Be afraid, be very afraid! Dead Space 2 reviewed

Putting the survival horror genre firmly back on top comes Electronic Arts stunning sequel to the fantastic 2008 original. Isaac Clarke is in top form in the gore fest that is Dead Space 2.    

Hold on to your seats gamers and gamerette’s as we once more set sail for the slaughter-house space mining vessel, The USG Ishimura. Join GamesMediaPro as we delve into the dark depth’s of a despairing mind driven to breaking point by the nightmares unlocked in the first outing for engineer Issac Clarke. Will we make it through the review in one piece? Or will we be discovered cowering in fear behind the sofa? Let’s find out together as we venture into the terror of Dead Space 2. 

A warm welcome one and all to the survival/horror game you have been waiting for ever since the original title, Dead Space, introduced us to the unfortunate engineer Isaac Clarke. Set against the backdrop of the sprawling metropolis known as The Sprawl, an enormous urban development that has sprung up on Titan, Saturn’s sixth moon.  We are once more greeted by the tragic figure of Isaac as he is incarcerated in the vast city-like complex’s Asylum following the events of the first game that have so very deeply scarred his psyche.  Sporting this season’s cutting edge in mental hospital attire, Isaac is to be found trussed up in a straight jacket whilst being informed by his ‘consultants’ that there has been as spot of bother ever since they constructed their own ‘marker’. Yes, dear readers, the very same kind of ‘marker’ that saw the entire crew of the USG Ishimura turn into rancid Necromorph’s and bite the head’s off every living thing that they came across. Why some people never leave well alone is beyond us? But it doesn’t half make for a wonderful game that’s for sure!

So with Isaac learning that the power behind the cult of the Church of Unitology has once again invited the death and destruction of the Necromorph’s into his life it is clear what Isaac must do: Get out of the hospital, destroy the marker and get the damned visions of his long dead ex-girlfriend Nicole out of his head before she turns his brain into Swiss cheese, and then get the hell off this rock! . But first? Let’s just get the darn straight jacket off shall we, hmm?

The storyline of Dead Space 2 works wonderfully well, especially if you have had the pleasure of playing through the original? ( something that we highly recommend that you all do! ).  There are still some unanswered questions surrounding the origin of the marker and the source of its supernatural power, but all in all the game’s tale is told well over the right shoulder camera view of Isaac’s broad frame. The control’s are still set out in the familiar styling of the first Dead Space title, a point that is in the games favour as EA have stuck to the age-old adage ‘if it ain’t broke-don’t fix it.’  And Dead Space 2 is far from in need of any kind of fixing.

Once again there is no heads up display, with everything you need to see actually being on Isaac’s person. His health bar is in glowing segments down the spine of his suit, whereas oxygen and stasis meters appear on the shoulders when available or required. To be honest with you all, the lack of HUD is a plus that just further immerses the player into the games frantic storyline, as the atmosphere of the fraught gameplay is not detracted in any way by meter’s and distracting images on the screen. There are some new additions to the gameplay that see’s ‘hacking’ being introduced at various points as Isaac must rotate a dial, stopping to conform when the dial turns blue. After three successful hit’s on the blue segments this then will unlock whatever machinery, door or console Isaac is seeking to gain access too. A new arsenal also awaits our reluctant hero, and there have been some excellent additions to the weaponry on offer, as well as the return of some of the familiar tools of destruction that Isaac put to such good use in the original. Of particular interest to players will be the new Javelin Gun, Seeker Rifle and cracking Detonator Gun. The Plasma Cutter, otherwise known as the ‘weapon of choice’, is back, as are the Flamer, Line Gun, Pulse Rifle, Force Gun and Ripper. As in the first title each weapon has its main mode of fire with an additional firing option being granted to players by using the R2 button. Everything from the Plasma Cutter to Isaac’s Suit and Rig are fully upgradeable using the successful ‘power node’ method of customization. The inventory store is back also with the store allowing players to purchase weapons and ammo, however only after you have discovered the necessary schematic’s for each item. Players must decide which weapons they are going to take with them on a particular section, or chapter, as only four are allowed to be carried at any one time. This ‘juggling’ is a much preferred system as it never allows the player to become too powerful to the point that they are just breezing through rounds with little care or fear. Having to choose your weapons makes players get a sense of real danger from the game, as you are never quite sure which enemies are to be faced and in what number? It also gives the player a greater intimacy with the gameplay, and indeed with Isaac himself, as they identify with the emotions of panic and urgency as they are constantly checking ammunition and looking to make what few rounds they have last the course until the can find more or purchase additional supplies.

The enemies come in a vast array of hideous shapes and grotesque sizes as their transformed bodies look like they have covered themselves in superglue and ran through an abattoir acquiring bits of limbs and entrails about them as they go. Some are small, like the explosive firing babies to the new ‘children’ that howl as they try to pry your head from your shoulders, others are huge great hulking monsters that spew everything from acid to projectiles as they attempt to thwart your efforts in destroying the marker. Whatever shape or size they come in, one thing is uniform throughout the enemy ranks and that is that they are all looking to hack you to pieces in the most ghastly way imaginable.

Making your way through the game is a terrifying affair as it matters not if you try to stealthily creep your way around the zones, or whether you opt to run right through all gun’s blazing, it all makes for the same frantic experience as the Necromorph’s will launch themselves at you on sight, and usually it is they who will spot you fist and so in a heart-stopping moment of pure panic you find yourself leaping from your chair like a scalded cat as a Necromorph appears from behind you with a blood curdling scream. There are some truly frightening moments in Dead Space 2 and we can fully understand why it has received its 18 rating. This is not a title for the feint-hearted, nor is it a game for younger players for fear they will have nightmares as recurring and vicious as Isaac himself.

The visuals are achingly beautiful and Visceral Games have really pushed the boat out in the sound department too. If you have the option to enjoy playing through Dead Space 2 with cinematic surround sound then we readily suggest that you do so, as you will experience the game as the developers intended it. The haunting score and terrifying sound effects will have you wide-eyed in horror as you constantly hear the scraping of claws on metal behind you, or the chattering of the children in the vents as they prepare to burst out and slash you to ribbons with their razor-sharp claws. Of particularly distressing note is the skittering of nails and talon’s as your enemies hunt you down with dogged persistence.  All of this just knocks up the fear meter readings as you are constantly on edge by the horrific visuals and disturbing sounds that emanate all around you.

The expected playthrough time for even the most veteran of survival/horror gamers is around the 15 hours mark, with the added bonus of the ‘Game Plus’ mode that allow’s players to continue to the next outing complete with all of the upgraded weapons and items, Dead Space 2 is a prospect to relish by even the most jaded of cynics. But for the more masochistic of players out there  you could always try your hand at the awesome ‘Hardcore’ mode, in which you will have to conquer the entire game against insanely difficult and bloodthirsty adversaries. With players only being spawned  when you die,( and you will die! ),  back at your last save point. Now considering that in Hardcore Mode you only get to save three times throughout the entire game, you can safely say that the Platinum Trophy for Dead Space 2 will have untold Kudos in the gaming world.

Multiplayer mode offers just one format for gamers to get their teeth into, but being that this game has made its reputation on being a single player title, then its best to look upon the solitary multiplayer is as a bonus offered to players by Visceral Games. Its Engineers Vs Necromorph’s in the online mode and the game see’s the two teams facing off as the Engineer’s have to protect one of their flock as they seek to complete a given objective, whilst the faster spawning multitudes of the Necromorph’s have their human numbers boosted by additional AI players as their objective is to simply kill the four Engineers and dance on the sticky limbless corpses.

But when all is said and done it is in the games main story mode that most people will be spending their time, and rightly so. Visceral Games have done the seemingly impossible task of making the second outing every bit as good as the ground breaking first. Everything about Dead Space 2 screams win. The game is flawless and glitch free and is the finest example of adult gaming that we gave had the sheer pleasure to review since the launch of this website. If we had to recommend one title to you to purchase all year then Dead Space 2 would be that game.

Graphics: Crystal clear with an outstanding polish to what was already a great looking game. The dark and moody atmosphere of the graphics has been complimented and enhanced by the fantastic score and sound effects and makes Dead Space 2 quite simply the best looking title of the year so far. A truly beautiful game with a deeply immersive storyline told against stunning backdrops that vary from a panoramic futuristic urban metropolis, to the claustrophobic and cramped confines of the dimly lit corridors. Epic. 10

Gameplay: Continuing in the same vein as the award-winning firstt title in this duo of devilish delights, Dead Space 2 has it all. Easy to master control’s that allow’s player to worry about what their screen character is doing rather than on where their fingers are positioned.The combat system flies in the face of the standard shooter by making headshots irrelevant to the point that they only seem to further antagonise and enrage the target. Precision and speed are the order of the day in Dead Space 2, and in (Dead) Space the Necromorph’s can hear you scream. They just enjoy making you do it louder.     10

RePlay Value: Adding the single multiplayer mode may have pleased some, but its the story mode that keep’s people coming back for more in Dead Space 2. With the excellence contained within the single player game other developers would do well to take note that the stronger a games single play is, that is what sells the game and keeps players coming back for more. With Visceral’s masterpiece of survival/horror players get the very best of story modes that has the added bonus of the continuation mode. People are still playing the original three years after its release. The same will be said for its sequel.  10

Presentation: Once again Electronic Arts and Visceral Games have come up with the goods and they delivered more than gamers were expecting with Dead Space 2. Nothing has been left to chance in the epic sci-fi nightmare, with everything from the sound and visual’s to the brilliant storyline being of a standard other titles can but dream of attaining. The gameplay draws players in and keeps them riveted as they strive to stay alive in heart pounding action. In a time when we all thought that online shooters were king Visceral have again reminded us why we all love the storylines in a title so much. In an era when we thought that the survival/horror genre was dead, we are reminded of one thing: Survival horror is not dead…it is Dead Space!         10


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