weapons. The problem I have is that the upgrade system forces you to waste credits and power nodes to upgrade slots that provide no value to your character. I also feel that you are limited a little too much by what you can carry to get comfortable experimenting with all weapons. This is something that the development team should look at for future games to improve the item and upgrade experience.

The weapons themselves are fun to experiment with, but you could also use your trusty plasma cutter the entire way through. Shooting or slicing the limbs off necromorphs never gets old and you’ll have fun coming up with new ways to take out your enemies.

The zero-g system has received a bit of an overhaul and this new system is much more enjoyable. I rather disliked the movement in zero-g in the original game and they have fixed that up and given you more control with your thrusters.

Depending on your level of skill and difficulty setting, Dead Space 2 could take anywhere from 6 – 12 hours to complete. I finished my first play through in about 7.5 hours and didn’t feel like the game was over too quickly or dragged on. Those interested in re-playability will be happy to know that the game does unlock different difficulty settings after you beat the game, offers new suits to purchase, and allows you to carry over unlocked items.

Dead Space 2 also features a multiplayer component, which was not a feature of the first game. The multiplayer game splits players into two teams and allows you to play as humans or necromorphs in a game type that is similar to team deathmatch on a first person shooter. I had fun for the little bit I played, but just considered this icing on the cake. The multiplayer mode is unlikely to keep me coming back, but it is a nice extra that they included and some may enjoy it more than others.

Overall, Dead Space 2 succeeds on multiple levels and gives Dead Space fans more of what they wanted and then some. It easily out-classes most survival horror games and many games in general. The level of polish and attention to detail should be commended and I am glad to see that Visceral Games put the extra time into making the game the best it could, rather than rush a sequel out the door.

If you are a fan of the original Dead Space game, picking this one up is a no brainer. I can’t imagine anyone that would love the original and not love this. If you like survival horror games, you’re going to have a lot of fun with this as well, as long as you like the sci-fi setting. For horror and sci-fi movie fans, this is part Alien, part Event Horizon, and part The Thing. If that sounds good to you, at the very least, give the demo a try. The only reason I wouldn’t recommend this game is if I thought someone couldn’t handle it. I have a few friends that won’t touch horror games because they get too scared. If that sounds like you, maybe you should pass. Otherwise, I highly recommend this game and look forward to seeing what the developers can do in Dead Space 3.

Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Score: 4.5/5