Imagine waking up to a light shining in your face and some stranger asking if you’re okay. Then, imagine that stranger getting his face ripped off by some creature. After picturing that, add in the fact the entire room is a bloody massacre of creatures eating helpless people. Finally, imagine these creatures turning their sights to you. Oh, one last thing; you’re in a straight-jacket. This is the opening to Dead Space 2, and it makes your adrenalin shoot through your veins as your heart thuds loudly in your ears. If that’s the beginning of a game, you know the rest is going to be one wild ride.
Dead Space 2 (as the name suggests) is the sequel to the original Dead Space. There is a recap video to explain the first Dead Space included in this game, so even if you haven’t played the original, you can jump right into the sequel. You still play as Isaac Clark, who has been deemed mentally insane (who could blame him?). It’s been three years since the events of Dead Space, and Isaac has no memory of what has happened in between. You are on a space station orbiting one of Saturn’s moons, and you are simply trying to survive. Events unfold which explain what’s truly going on, and the game switches from desperate survival to heroic action.
The setting is absolutely incredible. The futuristic locations have immense realism that keeps the game from feeling too outlandish. From the small details in rooms to the large space scenes, Dead Space 2 goes the extra distance to create the perfect atmosphere. In all horror games, ambiance is a necessity, and Dead Space 2 really works hard to make theirs powerful. You walk down eerie, bloody hallways lit by knocked-over lights and shadows slip around corners so fast you aren’t sure if it was actually anything. At times you’ll hear a noise, but what caused it? Maybe something just fell off a shelf or maybe something is stalking you, waiting for the moment to strike? It makes your skin crawl in fear at what might jump out at you. Part of the reason for the great atmosphere comes from the creative HUD display: there is no HUD. The ammo, map, and health have been creatively incorporated into the game so your screen isn’t cluttered with things reminding you that this is a video game. It makes for a deeply immersive experience that you’ll be easily sucked into.
The gameplay itself is a third-person shooter, and the mechanics are perfect. They are precise and easy to use. The camera never messes up and everything feels fluent, which is proof that not all horror games need wonky controls. Dead Space 2 works just as well as other third-person action games, but adds in a wonderful horror effect. What’s also amazing is how well the controls still work in zero gravity. What could have easily slowed gameplay and made it tedious did just the opposite. Any part in zero-G is incredibly addicting thanks to the ability to move in literally any direction. If you want to float through the level upside down, it’s perfectly acceptable.
You can use Kinesis, which are telekinetic powers that allow you to throw objects without physically touching them. There’s also Stasis, which freezes enemies for a brief time. These two abilities will help during battle and also in solving puzzles. The guns are incredibly fun to use and very diverse; from buzz-saws to flamethrowers, they will fix all bloody cravings. What adds to the overall experience is just how incredibly addicting it is to shoot the limbs off the Necromorphs. However, going for the head is a tactic for zombies, not Necromorphs, since they will happily attack you headless. There’s also an immense satisfaction to watching them crawl towards you after shooting their legs off. (Warning: this game may turn you into a sadist).
There are nodes to collect, which upgrade everything from Stasis to weapons to armor. There’s also money that allows you to purchase items (weapons, ammo, health, etc.) from stores scattered about each area. You can also find schematics layered throughout the game that you can use to unlock certain weapons and armor at the stores.
There’s also a multiplayer, but sadly, it isn’t that good. It consists of co-op missions made up of four players split into two teams; one team is human, while the other plays as the Necromorphs. Humans have a mission to accomplish and Necromorphs have to stop them. The missions are boring and consist mainly of running to a location and pressing a button. The levels are very small and uncreative, which is disappointment when you consider what the single-player campaign brings to the table. Instead of logical teamwork, it mostly ends up being everyone just shoots at everyone. You can level up to gain new abilities, but still there isn’t enough appeal to keep you playing that long. It’s fun to spend some time playing it, but it’s hard to commit many hours.
There are some other downsides to this near flawless game. Most importantly, it’s extremely linear; you are constantly walking down a skinny hallway. Not only is it tedious after a while, but there isn’t much strategy involved: it all comes down to shooting the Necromorphs before they reach you. Another problem is how compartmentalized the game is. You may enter into a fairly large room filled with Necromorphs, so, logically, you back out into a narrow hallway to funnel the Necromorphs for easy aiming. Sadly, the Necromorphs won’t always follow you, which means you are forced to fight in the disadvantageous area. Lastly, Dead Space 2 is certainly scary, at first. Dead Space 2 relies mostly on jump scares, which get rather cheap after a while. Anyone will flinch if there is practically no sound for five minutes, and suddenly, a loud scream comes out of nowhere. A true horror game is able to instill fear without simply having something jumping out at you. Also, once you get used to the linearity of the game, you can almost predict where the next Necromorph will jump out from. These flaws don’t take away from the game that much, but they are the factor stopping it from being perfect.
Dead Space 2 also has a surprising amount of replay value. The developers were wise to incorporate a New Game+ mode, which allows you to carry over all your weapons and armor to your next playthrough. This makes playing the game again less stressful and more fun since you will be overpowered. However, if you want a harder challenge, there is a Hardcore mode that will certainly appease you. The enemies are tougher, the ammo drops are rarer, and, most importantly, there are only three saves the entire game. This is a test for the best gamers and will undoubtedly have controllers being thrown across the room in frustration.
Final Verdict: You cannot go wrong with purchasing this game. It starts with great basics, like good story, fun gameplay, and a wonderful horror atmosphere. However, it’s the little things that are done so well that truly make this game wonderful. You know, little things, like disturbing death scenes to give you nightmares and being able to curb-stomp your way into gruesome, bloody nirvana.
This review is based of a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Dead Space 2 developed by Visceral Games and distributed by Electronic Arts.
- Great Story
- Fun Gameplay
- Wonderful Horror Atmosphere
- Extremely Linear
- Too Many Cheap Jump Scares