- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Visceral Games
- ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
- Genre: Third-Person-Action / Horror
- Pros: Great presentation; solid story; good gameplay; scary atmosphere; new game +
- Cons: A bit predictable and repetitive; not a huge leap over the original
Dead Space 2 Halo Jump Trailer
Dead Space 2 continues the story of Isaac Clarke three years after the horrors of the first game aboard the Ishimura. Isaac has been haunted by what happened, and has been in a fragile psychiatric state ever since. He is now in a hospital in a huge station called the Sprawl on Saturn's moon of Titan. Somehow. Some way. Necromorphs have entered the Sprawl, and from the moment Isaac wakes up and you take control of him, you are running and fighting for your life as the Necromorphs tear apart the Sprawl and kill the thousands of settlers living there.
The Sprawl is an awesome setting. It is a human colony, which means it is filled with the things normal people need. Schools. Churches. Apartments. Etc. Now picture Necromorphs tearing up a sci-fi version of "Hometowm USA". That is pretty much Dead Space 2. There is a ton of variety to the environments, and all of the details and recognizable things you'll see and hear really play up the psychological horror elements of the game.
The game takes anywhere from 7 hours on casual to more than 12-15 on higher difficulties and there is a New Game+ option that lets you carry weapons and stats over to a new game.
Dead Space has a number of different weapons to choose from, including dart guns, grenade launchers, and more. Strangely enough, the simple plasma cutter weapon you start with is arguably the best of the bunch, though, and it is rather enjoyable to play through the whole game with just that. You also have telekinetic powers to lift and move objects (and throw them at enemies) as well as the ability to slow down time.
There are also zero-g and vacuum sections of the game that add a bit of variety to the normal corridor crawling. Every so often there will also be rooms with giant windows in them that you can shoot out in order to suck enemies into the vacuum, but you then have to locate and shoot a switch to close the shutters before getting sucked out yourself. Very cool. One thing that DS2 doesn't have is an obnoxious, overly difficult asteroid shooting segment like the first game. And we're grateful for that.
One thing that didn't change much from the first game, however, is the predictability and repetitiveness of the enemy encounters. The middle third of the game is a bit of a slog in particular because of this, but it ramps up nicely by the end. The game relies on jump scares and enemies coming out of vents / doorways / windows / etc. so you almost always know where they're coming from. It stops being scary after a while. The psychological horror elements still work, but you sort of become desensitized to the actual enemies after a while. It certainly doesn't help that enemy encounters are always accompanied by orchestra hits and battle music to let you know you should still be fighting. We suggest turning the music off in the menus as it results in a more immersive, unpredictable, and scarier experience.
In addition to the great single-player campaign, there is a multiplayer mode as well. It plays sort of like Left 4 Dead Space, in that it is humans vs. monsters. It also uses a progressive leveling system popularized by recent shooters as well. It is a nice change from typical online multiplayer, and is a nice addition to the package.
Graphically, Dead Space 2 looks gorgeous. The environments are nicely detailed, and the lighting is spectacular. The occasional glimpse you get outside, where you get a better view of the size of the Sprawl, are also absolutely stunning.
With horror games the sound is the most important aspect of the presentation, and Dead Space 2 nails it. The environmental sounds of the Sprawl being ripped apart around you, people screaming, Necromorphs breaking through walls, and more are all fantastically well done. The sound does more to scare you than the visuals and enemies do. The voice acting is also quite good, and Isaac actually talks this time around. A lot. But we didn't mind.
All in all, Dead Space 2 is a great survival horror game all around. It isn't drastically different from the original - visuals and sound are mostly the same, enemy encounters are similarly predictable, gameplay is almost identical - but the handful of little changes do make DS2 a better game overall. The environment is better, even if it isn't as scary, and some of the new enemy types are pretty awesome. And not having any sort of "Shooting these asteroids is too freaking hard, I give up on the game entirely" section is a huge plus as well. Dead Space 2 doesn't reinvent the wheel, it just polishes it a bit so it works better, which means it is still an awesome experience that is absolutely worth playing. Thanks to the multiplayer and decently replayable campaign, Dead Space 2 is worth a purchase.