Dead Space 2ESRB:
Number of players 1-8
Some may call it “Strategic Dismemberment,” others might call it “Gratuitous Violence.” Whatever the case may be, Dead Space is back with even more slicing and severing of limbs than ever before. The original Dead Space game was without question one of my favourite games from 2008. The single player campaign had me hooked and left me ‘jumpy’ for weeks on end. So needless to say, the sequel has some big shoes to fill considering not only the success of its predecessor, but my own expectations, which were admittedly inflated. So does the sequel surpass or even measure up to the original?
On its own, Dead Space 2 is great looking game and very much on par with other ‘Triple A’ titles already out on the market. The detailed visuals create a disturbing and horrific sci-fi feeling just as they did the first time around. Much of that unsettling feeling from the original Dead Space game is back and much of that has to do the overall look of the gruesome interior of the setting. Everything from the stunning lighting effects to the character designs of our hero and the horrific enemies are fantastic and serve as a terrific benchmark for survival horror games. Yet somehow I still expected more.
My biggest issue with the game's visuals is it comes across as a little too much of the ‘same old.’ I am sure Dead Space 2 received many visual enhancements. In fact EA tells us it received a glut of visual enhancements; however, I have to admit it sure does look very similar to its predecessor. This is not necessarily a bad thing as Dead Space was a great looking game. Nevertheless, I expected a little more variety when it came to the environments and maybe a little more originality to boot. At the end of the day, the tight corridors, hallways and metallic rooms have you feeling like you never left the Ishimura (the space ship where the original game took place). Dead Space 2 takes place on a planet (the “Sprawl” that orbits Saturn) but far too often it doesn't feel like it.
Despite having too much of the appearance of the original Dead Space game, the sequel still delivers in the visual department. The lighting effects simply make the game chilling as sequences where the power shuts down and lights start flicking will leave the hairs on the back of your neck standing. Also, trying to find your way around a dark room with only a flash light is tense and unforgiving, yet it enhances that claustrophobic feeling. I should mention there are many areas that can be a little too dark; however, the game does allow you to adjust your brightness, which helps in some of these areas.
The characters, including our main hero Isaac Clarke, look great and are similar in quality to those characters seen in Mass Effect 2. Isaac’s new and improved space suits also look slick. The detail is sharp and fans of the franchise will be pleased. Additionally, the integrated elements such as the health bar and stasis meter displayed on the back of Isaac’s suit give the game even more realism. Just like its predecessor, in Dead Space 2 there is no permanent on-screen HUD to take away from the action on screen. In addition to viewing your health on the back of Isaac’s suit as you play in third person view, a clean looking holographic interface keeps information such as your weapons, ammo, number of health packs and other odds and sods nicely organized. For those new to the franchise it will take some getting used to but the result is a more realistic and suspenseful environment.
What is a Dead Space game without some freaky and deadly creatures? Dead Space 2 has a plethora of these in varying sizes and they look gruellingly fantastic and revolting at the same time. There are some new ones added to the mix this time around as well; but there are also plenty of creatures that will be familiar to those who played the original game. Hacking off limbs and the “strategic dismemberment” aspects of the game are just as enjoyable as they have ever been. Much of this has to do with the way blood literally gushes everywhere after you slice off a limb. The effect is awesome not to mention addictive and yes your mom will hate this game.
As with the visuals, the sound in Dead Space 2 is stellar. Even at a low volume, so I didn't wake my daughter with horrific screeching sounds, I was amazed at how great the game sounded. For starters, the musical score is spot on. It is perfectly suited to the game and gives Dead Space 2 a Hollywood blockbuster feeling. As good as the game's soundtrack is, the in-game sound effects are just as incredible and had me jolting in my seat on a regular basis. There is nothing more unnerving than listening to some creature in the next room as you make your way towards your impending doom.
Other sound effects in the game are equally impressive. Sounds of creatures screaming, weapons firing, body limbs dragging along the ground, blood gushing to such details as Isaac breathing are just a few great examples of how the developers in the audio department paid close attention to every little facet in the game. The results are fantastic and lends to an atmosphere of pure horror. The voice-over work is also pretty good. I found the voice actors work not only compelling but also very believable. Overall I have no major concerns with the game's total sound package and I am left with the opinion that not much could have been done to make it any better.
Set three years after the Isaac Clarke’s struggle for survival aboard the USG Ishimura, Dead Space 2 has you taking on the role of Isaac Clarke once again. Isaac is a space engineer who works for the Concordance Extraction Corporation (C.E.C), a company that operates giant mining ships throughout the galaxy. In Dead Space 2 Isaac finds himself on the “Sprawl,” which is a metropolis planet of sorts orbiting Saturn. The plague of Necromorphs that came from Aegis VII aboard the Ishimura, where Isaac first battled them, is now on the Sprawl. While Isaac battles his own demons and mental health issues, he must survive the horrors that await him as battles back to safety and discovers the mystery behind the Sprawls' infection on the metropolis.
Overall, I found the story to be only somewhat compelling. It just didn’t grab me or capture my imagination as much as Dead Space did in 2008; however, it is easy to follow and was not a convoluted storyline like we typically see in other survival horror games. I am looking at you Alan Wake. In any event, Isaac continues to be a character you root for even when his mind has a tendency to get the best of him. Throughout the game I often questioned what was real or imagined and this kept the storyline afloat for the most part. There are times where I felt the story somewhat dragged on; however, this may be likely due to my obsessive need to listen to every audio clip and search every nook and cranny for cash, ammo and other items. Nevertheless, Dead Space 2 story is good and contains an ending that will not disappoint.
Dead Space 2 remains a third person shooter much like the Resident Evil and Gears of War games where you get a good look at the back of the character you are playing. There are a total of 15 chapters in the game and it will take you anywhere from 13-17 hours to complete them all. The sequel's single player campaign is definitely a bit longer than the original Dead Space game so that is definitely a plus. If you enjoyed games like Bioshock 2 then you will most likely take a little longer to play as Dead Space 2 does involve a fair share of searching just like it did in 2008. Things like looking for ammo, health, power nodes, cash to spend at the store and other upgrades are all key aspects to the game and critical to your survival. If you are a ‘run and gun’ type player then Dead Space 2 may take you less than 10 hours to complete but you will struggle at times as conserving your ammo and using it wisely is an integral part of the game.
One of the key aspects of the Dead Space franchise that separates it from the rest of the pack is the way you have to destroy the enemy. Unlike other alien shooters where it’s all about blowing their heads off, Dead Space 2 requires you to shear off the limbs of the creatures in order to take them out. This is where the term “strategic dismemberment” I mentioned earlier comes into play. If you blow off their heads, enemies will still come crawling after you. Fortunately, Dead Space 2 provides you with the perfect weaponry to take these buggers out. Some of your favourite weapons from the previous game are back such as: the Line Gun, Pulse Rifle, and Plasma Cutter to name a few. There are also some new ones added to the mix like the Javelin gun, which is a spear launcher of sorts. Each weapon has unique features and alternate functions, so learn how to use them all and know which weapon works best against the various types of Necromorphs. With over 16 different types of creatures in the game there is a nice variety of ways to take them out.
One of my only complaints when it comes to the game's weaponry is the scarcity of ammo. Dead Space 2 is not rich in ammo and as a result Isaac has to make use of a variety of ways to kill the enemy. The game forces you to get creative which the developers clearly intend you to do. Yet nothing is as satisfying as severing limbs with the many weapons available at your disposal. Besides your weapons, Dead Space 2 allows you to use your telekinesis to pick up objects and throw them. Additionally, by using stasis you can slow down the enemy and line up your industrial saw (the Ripper) to slice them apart. The results are satisfying but at the end of the day telekinesis, melee combat and even stasis to an extent take a back seat to the satisfaction you get from using your weapons to take down the unsightly creatures.
The combat and controls in Dead Space 2 are not all roses. For instance, Isaac crawling inside the air shafts feels awkward and unnatural. This could have been left out in my view. Melee attacks also feel clunky and problematic. Isaac punching and stomping on dead creatures is satisfying and gruesome at the same time. Yet during actual combat his melee attacks seem somewhat useless. In fact, other than stomping on the enemy when they are down, I would recommend you don’t even bother using the melee attacks as they just don’t work as well as they should. Additionally, Isaac cannot duck or jump. You would think for a guy trying to keep himself alive, he would move quicker. Aside from the sprint button he remains a little limited in the movement department. Unfortunately this was an issue for me last time around as well.
Dead Space 2 does offer up a multiplayer component but it feels more tacked on than anything else. It is merely a four-on-four affair, where one side has an objective and the other side attempts to stop them. There are only five maps and frankly gamers won’t want to waste time with this element of the game. Personally I would much rather have seen a cooperative mode where you could progress throughout the Sprawl and take out enemies with a buddy. The lack of co-op component keeps this title from being considered truly elite and on par with games like Halo Reach or Gears of War.
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