Survival horror games are becoming increasingly scarce these days, with franchises like Resident Evil dropping the horror pretense altogether while others like Silent Hill basking in mediocrity.
One of the genre's newest additions, Visceral Games' Dead Space, however, tries to keep it alive, and, with the advent of Dead Space 2, which promises to really do the genre justice, it seems that there's still hope.
With new features like a multiplayer mode, additions like that of a voice for protagonist Isaac Clarke and the promise of new thrills, Dead Space 2 had a lot of hype going for it.
Is the game worthy of matching up to its predecessor or should it just be dismembered and thrown into an airlock? Let's find out.
Dead Space 2 continues the story of space engineer Isaac Clarke, after he managed to survive the terrifying events of the Ishimura space ship, and sees him trying to recover from the horrors he saw and experienced.
This time, however, the engineer receives a voice, and, while that may break games in some cases, it only expands the character, and gives him a more human side, especially as he is battling with visions of his former love, Nicole.
He lets his weapons and actions do most of the talking, though, so you won't hear him crack wise jokes like Nathan Drake while dismembering necromorphs.
Visceral Games once more manages to craft a fine story, which, thanks to the fact that it is told through a variety of means, not just cutscenes but also audio or video logs, doesn't seem too pushy. If you want to find out more, you just need to keep an eye out for sources of information all around the game world.
The last part of the game really stands out, as Isaac shows that he is more than just a killing machine in a space suit, but I won't spoil any of the impressive bits because it's a touching story that anyone should experience.
It's safe to say that Visceral has delivered a great story, once more, with memorable characters and some sequences that will really impress any type of gamer.
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|Isaac Clarke is more powerful than ever ... ||... but so are the necromorphs |
Dead Space 2 continues along the path of its predecessor, and while it strives to deliver lots of psychological thrills, it often falls back on the cheaper scares, seen in previous Resident Evil games, for example.
This isn't all that bad, as battling with legions of necromorphs while trying to stay alive and avoid any obvious ambushes keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially if you're playing with the lights out and the volume turned up.
Isaac's new suit shows what it's made of and really stands out through features like the thrusters that make the zero gravity sequences a really fun experience, at least when you're not swarmed with the horrific monsters. The vacuum and space portions are also of a surreal beauty, especially when Isaac gets to go outside of the Sprawl space station and witness the size of the actual place.
Weapons in the game have seen some improvements, but seasoned players will probably still invest and upgrade the plasma cutter, as a main weapon, and the pulse rifle as a secondary one, in case things get really hectic (and trust me, they usually do).
You'll also find yourself using your special powers more, the stasis and telekinesis ones, in order to control the crowds of enemies or use their severed limbs against them, in case you run out of ammo.
As with the first game, upgrades for the weapons and suit are a bit hard to come by, depending on the difficulty setting, with the game only offering a few credits and ammo packs after each encounter, forcing you to be very careful where you aim and when you should fire.
While nobody can fault Dead Space 1's enemy roster, the second game adds even more deadly creatures, which make encounters that more frightening. The special child-like monsters, which easily swarm the protagonist, deserve the biggest mention, as they really manage to convey the horror of the necromorph invasion.
The setting of the action is the Sprawl space base, but, even if its name suggests vastness and wide-open areas, most of the action still takes place in tight corridors or in engineering rooms, filled with plenty of ambush opportunities for the necromorphs. When you do reach a wide, open area, however, the Sprawl does look the part, even if you'll be too busy fighting legions of aliens to notice it.
Dead Space 2 should also be commended for its great difficulty settings, as it remains accessible to those new to the genre, but also offers a special hardcore one, which limits the player to only three save slots.
Replayability is also taken care of through a New Game+ mode, which allows Isaac to start once more, but with all the upgrades he made during the previous playthrough to his suit and weapons. This is the only way to fully upgrade certain items, so completioninsts should take it into account, and also offers prototype versions of suits for Isaac.
The single-player campaign can be wrapped up in around 8 hours, but this is really the sweet spot, as Dead Space 2 doesn't outstay its welcome.
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|Zero gravity moments are much better ... ||... and more dangerous |
One of the big new additions to the game is the multiplayer mode, which pits teams of space marines against necromorphs, in sort of Left 4 Dead-like versus encounters.
While this may sound extremely interesting, the whole experience is a bit lackluster, no matter which side you pick.
If you go with the space marines, the whole experiences seem a bit awkward, especially since all of the horror elements are flushed down the drain because you're playing with other people online. Things get a bit more fun when you start leveling up, though, as you can upgrade and customize your suit and weapons.
For people who can't wait to play as necromorphs, things are even worse, as the whole experience of being an evil alien falls extremely short. Your attacks are basically just swings and jabs, and the animation isn't even all that great, so you're just pressing buttons hoping the marine in front of you doesn't pull a melee attack and break your combos.
It's a shame though, as Dead Space 2's multiplayer could have rivaled Left 4 Dead and provided owners plenty of reasons to keep the game and not turn it in after finishing the single-player campaign.
With the right amount of work and updates, however, things could become more attractive.
Graphics and Audio
Dead Space 2 is quite an improvement over the first game, as Visceral really took the Godfather Engine and went to town, making the Sprawl, with both its tight and vast areas, a very impressive setting. The animations are also much more fluid, even if you'll sometime end up with some hilarious corpses, thanks to the ragdoll physics.
Audio-wise, Dead Space 2 really takes things up a notch, using sound to really complete the terrifying picture and increase the psychological horror imprinted on the player.
The voice work is also spot on, with Isaac and the rest of the survivors he meets really transmitting how actual humans may talk and act when faced with a horde of blood thirsty aliens.
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|Small enemies ... ||... big enemies |
Dead Space 2 promised to improve on the already impressive original and to really show just what the survival horror genre is capable when done right.
Visceral Games delivered on these promises, and even if the multiplayer mode needs some work, Dead Space 2 should definitely be tried by anyone who fancies himself a horror fan and wants a really grueling experience, complete with a touching story and believable characters.