It has been a few years since Isaac Clarke destroyed the marker in Dead Space, along with the planet it was on and escaped the Necromorph outbreak. You would have thought that he could escape the crazy people and their plans for the universe, you would be wrong though - Isaac is back and he's ready to get even in Dead Space 2.
Dead Space was one of those games that almost came out of nowhere, making me an instant fan and proving that survival horror in space could work really well without the trademark Alien(s) and Facehuggers. It took Resident Evil by the throat and provided an immersive, disturbing and violently twisted romp through a doomed space ship.
I remember finishing Dead Space and hoping we'd see more Isaac, and now it seems like no time at all since the first Necromorph outbreak.
Dead Space picked up after the animated Dead Space: Downfall and Dead Space 2 picks up after the events from the downloadable game Dead Space: Ignition and Dead Space: Aftermath, another animated tale. It's not necessary for you to watch and play all of these things to get right into 2, but it's worth it if you want the whole story and the complete experience. You do get some nice toys from Ignition that transfer into Dead Space 2. Dead Space 2 brings Isaac back and this time it's not a ship that is in trouble, it's a huge space station called the Sprawl.
The Necros are back and they're meaner this time around, fortunately for Isaac, so is he.
3 years later he wakes up and things go to hell really fast. You'll have to play the game to find out why, but the first few minutes of Dead Space 2 are in a word: Awesome.
Fans of Dead Space will be able to jump right into the thick of things pretty quickly; it's like putting on a pair of very comfortable shoes only to find that someone's made them fit even better. What the developers have done is great; they've listened to the fans and made significant changes that soup up the gameplay without sacrificing the intensity and the horror of the first game. Whilst it doesn't feel as scary as Dead Space it isn't supposed to, Isaac is no longer running for his life - he's out to get even and he's madder than a bag of hammers, having been infected by the marker from the first game and driven nearly insane. All of this feeds directly into the experience with Isaac suffering dementia moments that serve to drive the narrative at times and scare the heck out of you at others.
Movement and combat are smoother; Isaac's telekinesis module has been made into a weapon this time around. It's possible to pick up certain objects in the game world and hurl them into the Necromorphs, pinning them like undead butterflies to a wall. You can even rip bits off dead Necros and use them as weapons to conserve ammo.
Stasis has been altered, your module now recharges over time and can be upgraded with additional uses and duration.
Isaac's RIG now has thrusters that work in Zero-G to enhance that portion of gameplay. It is now a full 360 degrees with no need for the fiddly jump mechanic of the first game, you can explore to find hidden nodes and schematics. In some sections the air runs out and once again the air meter makes a welcome return to bring a little bit of tension to the mix.
Isaac's arsenal has been upgraded, there are some more weapons for him to use against the bad guys and the Javelin gun for example has a powerful alternate function that electrifies the last Javelin launched. This can be a life saver if you have a clump of Necros bearing down on you. I won't spoil any of the weapons though, I'll just say that there's a nice mix of old and new, with a lot of the weapons being given a special ability if you put the right Nodes into the weapon at the Bench.
Yep, the Bench is back and so are Nodes, Node locked rooms and Stores of course. Isaac's RIGs have been upgraded with new models and functions, some of the suits offer extra bonuses when worn and there's a nice system that lets you keep your stats from one suit to the next, even if you change to a different RIG that you like the look of. For example if you're running a RIG with 10 Inventory slots and 10% armour, you find one with 15% armour and 15 Inventory. You can go back to the previous RIG and you'll keep the bonuses.
You can melee with the right trigger and stomp again, stomping often yields valuable currency and ammo from the corpses of the Necros you defeat.
The developers have done away with the map, but they have made the objective line multi-functional so you can use it to track, objectives, stores, save points and work-benches now.
All in all the controls, the changes to the gameplay and the new sequences that I'm not going to spoil, are a welcome addition to the formula and serve to make the gameplay in Dead Space 2 much better than the first. Being able to rip out Nodes from weapons and use them in others is also a great addition, though you don't get that till later on in the game at it costs about 5,000 to do so.
There are also new Necro types to deal with and good luck with those, again, I'm not even going to tell you what they are, so if you're new to the franchise or you're looking for a spoiler free experience - you came to the right review.
Dead Space was a nice looking game; it used a lot of the graphical tropes in this genre really well, made use of lighting to create a spooky and visceral atmosphere. Dead Space 2 is a significant step up the graphical ladder, its better looking than 1 and manages to push a new level of detail with some really nice environments, disgusting monsters and a great level of fidelity on the characters. The facial animations are better on the human antagonists and allies, and overall it's just a huge leap from the first game that it really took me by surprise. The game is also packed with some totally gruesome OTT death animations for Isaac, it's worth dying just to see them!
As for the animations, there are quite a few new ones, tweaked old ones and everything seems a lot smoother. The Necros are really gross now and they have even more articulation and horrific transformations. Isaac has a great deal of character to his movements and a suit, the RIG now has thruster-plates and control surfaces that move as he jets about in Zero-G.
Enemy AI is excellent with a variety of new Necros using different combat tactics; you now need to think more tactically than before. They will attack in packs, wear you down and vanish into ducts to come at you from any direction you can think of. The larger beasts are more focussed on breaking you into little bits so they can be tricked if you know the right tactics for the monster in question. All in all, no grumbles here with the game's AI and it's definitely better than 1.
What's there works; the weapons that require a feel of weight and force to them have just that. Isaac gets knocked about by the heavier Necros and explosions can do some pretty useful things to decimate the Necromorph population. Some explosions can break the fragile glass of expansion areas aboard the Sprawl, so be mindful of the weapon you use or face the consequences. Hint: it can be used to your advantage. Zero-G physics are excellent and there's just the right movement to the objects when gravity fails.
9/10th of the atmosphere of Dead Space 2 is in the sound design and like the first game, it is top notch. There are whispery voices, excellent spot effects and some truly foul sounding noises in the game. The vacuum special effects sound wise are back and they have the same impact in 2 as they did in 1, they sound great. The only sound you get is reverberated through Isaac's RIG and everything is muffled and dampened so you won't hear the bad guys unless they smack you one in a vacuum. Top quality all around.
Ah Jason Graves, you are probably one of my favourite composers to date. Dead Space 2's music is no exception and if you're a fan of twisted horror, dynamic action orientated musical accompaniment and quirky off-beat tunes. The Dead Space 2 soundtrack has them all; it's worth picking up as a stand-alone piece of music and makes a good atmospheric listen. It matches the game perfectly and evokes the Sprawl's vast terror right on the nose.
The developers made the right choice in giving the once-silent Isaac Clarke a voice, now Isaac can interact with his fellow survivors and the terror is much more personal because of it. The voice work is great and all of the cast do a wonderful job with their lines, especially the spooky additional voices that pop up now and then. I'm a fan of the writing for Dead Space 2 because it is actually really well done, it's not cheesy and it's not over the top, there's some genuine emotion to the dialogue here and there's a lot of characterisation compared to the first game.
If there's a down side to Dead Space 2, it is that the multiplayer doesn't feel too great from the Necromorph side, or fully fledged as say: Left 4 Dead. It echoes that kind of vibe with a 4v4 match where the humans try to outwit and destroy the Necros whilst completing various objectives. The Necros must destroy the humans, using their unique abilities. It's that simple, there's a smattering of maps and its fun enough. It is however highly unbalanced at the moment with the advantage being given to the human forces and their weapons. There's not much in the way of lag and if you're looking to extend the play experience, it is worth trying.
Don't forget that EA require an online pass for this game to allow you to experience the multiplayer, free passes come with retail copies and if you're going to buy 2nd hand you will probably need to pay the 800msp to get access to the multiplayer beyond the 2 day free trial that you can sample in case it isn't for you.
So, yeah...I clocked the game after about 13 hours of play, some of that was backtracking to get more Nodes and grab some gear I'd missed. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and dove right into New Game+ with pimped out gear and modded weapons, still feeling the same horror as I did with the first play of the game. I had a few rewards from finishing it and then of course there's Hardcore Mode.
3 saves only through the whole campaign and an unlockable bonus at the end for all your hard work. If you die, you restart at the last save. So make sure you have a lot of time to put towards this endeavour because the chances are, you'll want to save right before the finale and 3 saves don't exactly carry you too far.
There's replay value for certain, with new suits being opened on New Game+ and more things to find. There are at least 3 plays before you might get bored and if you want to do Hardcore, perhaps 4.
Multiplayer adds a new level of replay to the franchise, but I would have preferred a cooperative romp through parts of the Sprawl with the option for players to jump in and control Necromorphs, a little like Mindjack only a thousand times better.
Dead Space 2 is a great game, it has a really solid ending and a story that I wanted to finish to see what happened to Isaac Clarke, a hero I actually cared about in 2. If you like survival horror, science fiction and some really good quality with your experience, forget Resident Evil, Dead Space is the new king of the genre.
See you on the Sprawl!