Isaac Clarke is back, and you know what that means! Lots of stomping on inanimate objects with excessive force and grunting! Oh, and you also get to kill a lot of monsters and fly around in Zero-G. The original Dead Space is well known for giving the horror genre a much needed re-imagining by mixing scares with action, and left many gamers yearning for more. Is this sequel equally refreshing, or just more of the same? Hit the break for our full Dead Space 2 review.
Once again you are Isaac Clarke, only this time you have a face and a voice. Isaac will actually play a part in the story and interact with characters, unlike in the first game where you would just rasp your way from one corridor to another and blindly follow orders, practically asking to be stabbed in the back by both monsters and humans alike. The overall story isn’t anything too mind blowing; you wake up from a 3 year coma and once again have to find “The Marker” while completing objectives and trying to survive, but the characters and the presentation are what have really been improved, and the experience is much more satisfying because of it.
Making a horror game isn’t easy. With live action movies it’s much more of a shock to see a real person get torn to shreds (even though you know it’s fake), but these images are common in video games and rarely hold much of a shock factor. All of your weapons and the entire combat system in Dead Space is built around dismembering and cutting your enemies to pieces, leaving piles of broken body parts scattered about as monsters claw there way toward you despite not having any legs or a head. The combat in Dead Space is fun, effective, and most importantly, not annoying. What I mean by that is that Isaac is able to aim and move, has effective armor, and is just a button press away from health. In my opinion, horror games that cripple these elements are confusing “frustration” with “scary”, and I’m glad that Visceral Games was able to make the distinction.
It might come as a surprise to some, but there is multiplayer in Dead Space 2, and it’s a little different from what you might be used to. The whole system is built around one team being the Necromorphs and attacking in swarms with other AI, and the other team as humans working together to complete objectives. Necromorphs drop like flies while humans, especially if they work well together, are near invincible thanks to the health packs. To win a game, the humans must complete objectives like activating a power core or transporting an object form one place to another, while the Necromorphs do everything they can to stop them.
Teamwork for ether side is essential to victory, and I actually found myself having fun and getting involved in the competition. However, Dead Space 2 was never the sort of game that needed multiplayer and it won’t hold your attention for long. There is nothing particularly bad about it and I would recommend playing it for a bit, but the real draw to purchase Dead Space 2 is its single player.
There have been many improvements to the way Dead Space is presented, like giving Isaac a personality and not making every other character annoying, but almost everything else has stayed the same. The gameplay, the guns, the monsters… well actually to be fair there are a few new monsters, like the Spitter which shoots vomit at you, but it’s nothing revolutionary. My biggest disappointment is that the fear factor never evolves. At the beginning of the game there are several moments that made me jump, but by the 3rd chapter I’d learned most all the tricks and knew what to expect. There were still a few things here or there that startled me, but the game became very predictable and I got to a point where I could tell when something was about to happen.
The scare tactics needed to evolve and do more than just use the monsters to scare you. Using humans or the environment to create some interesting and tension building moments would have been great, but it never did and there were a lot of missed opportunities. One other thing that really bugged me was the static when someone talked to you. This is the future right? You would think that sound quality would be improved. Every audio log and video communication was so broken and filled with static that sometimes I could hardly tell what was being said.
Dead Space 2 is headed in the right direction and it will be interesting to see where the series goes from here. Despite its shortcomings Dead Space 2 has managed to once again breath life into the action horror genre of games. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, just gets it turning again.
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