In 2008 Visceral Games released Dead Space, a survival horror game that was revolutionizing in its genre. Hereafter, its prequel Dead Space 2 had much to prove of itself if it were to surpass the intense relentless fun of the first. In Dead Space 2 we return to space with Isaac Clarke on a mission to stop an outbreak of necromorphs in the city of Sprawl, a space-station above Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. Does Dead Space 2 meet the nightmarish, creepy and horrifying story of Isaac’s first adventure inside the Ishimura?
It is no shock. I’m terrified of playing Dead Space 2. Each hallway I cross, each open area I enter, each room I trespass, I can’t let down my guard for even a slight second. Still frozen and thrilled from the last beast that tried to tear me apart, I slowly walk forwards; constantly checking if all my weapons are fully recharged. My health bar is on red, but there are no more pills to save me. My strongest weapon is equipped at all times. Its pitch dark, someone or something is shrieking from behind a wall, I can’t tell. The lights have fallen off. I sense a nasty and horrifying creature lurking from behind a wall at two arm’s length, hidden smartly in the shadows. I can’t tell what’s going on, my eyesight is blurred; my heart is beating wildly. A terrifying shriek fills the room, shattering my ears. And the creature is upon me, fanning its paws into my flesh, gushing blood. I’m freaked out. I don’t want to play this game.
It might seem impossible, but every second of Dead Space 2 gives me that feeling. It’s a huge relief to spot a save point, the only place where one can feel safe inside this demon’s pit. But that doesn’t make it one ridiculous entertaining rollercoaster ride. After the happenings in Dead Space Isaac is treated and revived to discover the metropolis of space-hub ‘Sprawl’ is quickly spiraling out of control, with necromorphs multiplying by the second. While Isaac is working himself a way to the marker to stop the outbreak from growing out-of-hand, Isaac’s health is in dramatic condition; he’s losing it. Clarke suffers from hallucinations of his dead wife ‘Nicole’, who tries to deter him from his task. But Isaac keeps fighting, with Ellie Langford, a CEC pilot and Nolan Stross (who has endured a similar treatment as Isaac’s) at his side. The story unimpressed me, though it would go far as to say it wasn’t effective. At points voice recordings or characters reminded me of what happened in the first Dead Space, how the outbreak had come, what had caused a lively space-ship to become a breeding nest for necromorphs. All-in-all, the script was complete, but it didn’t add anything new to what I already knew.
The gameplay in Dead Space 2 is far more varied than in Dead Space. Players are now required to hack to access certain areas. Kinesis is faster and allows for impalement using pointed objects such as poles and Slasher’s blades. Players can navigate zero-gravity environments in 360-degree motion, allowing for different viewpoints. The game remains linear, though loading screens take less time, and chapters are not named in-game. Everything feels more fluid and correct.
The experience that this game delivers is almost perfectly unique. No matter how many necromorphs you pummel to the ground, never will you get any sense of being overpowered. While Isaac is equipped with a whole range of weapons and gadgets to kill his attackers, he’s never too far away from danger. It is essential to loot ammunition from monsters, if not Isaac ends up with nothing to defend himself. Ammo is scarce in Dead Space 2, making survival a constant challenge. In Dead Space 2 I found myself dying very often, but in changing strategies, and using different weapons to tackle my enemies it was easier to keep my body from being torn apart.
Experimenting with different weapons is fun to do. The harpoon gun for example lets players pin enemies to the ground, while the saw allows for an unpractical yet special dismembering treatment. For more preferable strategic approaches, the player has proximity mines, seeker rifles and Isaac’s ‘statis ability’, a power to slow down approaching mutants, practical for when you’re fiddling to recharge your weapon. If all this fails, and I found myself in this scenario often, run for the nearest door!
While Dead Space is not an RPG, the skill-tree like ‘node-bank’ allows players to upgrade their favorite weapons and gadgets. Things like going into zero gravity mode, hacking security systems, removing/inserting power cells and using maintenance tunnels are genuinely done to diversify the gameplay. Even small details like evacuating air to stop fires, observing suspended acid in the air when freezing a spitting necromorph and meeting the silence of outer space makes dead space feel very accurate and intelligent. However, I’m illustrating only a fraction of what you’ll come to experience in this game.
The creepy settings of dead space have naturally returned with its sequel. Only now, the repetitive environment of the first is answered by many diverse places Isaac will trespass in his journey to the marker. A stroll through a primary school infested with alienated babies and restless children quickly becomes a living nightmare: I don’t recall primary school ever being THAT bad. And why are abandoned children's areas always so terrifying..? Likewise did I fear the labs, the sewers and the hospital beds. Though there is nothing so scary as walking through the crypts of an unitology church, with no ammo and extremely low health.
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Dead Space 2 is back and better than ever, period. Many were the times I literally jumped because of a necromorph stroking my back, or a rapter thrusting me in the air. The violence and fear are cutting, and remain so throughout the whole game. Clearly, Dead Space 2 improves on many of the things Dead Space was missing. If you’re up for something absolutely horrifyingly thrilling, Dead Space 2 will be sure to launch you from your seat. Buckle-up, it’s going to be one helluva ride!
Gameplay - 10/10
Presentation & Sound - 10/10
This game deserves a 9/10