The first Dead Space was an unexpected surprise that delivered genuine terror through limited ammo, shocking horrors lurking around every corner, and a sense of immersion that never took you out of the game. With the sequel, EA and the team of Visceral Games have to rely on delivering a better experience that feels fresh while at the same time giving players more of what they liked from the original and the Wii game, Extraction. Thankfully, Dead Space 2 offers more of the same while giving something that feels fresh and new.
Three years after the original Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is in a bad place. The events at the USG Ishimura have left him in a mental hospital on a massive space station that quickly becomes the newest stomping grounds for a Necromorph invasion. The sole thing keeping Isaac alive is his guilt over the death of his girlfriend Nicole, who makes frequent appearances via hallucinations.
As the game starts out, Isaac is little better off than the poor souls getting horrifically murdered. The Marker from the first game messed him up terribly to the point where he, and you the player, will not know whether you are fighting monsters of the Marker or his own scarred mind. It is a story of hope and redemption, one that is made better by the fact that Isaac speaks and shows his face frequently. Additionally, the story is solid and entertaining throughout, never losing steam.
Dead Space 2’s improvements start with the combat. Once again, you are armed with four weapons, a stasis ability that lets you slow down time, and a telekinesis power that lets you move items with a wave of your hand. Combat feels more satisfying and responsive than the first game thanks to better controls. Switching between weapons never feels like a hassle with the controller.
Additionally, combining your powers with your weapons will save your life continuously throughout the 15-chapter story mode. During that time, the store is your best friend; it is constantly updated with new weapons, like the javelin gun, and cool looking armor sets that have their own inventory and health upgrades when you purchase them.
The newest location for the alien invasion is the Sprawl, and it is massive. Each location that you go to, be it a church, a school, or outside into space, looks more different and interesting than the dingy corridors of the Ishimura. Some of the best moments, such as a harrowing battle with an enormous Necromorph, take place in some amazing looking locations. Moments in zero gravity are probably the only moments that do not entirely live up to the expectations due to how disorienting it can be after being knocked around from seeker drones that come in droves.
The same compliment goes to the enemies; while some enemies from the first game return (like the wall-crawling Lurker), there are plenty of new enemies to dismember. The best, and by far, most annoying, has to be the Pack. This onslaught of screaming children will often find you using every weapon and med pack in your inventory while you run to get some down time.
The Pack will not be the only thing to try your patience. After the sixth chapter, the game starts to make you feel increasingly like a chump with enemies that ceaselessly spawn in front of you, to the side, in the vents above you–basically anywhere you can think of. Some of the enemies, such as the Puker and a black-sludge covered Necromorph that appears late in the game, have incredible reach and will eat up several clips of ammo if you want to see them dead. On more than one occasion, I had to turn down the difficulty to Casual to avoid frustration and just calling it quits. The only reason that anyone would strive to complete the game on higher difficulties would be if they were either someone who loves being punished for every error, or if they never tired of watching Isaac die in horrifically violent ways.
Another issue I have with the single player campaign is that as much as Isaac grows as far as character development, he never seems too concerned with taking his life by the horns. Too often, there’s some voice telling him to go activate something or go to a specific location, like an unpaid errand boy. I would much rather have him tell someone to screw off and do it themselves while he does something that actually matters.
In addition to the single player, there is also multiplayer portion where eight players take turns in four-on-four objective based matches as Engineers and Necromorphs. As the Engineers, you are tasked with various objectives, while the Necromorphs are tasked with stopping the Engineers any way possible. While the Necromorphs re-spawn faster and have four classes to choose from, the Engineers have two weapons and the Stasis ability, so it is not surprising that the Engineers will win the round more often than not. Aside from the seemingly obvious choice that a Horde mode would work in the Dead Space universe, the multiplayer ultimately feels like something meant to match up with the far superior Left 4 Dead franchise. It does have potential, but at the moment, it is something that only the most diehard multiplayer lover will enjoy.
If the first Dead Space was about scaring players, Dead Space 2 is about taking them along for an entertaining, high-octane thrill ride. Punishing enemies and Isaac’s lack of a real backbone are only minor crusts in a very solid single player core. The multiplayer, while nothing special right now, could eventually become something worthwhile. All the same, Dead Space 2 is the game to buy. Your mom may hate it, but you will love it.
5 out of 5