Dead Space 2 Review

Posted: February 20, 2011 in deadspace2, review

I’m a sucker for science fiction. The unknown of outer space leaves infinite room for creativity and original stories. I also love a good scare and am a bit of a sick bastard when it comes to gore. (Warning: DO NOT PLAY DEAD SPACE 2 IF YOU DO NOT LIKE SEEING PEOPLE POKED IN THE EYES WITH NEEDLES IN FACT AVOID THE FRANCHISE IN GENERAL) When the original Dead Space was announced, I dreamt about the potential that a survival horror game set in a derelict space freighter had to offer, and the scares that were in store for me. When I finally picked it up, I realized that survival-horror had been mistaken for action-horror but nonetheless, loved it from start to finish. I’ve patiently been waiting over two years to get my hands on the follow-up.

The Good

Immersion
My favorite thing about this series is how much of an effort is made to keep you immersed for the entirety of the game. Health is managed by simply glancing at the rig on Isaac’s back. Audio clips from survivors play as you continue to loot a room. The camera never leaves Isaac’s side by more than a few feet during in-game cinematics. Sometimes I’ll just sit and rotate the camera while Isaac looks at his inventory in real time.

Gunplay
It wasn’t until my second time through the game that I realized how much the game changes depending on what weapons you use. My first time through I stuck with the defaults. A plasma cutter for removing limbs, A line gun for amputating a few larger necromorphs at the same time, a pulse rifle for swarms of smaller enemies and a flamethrower for added effect. Second time through, I replaced the pulse rifle with The Ripper (launches a circular sawblade that is attached to a miniature gravity tether) and the Line Gun with the Force Gun. Now, Instead of pulling the trigger as fast as I could, I was disposing of the Crawlers with the Force Gun leaving their explosive sacks intact, and launching those to take out the surrounding larger enemies. I was using one saw blade to mow down The Pack rather than wasting countless Pulse Rifle ammo. It introduces a small level of strategy and I highly encourage you to experiment with at least one of the games more unusual weapons and see if you enjoy how it alters your gameplay.

Gameplay
Along with the brutal gunplay, Dead Space gives you the abilities of Stasis and Kinesis. Stasis will slow down a targeted group of enemies (or just one) and allow you to dismember it to your liking. Kinesis allows you to retrieve things from a distance and launch them back at your enemies if you choose to. I found a smile on my face every time I would freeze a speeding necromorph inches from my face with stasis, send it flying backwards in slow-motion after impaling it with the claw of a previous unfortunate soul, then dismembering it in mid-air with my plasma cutter.

Fellow aspiring space explorers rejoice, You are no longer limited to jumping in one direction. DS2 gives you multi-directional control of your zero gravity dreams. There are a few areas throughout the game where you will find yourself thrown into outer space, refilling your ogygen at O2 sations when needed, while you explore and find your way back into The Sprawl. Once you get a handle for the controls, it’s a memorable experience to click that left thumbstick and dive into one of these areas surrounded by deep space and dampened sound.

Isaac
In the original game, the supporting cast would talk AT you. Isaac was always taking orders and the only cue to his emotions were through body language.

Assuming the main character is not Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII, I would much rather my protaganists be able to speak their mind. It is largely discomforting to me when a non-playable character speaks directly to me in a game, and my character either responds via text option or worse, not at all. It’s like the NPC is talking to itself. It’s nice to know exactly how Isaac is feeling. The rest of the voice-acting is great with the exception of Nicole in hallucination form, who’s voice is so static I can barely understand her sometimes.

Conflicted

Setting
For those of you hate space, gore, good video games, eye stabbing…and avoided The original Dead Space, 95% of the game takes place in the claustrophobic corridors of a planet-cracker (big spaceship). DS2 ditches this location and opts for a grounded station called The Sprawl on Saturn’s moon Titan. Before the game was released there was a lot of talk from Visceral Games, the developers of DS2, about how this would leave ample opportunity for larger environments. Did they deliver on this promise? Yes, there are larger environments that provide some great action and art direction, but there is still a lot of treading through metal hallways. You can’t help but ask yourself, “What’s the difference between walking through a corridor on space station and walking through a corridor in a space ship?” One breathtaking view I suppose

The Horror
DS2 is a game that gives many shock-and-awe type of moments. Necromorphs will be popping out at you all the time but Visceral does a great job of never letting it get to the point of complete predicitbility. You might think you know exactly where to expect a scare only to let out a “manly” yelp a few seconds later. When it comes to being truly horrifying though, DS2 shares an issue with it’s predecessor that I was hoping would have been fixed. The weapons Isaac has available to him are so overpowered, it’s hard to ever feel like you’re truly not going to make it out alive. Intensity in the game is usually a feeling of anxiety more than being at risk. Encounters with Stalkers > throwing ten enemies at me that I can’t see in a dark room.

The Bad

Story
After a strong, nerve racking opening things were looking good. A couple hours later, the game had already given me an already classic Dead Space “I’m not a unitologist, wait yes I am” bit. It’s getting old and I hope for none of these “twists” in DS3.  The game’s main antagonist Hans Tiedemann barely exists outside of a few “”I would have got away with it if it weren’t for them meddling kids!”  interruptions. With all the work gone into expanding the Dead Space universe since 2008 (novels, comics, animated features, Extraction), I expected a deeper, more substantial plot line. I will thank this game though for introducing us to Ellie who, for reasons I won’t tell you here, is a total badass.

Summary

A lot of what I enjoyed in this game you can find in the original. It doesn’t have that same fresh feeling I got back in October of 2008, but it still has the wow-factor. It thrives mostly on the same crunchy gameplay and creepy atmosphere that made the first game so great, complimented by memorable blockbuster moments that are worth witnessing for yourself and can’t be found in DS1.

3/4 Frosty Joes = 75%

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