Dead Space 2 is one of those games that have literally made me jump off my seat and turn the television set off since I was not able to take it anymore. That is the level of scares and chills one can expect in the sequel to the 2008 classic, Dead Space. Issac Clarke is back after his horrendous adventures on the Ishimura and finds himself in a hospital aboard a space ship called the Sprawl, suffering from Dementia, a mental illness caused by the Marker. Throughout the game Isaac is haunted by some strange visions about some terrifying memories of his girlfriend from the first game, and a Necromorph whose resemblance to her is uncanny. This results in an engaging plot with Issac not only fighting against the Necromorphs, but also his past and a government agency who wishes to control the Marker.
So when you start off the game, you are without your fighting suit and weapons as you try and scrape through hordes of Necromorphs with the help of a flash light. It is only a bit later that you are given access to your plasma cutter and a fighting suit which gives you limited inventory slots, and as you may have guessed, this is when the game truly comes in to its own. Missions are divided in chapters and there are fourteen in total and each of them is pretty long depending on what kind of difficulty level you have selected. There are a total of five difficulty levels with four of them available when you first pop in the game. The hardcore mode only gets unlocked when you are done with the 12 hour long or so single player campaign.
One of the gameplay mechanics that made the original such a huge hit was its awesome weapons and Dead Space 2 does not disappoint in this department. Every weapon in the game has a primary and a secondary attack, which may prove to be very helpful in certain sticky situations. As I mentioned earlier you start off with those crazy Plasma Cutters with the ability to dismember Necromorphs vertically or horizontally. The plasma cutter has to be the weapon of your choice for a good chunk of the game before you collect enough cash to buy the Line Gun, which is pretty similar to the Plasma Cutter except it only has a wide cutting area but only in the horizontal direction. The secondary attack of the Line Gun is pretty effective as it ejects a plasma ball which then bursts in a big way after a few moments, literally chopping every enemy in the vicinity. One of my favourites from the original Dead Space, the Ripper also makes a return. The Ripper, as the name suggest, helps us slice all enemies into large chunks with the help of a large, round blade. But the catch is that you need to be close to those crazy things. Not only is that scary, it’s also dangerous.
The Detonator detonates (duh) whenever any Necromorph contacts it, which allows for a more strategic killing of the bad guys. The Plasma Rifle also is a very good weapon for killing if you are surrounded by tons of fast approaching Necromorphs. Or even the Force Gun, which is a defensive weapon which will just dislodge everything in the surrounding, giving you a chance to run away from a situation that is going out of hand. One can easily say Dead Space could have not been the experience it is if not for these thoughtful, innovative weapons. You can also upgrade the weapons via the various Bench stations, but you would need power nodes and upgrading them all will take multiple playthroughs since these are hard to find. Just like the original, you can also buy fighting suits which will increase your overall health, upgrade some of your weapons and increase your inventory slot.
The enemies in the sequel have more intelligence than the ones we encountered in the Ishimura incident. Most of the Necromorphs in the original will simply charge you and take you out by surprise, but that is not the case with Dead Space 2. Even though we see lots of the enemies making a return from the original, there are some truly innovative ones that will make you want to pee in your pants. The Puker is perhaps one of the most frustrating enemies in the game which will puke some weird liquid at Clarke which will slow him right down, hence making him vulnerable to attacks from other Necromorphs. The one advantage that these guys have is that they can puke from a distance, so you will never know where that one came from. Then you have those annoying teenage like thingies which will approach you in groups of tens or twenties and will run towards you like crazy. Normally six month babies are not hostile towards adults, but it’s a different story in Dead Space 2. These babies, called Crawlers, will crawl toward you in groups and explode when you get near them. The best of the best has to be the Stalkers. These will set you up in a group of 4-5, playing hide and seek with you and will charge at you from nowhere when the time’s right (or wrong, in your case). You also have a few favorites from the original like the Reaper and Leaper, who are more intelligent than their Ishimura counterparts. Although the enemies are great and challenging, I am just disappointed by the lack of boss fights. It’s not a thing that can spoil the experience but I just think the game could have scored better by the inclusion of some interesting boss fights.
Much of the scares and chills have to be attributed to excellent level design by Visceral Games. In the original Dead Space, much of the game took place in small corridors, but in the sequel it’s more about large environments. As we had mentioned in our preview of Dead Space 2, the game takes place in an entire frigging space station, The Sprawl. This makes for some interesting level design like open spaces, hallways and obviously the ever daunting narrow corridors. One of the points that are perhaps the highlight of the game are the zero gravity sections. Clarke can do more stuff now in such scenarios, the most notable being the full 360 degree freedom of movement. He can dash through from one area to another using his thrusters or move satellites using his Kinesis ability. Visceral Games have upped the ante as far as zero gravity sections are concerned.
The graphics and the presentation also seem to have gone a notch above the original. The developers have made sure that Clarke’s adventure will be incredibly atmospheric and disturbing. The sense of being alone and getting scared at the same time is well captured by the inclusion of spooky corners, daunting hallways and surprises that will make sure you are hooked up to your seat till the very end. The environments and every other object in the Sprawl have been meticulously designed to engross the player in a world which breathes horror in and out. The pulse pounding sound of the Necromorphs and whispers echoing through an unknown corner stranded in the dead space will bring scares to even the toughest of hearts. Our hero Issac has been wonderfully voiced displaying his struggles as he takes his stand against the carnage of the Marker and the Necromorphs. Normally in a protagonist focussed game like Dead Space 2, the voice acting of the side characters is below par, but I am glad to tell you that the people who will help or may be even betray Issac through his epic adventures sound fantastic as well. But the entire game comes alive with each stage and each section having a different background score resulting in an experience like none other.
Where Dead Space 2 stumbles somewhat is the multiplayer component. I am not sure whether the actual feel of Dead Space has been translated the way it should have been. Dead Space has always been about being alone and this feeling is lost when you join a few buddies and take the fight back to the Necromprphs or humans, depending on whatever you choose to be. While it’s good to see that the series is expanding its horizons with the MP mode, half hearted attempts might as well not be there at all, especially in a game as good as this. The choices of maps and modes, first of all, are very limited. There are five modes/maps in total, and they’re not as imaginative as we would have liked. Basically, the multiplayer is not very balanced. While the MP mode can provide with some fun moments sometimes, it’s basically hit or miss.
Simply put, Dead Space 2 is a game that you should invest your money in, without any second thoughts. The single player campaign is exhilarating with even more scares and chills than there ever were in the first game. The game also manages to take a look at the tragic life of Clarke and hence puts more emphasis on the storyline this time around, one of the things that I think was missing in the original. Add to that some amazing zero gravity sections and insane weapons, and you have a winner on your hands. It will be interesting to see what direction the series will take with the inevitable Dead Space 3.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Excellent plot which shows Issac’s struggle against the Necromorph and himself, Visuals are sharp and crisp along with a soundtrack that will literally make you jump on your seat, Spooky atmosphere that the series is known for is better than ever, Weapons/Suit upgrade are still a blast, Free movement in zero gravity is a welcome change, Multiplayer is a nice addition.
Not much different than the original, Lack of Boss Fights is a bit disappointing.
Visceral Games have taken the franchise to all new heights with a totally insane single player campaign and an excellent plot to go along with it.