Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360)

Review – Dead Space 2

Survival Horror

Yeah, Isaac, could you just get down to the third deck?  Someone’s cacked out the toilets again.

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Colin

As new IP’s come, not many have branched as far as Electronic Arts’ Dead Space.  Animated movies, comics, books, figures and even a dalliance in the handheld market. Dead Space 2 arrives two years after the original and continues the story of monsters, mutilation and morally ambiguous religious nutters, but has it sufficiently changed and beautifully evolved into some kind of… necromorph, or has it started to rot like some kind of… necromorph?

Dead Space 2 screenshot 1

Maybe they don't show up on infrared at all.

Isaac Clarke has had it rough, after a routine investigation on the USG Ishimura he has been betrayed, lost his girlfriend and most unfortunately had to take it upon himself to dismember his colleagues and crewmates just to survive. You see, the Ishimura had the misfortune of coming across ‘The Marker’, the – for all intensive purposes Holy Grail for the quasi-religo-scientifico group known as Scientologists Unitologists. The Marker doesn’t so much unify humanity as prophesised but mutates them all into monstrous creatures with a penchant for mutilation with sharp claws. Our hero killed the baddies, destroyed the relic and dismembered a shit-load of bad dudes in the process. Unfortunately things aren’t quite looking up yet.

After being rescued adrift in outer space for three years Isaac is locked up, prodded and probed – and not in the nice way – all because of a little marker-related insanity and tormenting visions of his dead girlfriend. Obviously a game sitting in a padded cell would be interesting but the developers decided instead to go down the route of all hell breaking loose whilst simultaneously hitting a shit-stained fan. Chaos ensues and more necromorphs appear and do what they do best.

In terms of gameplay it’s a case of more of the same but in an incredibly satisfying way. More limb severing, more tense atmospheric set pieces and more jumps as Isaac makes his way through the Sprawl – a space station with a greater range of environments as opposed to the grey lifeless corridors of the Ishimura. The environment being more interesting is perhaps my favourite improvement here. Shopping malls, apartments and even a church all set the scene, albeit one with a pretty linear path but thankfully there’s less back tracking and less reusing old environments. Infact perhaps the worst location used in the game is the one rehashed just from Dead Space, it just seemed unusual to take a step backwards after taking all this time to craft an alive new area for us to explore.

Dead Space 2 screenshot 2

Kentucky Fried Necromorphs eventually had to close on health grounds.

In the end these backdrops really only serve as locations for murder (with a mild zero-G puzzle thrown in for good measure) and murder you shall. The gameplay is as solid as ever, meet necromorph, learn how its gonna try kill you, discover how to best kill it and repeat, but please don’t get me wrong it’s still a helluva lotta fun, especially pinning enemies to walls with their own claws. Death is dished out from weapons purchased from the shop and upgraded at benches but unfortunately most of the weapons have just been lifted straight from the first game, fun to use but more variety was expected for a sequel.

As for the necromorphs themselves; well lets just say they haven’t really evolved much either. There wasn’t exactly a huge range of them in the first game and they’ve pretty much all returned with a few new additions such as the pack and hunters – its best meeting and discovering these fellas for yourself. More variety in the weapons and enemies would have been nice but frankly it wasn’t a massive concern as I was playing, I was too busy trying to survive and scavenge power nodes to upgrade my four fave weapons. Combat has been further enhanced with the afore mentioned kinesis improvements, allowing you to shoot enemy limbs and fire them back with a vengeance, but also with your stasis (time slowing) which now recharges on its own after a period of time, included at the expense of there being less stasis machines to recharge your juice.

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Matthew

Secondary Review

Taking inspiration from Event Horizon, Alien and most notably Resident Evil, the original Dead Space took many by surprise and was a refreshing change to the survival horror genre. The sequel takes all the elements from the first game and, in most cases, improves on them. The tense atmosphere, constant sense of terror, stellar graphics and, most notably, the peerless sound design are all as good as ever.

The major change is the transition of Isaac from a silent (albeit grunting) protagonist in the first game, to a fully voiced character. As a result of this, the game lacks the mysteriousness of the first game, but as a result it’s much easier for the story to be told. The fact that progression through the game is continuous, unlike the first game which had chapters bookended by tram journeys, works better in conveying the more cinematic experience this game is trying to convey.

Much like it’s prequel, Dead Space 2 suffers from the same problem of the final few chapters being very cheap and tedious in terms of design. There’s only so much you can take of the more powerful variants of necromorphs being thrown at you in large numbers before it just becomes plain irritating. It’s not the fact it’s hard (you shouldn’t have any trouble as long as you’ve upgraded the plasma cutter and stasis a decent amount), it just feels like a cheap and lazy tactic to artificially extend the length of the game. It’s by no means game-ruining, just disappointing and one of the few negatives.

While it doesn’t have the impact of its predecessor, Dead Space 2 is a more than worthy sequel. Very much the Aliens to Dead Space 1′s Alien, it’s a fantastic action-orientated survival horror which easily sits amongst the best of the genre.

Secondary Score: 8/10

The pacing of the game is very good and even lulls in the period of murder only serve to heighten the tension, knowing only too well that things won’t stay quiet for long; although towards the latter chapters the game develops the subtlety of a bag of hammers – throwing the powerful black necromorphs at you willy-nilly. Although its good to hear Isaac’s voice this time round, I think even this can take an edge off the atmosphere slightly. Silently wandering the corridors of the Ishimura was a little more tense but I can understand the need to flesh out his character – even if he does turn out to be quite the potty mouth.

As is the trend nowadays, Multiplayer has been added and is actually quite a fun experience. Humans try to complete objectives while the necros try stop them, a simple concept that actually works very well and a for the first time I actually hope gets more paid content delivered to it – the flipside being the content is quite light. There’s plenty of fun to be had even just with the one game type and a few maps. Levelling up the more you play should keep the servers popping and there are few experiences more enjoyable than spawning as a necromorph from a vent shaft and severely fucking up anyone careless enough to stand with their back to you.

Dead Space 2 is an excellent game. It has improved upon the original, added a remarkably fun team based MP mode (thank god there’s no deathmatch) but for the most part has been made in very much the same vein of its precursor, it’s certainly not lost any of the charm the original had and has even picked up a few new tricks along the way. I love this game to bits but the more I examine it the more I realise perhaps they could have thrown a little more my way during the 12-14 hour story – and no I don’t mean more bloody necromorphs!

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9/10

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