Dead Space 2 Review
The celebrated Dead Space was an impeccable deep-space experience, blending claustrophobic tension with third-person shooting and superb survival horror elements. It now has a sequel in Dead Space 2, which sees the return of the unluckiest man alive, Isaac Clarke. Thankfully, this second game is just as terrifying and memorable as its predecessor, thanks to a number of small tweaks that expand and improve the experience in most facets. However, as the story progresses and the later chapters begin, the gameplay suddenly feels a little too familiar, perhaps indicating that the Dead Space formula is slowly withering. Despite this, the experience as a whole is still as sinister and memorable as the first game, driven by great gameplay mechanics, enjoyable action and spectacular atmospheric tension.
What Dead Space 2 Got Right
Action! - Just as Resident Evil 4 did so many years ago, Dead Space 2 expands on the action and combat that helped define its predecessor. Every weapon from the first game has been carried over to this sequel alongside a number of new ones. Cutting up and blasting away necromorphs is just as enjoyable this second time around, and with weapon upgrades and plenty of closed-in and tight environments, you can rest assured that Dead Space 2 has you covered when it comes to all-out action. Don’t let this fool you though: Dead Space 2 is still a wild ride of scares, thrills and suspense, and while the action definitely promotes the game more than any other element, there is a fairly decent balance between moments of survival and moments of hardcore action.
Improved Kinesis Technology - The kinesis in Dead Space was a decent tool, but Visceral has expanded the feature to make it a far more effective weapon. Its strength has been improved, and while it might not do as good a job as a plasma cutter, it’s more than suitable when you’re out of ammo. The ability to pick up objects from within the environment, including limbs, adds a sense of depth to the combat. You’re often going to run out of ammo, so kinesis will often be your new best friend.
New Enemies - If you thought the devilish necromorphs from the first Dead Space were terrifying enough, you better brace yourself for some wild new additions in Dead Space 2. New enemies like “the pack” run towards you with blistering speed and aggression, and it’s new additions like these that keep the combat feeling fresh, at least for the first few hours. It’s good to see developer Visceral expanding on the necromorph designs in the first game, as it gives you more to shoot, blow up and cut your way through.
True Moments of Survival Horror - While Dead Space 2 is certainly bordering action horror as opposed to survival horror, there are a number of restrictive elements that contribute to a genuine sense of survival. Isaac’s movement, for example, is fairly restrictive, and while he might turn frustratingly slowly, it’s an element that contributes quite significantly to the tension. Elements like this seem more like purposeful attempts to generate suspense within the environment, so fans of survival horror can rest assured that Dead Space 2 isn’t all action and cheap scares. The aggressiveness of the necromorphs often compromises Isaac’s health, no matter how much ammo he has, which is a common trait in games with elements of survival horror.
Nice Balance in Difficulty - First and foremost, Dead Space 2 must be played on at least Normal difficulty. Anything lower than that is a complete and utter travesty, with Hardcore mode offering one of the most challenging and enjoyable experiences of this generation. Isaac has plenty at his disposal when it comes to weaponry, including the very useful stasis, which freezes necromorphs in their tracks. However, this feature is compliment by a number of necromorph species, namely one that spits out acid and slows down Isaac considerably. The balancing seems to improve on the higher difficulties; Normal can sometimes be a little too easy, with Isaac sometimes being too overpowered with his weapons, while Hardcore throws just as much at Isaac as he throws at the necromorphs.
Fantastic Art Design and Visuals - While Dead Space 2 looks almost identical to its predecessor, it’s still a great looking game, with some particularly memorable moments and a number of inventive set pieces. All of the action takes place in the Sprawl, a place once bustling with life, but still more alive than the isolated Ishimura from the first game. You’ll move through a number of different environments, including hospitals, schools and shopping districts, and the overall design must be commended.
Hardcore Mode is…Hardcore! - You haven’t played Dead Space 2 until you’ve at least given Hardcore a good try. This mode ups the difficulty substantially (to a near-impossible level), with no check-points and only three permitted saves for the entire game. This mode absolutely hates you. Try it. You know you want to.
What Dead Space 2 Got Wrong:
Feels Too Much Like Dead Space - While there are a number of gameplay enhancements, the core gameplay hasn’t changed all that much from the first. This is not a deal breaker, but as the game reaches halfway, things start to feel a little too repetitive. There’s nothing revolutionary in the gameplay here, which isn’t a bad thing, but a nice chunk of the gameplay makes it feel like you’re just going through the motions. Thankfully, the game picks up considerably in the latter half, but it still would have been nice to get some major new gameplay mechanics.
Too Easy on Normal - This will probably associate as a problem for gamers that are after a genuine survival horror experience. Playing Dead Space 2 on Normal, the default difficulty level and clearly the level Visceral wants you playing on initially, feels more like a third-person action game. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when comparing it to the experience you get when playing Hardcore, there is a considerable difference. Considering Normal is the default setting, having the game a little harder overall, or at least decreasing the amount of ammo pickups and save points, would have made the experience that little bit more memorable.
The Final Verdict
Dead Space 2 can at-times feel a little too familiar, but that shouldn’t degrade the fact that it’s still a very polished and challenging game. It has the scares, thrills, tension and action to appeal to a number of different gamers, and while the middle chapters seem to drag on, the spectacular ending makes for a memorable experience.
By Gaetano Prestia
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