Dead Space 2, one of the most anticipated titles of 2011 has finally been released, but can it hold up to the high expectations set by the fans that swore by the original Dead Space? While the first game of this currently two-part series stands proudly as one of the best survival horror titles of our time, with a strong support of a multitude of positive reviews, the sequel undoubtedly surpasses the original in almost every aspect. Why Dead Space 2 is such an astounding successor is due to the fact that it stayed true to its predecessor all the while slowly revealing new and intuitive features of its own. Its plot flourishes from its former, and also manages to remain familiar with its prior’s style and creativity at the same time opening adequate space for originality and necessary development to take place. Even though the game does reach a satisfactory conclusion, the ending has the feel of a small battle won in an ongoing war.
Dead Space was released October 18th, 2008 by Visceral Games, and is a third-person shooter, which falls under the survival horror genre. You play as Isaac Clarke a man aboard a ship in space where your main goal is to survive a seemingly never ending horde of creatures. Dead Space 2 is a direct sequel to Dead Space, released January 25th, 2011. The games are set in a futuristic environment with amazing amounts of impressive features. If you are a fan of the genre and have not yet had the chance to play Dead Space you should go out and buy a copy as soon as possible.
Before I continue with the finer details of this game I must warn people who want absolutely no spoilers to skip to the last paragraph, even though I have not included any real spoilers at all in this review. If you would rather discover the new features by yourself and not hear about anything Dead Space 2 has to offer other than how good it is, please skip to the last paragraph where you can see my rating of the game and a short review without revealing the new additions in any real detail. For those of you who have not played the first Dead Space, I highly advise you to do so as there is no tutorial which will teach you the controls, and even though there is a very informative video available on the Dead Space 2 DVD you will not feel the full extent of it’s plot line if you have not played the first one. This recap of the first game’s story can be found under the single player mode and is aptly named Previously on Dead Space TM.
The gameplay of Dead Space 2 is almost identical to its prior, however the player is expected to have slightly quicker reflexes as the surprise and fear factor in this sequel have been dialed up a few dozen notches. If you found the first Dead Space scary (like I did) you will find this one terrifying. For those of you who are familiar with the survival horror genre, imagine Dead Space 2 as frightening as that first time, at the tender age of six, you had the pleasant opportunity of testing the original Doom game. Back when the only other game you played was Where’s Waldo? I know that I was absolutely terrified, but all the same I loved it. Remember the first time you tried playing Silent Hill in the dark? Dead Space 2 manages to keep that same level of intensity, which seems to have escaped most games of this specific genre other than perhaps Alan Wake. While playing the first Dead Space I definitely found it intense, but no where as scary as Doom 3, which is obviously a heavy inspiration to this series. Dead Space 2, on the other hand, blows Doom 3 out of the water, on a pure horror scale I give it 4.5 out of 5 skulls.
All of the monsters (necromorphs) of the primary game are still ready to cut you in half, or brutally rip your face off with their teeth, but there is a welcome and exciting addition of new creatures to unnerve your mental state. Their designs are still very innovative and extremely well done, and some of the original necromorphs have received minor changes making them look all the more awesome. I am intrigued to see the controversy that could follow this game as previously you would be shooting mutated children but now you get the privilege of shooting explosive babies, I’m not entirely sure if that is unethical or not, but I did enjoy that addition. Bodily dismemberment is still a vital strategy to successfully defeating the necromorphs, and I still maintain that my favorite weapon for most of the necromorphs is the plasma cutter, although in later levels some of them do respond better to the pulse rifle.
There are new weapons to look forward to and they have made all of them just as powerful as the plasma cutter, so players will have the motivation to purchase and experiment with the various weapons (rather than resorting to only using the plasma cutter as was apparent in its prequel). That is if you can get enough power nodes to upgrade them all to an epic status. Personally my friend and I decided to stick with the plasma cutter, the pulse rifle (which has a different alternate fire now) and the javelin thrower. What you choose, however, should be completely up to you and seeing as I have only played through it once right now, don’t let me influence you.
You are in a completely different location this time around, although you do revisit the Ishimura again, and that chapter is absolutely terrifying. They have implemented a way to fly around in anti-gravity rather than just having to jump from wall to wall, which is really useful with keeping yourself oriented during those anti-gravity low on oxygen puzzle sequences. Luckily though everything that you loved in the first Dead Space is still there in its sequel. The cool engineer suit that you own (the RIG) no longer can be upgraded by levels, however you are now able to purchase completely new and cooler looking suits as you advance through the different levels, meaning every time you find a schematic for a new suit you start hoarding all the credits and semi-conductors you can find, and start obsessively looking for a store. The same bench system for upgrades still exists, allowing you to upgrade your RIG and various weapons as you please. If you change suits the upgrades to the RIG you previously made still apply, so you don’t have to worry about starting over trying to get those hit points and air boosts all over again.
As I previously stated, the storyline does flow well from the first to the second of this series, although now our loveable hero Isaac Clarke is afflicted by the marker induced dementia to a greater extent, which brings on very intense, unexpected and well integrated cut scenes. The game continues to flow like a dream keeping minimal loading times so the player really does not get the opportunity to lower their heart rates from room to room or cut scene to cut scene. The storyline does borrow a lot from the first one, but I won’t ruin things for you, even though in my opinion Dead Space does not have as amazing a storyline as say BioShock or Alan Wake, rather it follows more in the footsteps of Doom 3’s progressive plot.
Graphically Dead Space 2 is a feast for the eyes. The ambience that surrounds the game is absolutely remarkable and adds to the pre-existing frightening qualities in ten folds. While the game is not as dark as a lot of others in the same horror category (Doom 3), Dead Space 2 makes use of the shadows very effectively. Creatures can be hiding in places that camouflage them almost completely. At times the darkest parts of the game where a flashlight is necessary to just navigate through the amazing scenery is the quietest. Dead Space 2 grasps this concept of the fear of the unknown very effectively permitting it to add a new dimension of intensity and suspense to the game. The neon lighting adds to the beauty of the surroundings, and the blood smears showing in ultraviolet accentuate the feelings of intensity and horror. Musically Dead Space 2 manages to produce the most intense notes at the worst possible times, and through out the game the music reflects the atmosphere of impending doom.
My experience of Dead Space 2 is one that I won’t forget for a long time. My friend and I completed it in give or take nine hours. We stayed up till six thirty in the morning, absolutely captivated by the game, took a five hour nap, made a cup of coffee each and continued with this masterpiece of pure horror fueled by an insane adrenaline high induced by this terrific title. Having played the original Dead Space we had been anticipating this game for over a year now and even though I was apprehensive about what direction they would lead its sequel in, after having played it I cannot be more pleased. Personally this must be the most difficult review I have ever written. Partly because I am still so excited by all the new characteristics available that I have had a hard time organizing my mind and partly because thinking of something wrong with this game as a sequel is extremely difficult.
Really there are only two things I can complain about concerning Dead Space 2 and that has to do with its story, and this is hardly a complaint that is worth making, however it does lower the score of the game from my perspective. The only way this series could be better is if its storyline was more complex and if there was more focus on the plot rather than the action. While the narrative is more than satisfactory, if Dead Space had the slightest bit more complexities involved in the story like the first BioShock did I would rate it a ten with absolutely no hesitation. This is more of a personal criticism as I am sure that there are many who would fiercely disagree with me. I understand that the Dead Space series is a game where the story complements the action, which does work extremely well. I find, however, that an extremely strong narrative allows a game to become more captivating (Alan Wake, Silent Hill), but Dead Space (especially Dead Space 2) has such strong gameplay and so many amazing features that it did already have me very captivated. My other complaint is that the very final mission is a bit too easy as I was expecting to have to retry it multiple times.
All in all, Dead Space 2 is what every sequel to a game should be. While it does not stray too far from its original recipe it does bring enough to the table to make the player feel as if they are discovering new things constantly. As a horror title, Dead Space 2 achieves a level of terror that brings many games in its genre to shame. If you are someone who is easily scared you might want to skip this title, although you would definitely be missing out. The gameplay allows Dead Space 2 to be in a league of its own and surpasses many third-person shooters in terms of originality as well as enjoyment. It relies heavily on a surprise or jump factor so I, for once, actually think people with heart problems should probably stay away from this game as I often felt like my heart was ready to jump out of its chest. The game is just amazing, there are no words that do it justice, the only way you could appreciate the immensity of it is by playing it. The only complaints I have are completely personal as I have stated before, which is why I give it a 4.5 out of 5 as a whole but from a strictly technical stand point I would have to give it a 5 out of 5, and yes there probably will be a Dead Space 3.
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