Review: Dead Space 2, one of the best games in the genre

Awoken in a hospital with no idea of why he’s there, Isaac finds himself in another horrifying scenario. It’s been three years since the USG Ishimura incident, taking place in a huge mining vessel that served as a deathbed to Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole. The same Nicole who is now haunting Isaac, and messing with his already shattered mind, thanks to the Marker. The same alien artifact that was the catalyst for the initial Necromorph infestation. Isaac is now experienced, though, he’s been in this type of situation before, he’s fought these enemies, but what he isn’t ready for is that which is enclosed in his own mind. This is Dead Space 2.

Let’s start off by answering the big question, does Dead Space 2 lose the appeal that made the first game a survival horror classic? No, it doesn’t, not one bit. With this sequel Visceral Games has kept their promise on delivering a game that fans can approve of, while introducing action-packed set pieces into the mix. It all comes together into one beast of a game. But, let’s take a look at exactly why this is the case.

For starters, Dead Space 2 does a good job of following up on the ending of the original game. At the beginning of this sequel we’re treated to a nice piece of dialogue between Nicole and Isaac, taking place way back when Isaac’s now deceased lover first got the job on the Ishimura. This does a good job of setting up the plot, because as you may have seen from all the various videos for this game, Nicole may be dead but she’s still haunting Isaac.

It’s not all old faces in Dead Space 2’s yarn, though. We do get to meet some new, and interesting, characters. The most notable one of which is Ellie which channels almost a female version of Isaac, and I can’t help but want them both to continue on facing Necromorph threats in future installments. We also get to meet Nolan Stross who’s quite an interesting character. I won’t delve into his inner-workings, but I will say that he represents what Isaac would become if he had no self-control. What could Isaac possibly become? You might ask.

The events that transpired on the Ishimura in the original Dead Space have left Isaac mentally damaged, almost insane. As aforementioned, he’s still haunted by the loss of Nicole and it’s this emotional weakness that drives his insanity ever onwards. Right from the beginning of the game we see this all play out once Isaac wakes up in a hospital. He’s lost 3 years of his life being hospitalized on the Saturn-orbiting Sprawl, where the game takes place. And trust me, you’ll definitely want to know what happened in those 3 lost years. But, of course, no spoilers here.

This insanity that our protagonist faces also carries over to the actual game-play, with hallucinations and other scripted moments that signify Isaac’s continued descent into madness. You can probably guess that the Marker is at the center of this all and you’ll be right to do so.

Once the credits roll fans, and newcomers, will get some answers in regards to the Marker, but don’t expect to have all of your questions tended to. That’s why there’s sequels, duh. I have to say, though, I was a bit disappointed with the game’s final boss encounter. This isn’t to say that it was poorly designed or “cheap” as people like to call them, far from it. I was just expecting something more, especially after facing the Hive Mind at the end of the first game. I was definitely satisfied by the game’s ending, though, and trust me, this may be a horror game but if you played the first game then you can’t help but laugh in the end scene before the credits.

The overall narrative is also enlightened thanks to Isaac finally being able to speak his mind. No, he isn’t a non-stop chatterbox, instead, he speaks naturally and won’t make any annoying or unrealistic (in terms of the scenario) remarks. If it wasn’t for this activation of his voice-box, the game would’ve felt a bit bland in terms of character and story. Thankfully, Visceral has found a way to make the once-silent protagonist a real human being with emotion, and one that players can sympathize with.

Sure, this all paints a beautiful picture for the game in terms of story, but how does it actually play? And is the Sprawl worthy enough to rival the horrors faced on the Ishimura? Well, I’m glad you asked.

From the cluastrophia-inducing corridors of the Ishimura, to the confines of Saturn’s moon-based Sprawl. Dead Space 2’s massive colony doesn’t lose any of the atmospheric brilliance that was initially found aboard the gargantuan mining vessel. Here, we have varying locales within the Sprawl that we’ll get to explore, as well as a nice little surprise which will definitely make fans happy.

The school setting has to be one of the most notable ones as well as the Church of Unitology which we get to explore, and also learn about thanks to the level being designed as  a sort of tour, with Necromorphs serving as your guides, of course. Dead Space 2 doesn’t fail to impress with its environments and it’s worth noting how it’s visually pleasing to see all sorts of colors paint the places Isaac goes through in this game, moving away from the heavily brown-toned, industrial Ishimura. But what’s a collection of awesome environments without any baddies to exterminate?

Luckily, Visceral has upped the ante in terms of the amount of Necromorphs Isaac faces at a given time. Seriously, they’re just relentless in Dead Space 2, it’ll make you wish you were back on the Ishimura. The reason being, with vast and much more open environments you’ll get even more incoming hordes. Another neat thing that’s new here is the ability to, in certain rooms, be able to blast through glass and let all enemies get sucked out into space. This doesn’t mean you’re automatically safe, though, seeing as how you’ll be prompted to shoot a switch that will save you from falling into space yourself by sealing the opening. This adds even more strategy to getting rid of the Necromorphs and it’s also a very welcome addition.

While the plasma cutter and other weapons from the original game make a return, as well as old Necromorphic friends, Dead Space 2 adds new forms of enemies and new weapons to dismember them with as well.

Using the, now classic, plasma cutter works just how you remember it, with it’s alternate fire and everything. You’ll also feel right at home utilizing the pulse rifle and other previous weapons, but you’ll be happy to know there’s some new and satisfying additions to the arsenal. One of the highlights of said arsenal is the javelin gun, which works just how it sounds. It shoots out a javelin, impaling any unlucky Necromorph standing in front of it. It also has a nifty alternate use which works to complement the initial javelin-shot by sending a wave of electricity through your enemies. And trust me, this will definitely come in handy, especially against one of the new enemies, the pack.

This new addition to the franchise’s rogues gallery consists of small children who just love attacking in large groups. Not only are they relentless, but once you dispose of them they let off a very disturbing screech which solidifies them as one of the most scariest foes in the franchise. And come on, just the fact that you’re plowing through little kids should be disturbing enough, right? But wait! It gets worse, or better depending on who you ask (you sick people). Isaac also encounters little baby necromorphs. The lurker is no longer the cutest critter in this universe, that accolade now goes to these new suicidal babies, or crawlers, that explode upon contact. Oh, and I absolutely have to mention the stalker.

This new charging beast lives up to its namesake. It peeks around corners and attacks in a very smart, and highly tension-inducing manner. They proved to be the scariest enemies in the game for me, due to the fact that they just come rushing at you from unexpected places, even though you can hear them around. Stasis is your friend against these guys. You’re welcome.

The Puker also deserves being mentioned and he’s another Necromorph that lives up to its name. He’s a foe that has his own form of stasis, with it being his…puke. This adds even more diversity among the Necromorphs, and also adds much more strategy if you’re playing the game’s multiplayer mode as him. Yes, for those living under a Leviathan-sized rock, Dead Space 2 has multiplayer and it’s pretty damn good.

When news first broke that Visceral would be adding multiplayer in Dead Space 2 I thought to myself, ” as long as they don’t lose focus of the single player mode, I’m fine”. Thankfully, fans of the franchise can rest easy and they can enjoy one hell of a multiplayer mode that adds even more to the experience, instead of degrading the game’s solo mode.

If you’ve played the Dead Space 2 multiplayer beta then you’re going to feel comfortable getting into the swing of things here. This game’s multiplayer consists of objective-based matches between humans and Necromorphs. Playing as the humans is just how you’d expect it to be. you’re all playing as generic engineers and your tasked to not only complete each map’s specific objective(s), but also take out any sign of Necromorph life standing in your way. Playing as the opposing side is as fun and chaotic as you’d desired it to be.

You can pick from a nice selection of Necromorphs to play as, ranging from the classic lurker to the freshly added pack. You’ll definitely find one that fits your tastes and mastering them will definitely be rewarding. You might be wondering how it feels like playing as the Necromorphs, since obviously they aren’t equipped with weapons like the humans are. Fortunately, that doesn’t take away from the satisfaction you’ll get from pulling off executions on opponents and just from the fact that you’re playing as the threat trying to induce fear in your enemies.

Dead Space 2’s multiplayer actually adds fear into the mix, especially in maps with very tight corridors. So if you found the relentless hordes of enemies in the single-player mode as not that intimidating, you’ll find that (when controlled by strategic players) you’ll be quite tense as you try to gain the upper hand on the Necromorphs in the multiplayer mode where they’ll just pop up (spawn) from shafts when you least expect them to.

I could ramble on and on about the game’s multiplayer mode and how it surprised me by actually turning out to be addictive and satisfying, but I will say one thing. This is definitely a mode that fans will see themselves coming back to long after they’ve seen the credits of their initial Dead Space 2 playthough and possibly even after they’ve already reached the level cap and gained all the upgrades, weapons, and suits. It’s just that good. Here’s hoping for some awesome DLC, possibly maybe Ishimura levels?

Thus far, you’ve been reading nothing but positive aspects of Dead Space 2, so you may be asking, is there anything faulty with the game? Well, yes, but those things are miniscule when compared to everything else which is flat-out amazing.

Like I mentioned previously, the last boss fight left a little to be desired, but it does provide a good amount of closure for Isaac’s immediate arc. And speaking of boss fights, there aren’t really many of them at all. Especially not any as memorable as the two enormous major bosses from the original game. This isn’t to say you won’t enjoy the bosses that are here, it just would’ve been nice to see some set-pieces revolving around bosses,though.

Another small negative, or huge depending on how you look at it, is that the game isn’t as creepy as the original. What we do get here, though, are intense moments where you’re constantly on your toes with your plasma cutter (or other tool) ready to shoot. It’s still survival horror though thanks to the notion of having to surviving the once human Necromorphs as they attack you in hordes, and really they do attack you from all sides. And there are also some cheap scares thrown into the mix, but they’re scripted so once you beat the game once and commence a second play-through, they’re not as effective as they initially were.

Regardless of those small drawbacks, Dead Space 2 proves to be one of the best titles in its genre. From the slightly revamped controls to the totally revamped zero-g sections, which now enable free movement, to the breath-taking set pieces which includes a moving train and a giant vehicle scene that will bring back memories of a certain section in Resident Evil 4, Dead Space 2 delivers on all fronts. Right from the beginning of the game where Isaac wakes up in a hospital scene akin to the intros to horror classics like The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later all the way till you get to the end, Dead Space 2 is a non-stop roller-coaster that just keep delivering thrill upon thrill. Visceral got it right with this sequel, now I can’t wait to see what they give us in the inevitable threequel. So to answer a question I posed last year, yes, Dead Space 2 rivals those amazing survival horror sequels that we adore. Now, new game plus is calling.

10 out of 10 stars (10 / 10)

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