Dead Space 2 Review
Dead Space 2
‘how can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?’
The original dead space seemed to come from nowhere and restore my love/hate relationship with horror games that had waned since waaay back with Resident Evil 2. I loved and hated sitting there on the edge of my seat waiting for the inevitable appearance of some unspeakable horror that was accompanied by noises designed specifically to loosen the bowels, jumping at the scares and torturing myself with worried expectations in the quiet dark as I crept towards my next objective. Now some 2 years and 3 months later Visceral have decided I need a couple more gray hairs and a year or two cut from my life expectation and released Dead Space 2, I leapt into action and grabbed the game and rang my Psychiatrist to tell her I’ll be needing more sessions.
Our unfortunate hero Isaac Clarke, having destroyed the marker that caused the Necromorph outbreak of the first game, is aboard Titan station (dubbed the Sprawl) a large station on what remains of Jupiter’s moon Titan, Sat in front of a Psychiatrist in full straightjacket regalia answering questions and generally showing that by all medical terms “he’s lost his shit” having seen the horrors of the USG Ishimura. Shit goes space south very quickly and Isaac discovers there’s a new marker onboard the station and it’s causing the residents of the Sprawl to turn into crazy flesh tearing necromorphs. Isaac grabs his plasma cutter (in a rather contrived way) and saunters out to save the day again.
The story here is mostly played out in interactions between Isaac and a collection of supporting characters and since Isaac has decided silent protagonists are blasé and gained a voice these interactions are finally a back and fore instead of just commands to ‘go here’ and ‘fix this’ which is a great improvement. Having said that the back and fore still boils down to ‘go here’ and ‘fix this’ much like the first game and every time I wasn’t explicitly being told to go and fix some solar array toilet dispenser so that my compatriot could blow their nose I felt like I wasn’t actually trying to go anywhere or do anything storywise other than just following my linear path through the only doors that would open. A large part of the story with the marker aboard Titan station is Isaac’s failing sanity and it plays out in hallucinations and mini freakouts where you’re confronted by Isaac’s dead girlfriend Nicole and everything goes into a strange orange spectrum and distorted noises assault you in creepy and frightening ways which I loved, unfortunately Isaac then shakes these off and saunters on barely acknowledging that it just happened and continues to dismember necromorphs.
Isaac showing his face and having a voice this time around is what helps sell his instability and he comes across as a very human character with flaws if somewhat of a bland character that I think really came into his own in the last 3 or so chapters. Most of the supporting characters don’t get too much playtime but have their own personalities that come across well for the most part and are well voiced across the board, Nolan Stross another unblanaced individual is the character you’ll see and hear a great deal of and he really brings insanity to the interactions really well.
The shooting and dismemberment in the first game was incredibly satisfying and it continues to be in this instalment, even more so as this time around the entire action feels more active and visceral with little changes to improve the flow of the game like reloading on the run and an overhaul of the zero G segments making them alot more satisfying. One problem in this new action style though is that when the necromorphs burst out you jump, then you mess their extremeties up with a plasma cutter and you feel like a badass so when they just throw enemies at you for a solid 5 minutes you lose all sense of fear in a whirl of flying limbs and weighty curb stomps. Those moments where the tension falls to the side in a mass of combat continue to be satisfying though as shooting a necromorph’s bits off will never get boring especially when stamping on their corpses afterwards causes Isaac to yell and scream obsceneties at the fleshy bits hanging from his boot.
those boots and fleshy bits are brilliantly realised with simply stunning visuals here with the largest part being played by light. Light coming from your torch, helmet visor and lighting on the sprawl interacting with the environment in a breath-taking way. The graphics themselves are top-notch with some very emotive faces from the characters and visual effects really setting the standard but as i said it is the lighting in this game that is just fantastic and contributes to set an atmosphere that is worth the entry price alone. The soundscape in the game aids fantastically in setting up the atmosphere too with amazing, high production values showing what a skilled team with a good budget can achieve. From crawling through dank corridors with the barely audible sounds of distant scuttling whilst I swear I hear “Isaac” whispered in the ambience to the sound of a flaming train hurtling off it’s tracks as Isaac is thrown around onboard with grunts and clangs punctuating each weighty collision I was constantly struck with how great the aural experience is here.
It took me about 11 hours to complete my first playthrough and I’ve heard reports of 9 to 10 hours being the average but replayability will add time to your game and after playing through once I started my new game + straight away and willl more than likely play through a 3rd time on Hardcore. The playstation 3 version comes with a bonus copy of the lightgun shooter Dead Space: extraction in early runs which is compatible with playstation move and as such is the version I’d go for if you’re able to. The multiplayer feels slightly tacked on and I personally found it quite satisfying but after a couple of rounds I didn’t feel any pull to go back to it and the ability to find a game with people in it is dwindling already but it’s single player that this game will draw on and that’s where this game shines like a diamond. having been described as Aliens to the original’s Alien in theme and that’s right on the money in my estimation and the gameplay surpasses the original in every way and will be a solid competitor for game of the year even with it’s january release. 3rd person horror gaming has a new standard to meet now and it’s a glorious one.