PS3 Review – Dead Space 2

January 30, 2011Written by Corey Schwanz

The Zero-G sections of the original Dead Space were an excellent change to the overall feel of the game, and in the sequel they only get better. In Dead Space 2, Isaac is now equipped with a CO2 propulsion system allowing for full range of movement within a null gravity space. This allows for new types of puzzles as well as new types of combat situations, but as with the first game, it’s a shame it isn’t used all that much. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and having multiple core mechanics to a game changes the pace and makes it a bit more fun.

Unfortunately, Dead Space 2 isn’t without its own share of problems. While the game actually takes place across the vast expanses of a space station and then some, it actually feels a lot more constricted than the first game. While the USG Ishimura was smaller, you constantly traveled across different portions of the ship and even returned to places more than once. In Dead Space 2 the chapters seamlessly flow from one to the next as opposed to the last game’s mandatory tram system. Now, while there are doors EVERYWHERE across the Sprawl, only one on a path is ever unlocked. All these extra locked doors are unnecessary and feels like Visceral was trying to artificially inflate the actual size of the game world. At least in the first game when you were backtracking it had a chance to put different enemies in the same room to force you to think creatively. When it comes down to it, it’s just feels walking from one hall to the next, with no time to get your bearings and enjoy such a beautifully crafted world.

Being a Dead Space fanboy like I said, it pains me to see that one of the weakest parts about Dead Space 2 is the story and how it is intertwined with the actual mechanics of the game. In the beginning Isaac is told he is suffering from a terminal mental condition, and throughout the entire game he suffers from nervous breakdowns. And thats…it. This condition is never shown through any other form of gameplay, whether it be anxiety attacks in the middle of combat, loss of movement or weapon control, or even just spontaneous bits of losing health. This condition merely serves as a plot devices and never actually means anything.

Another frustrating part of Dead Space 2 is how Isaac suddenly transformed from a mere ship engineer to super-soldier badass. The appeal of the first game was knowing that Isaac was an underdog. He didn’t have any special military training and improvised the type of power tools around him in the situation he found himself in. It’s hard to find a practical application for a sniper rifle or an impaling spear gun on a functioning space station. Even the suits that Isaac wears seem to be designed more for aesthetic appeal than actual protection. The iconic suit for this game, in one of the pictures above, has a sleek and modern look to it. It doesn’t fit the character whatsoever. I know this type or argument can often be made about how women protagonists almost always seem to have cleavage in a battle uniform, but I expected more from Dead Space.

One of the last things you have to talk about in Dead Space 2 is the new multi-player mode. Two teams of Humans and Necromorphs battle it out in a mission-based format. Each session is made up of two matches, so you are always get a chance to play both of the teams. The controls are exactly the same for the single-player and are easy to pick up even as a first-time Necro. The problem with this mode is actually two-fold though. To start, it still seems unbalanced, even after the Multiplayer Beta late last year. The Necromorphs team seems to win 80% of the time and after playing so long it doesn’t make you want to try any harder. Then, while there are a total 8 of people in the match, 4 Human and 4 Necromorph players, the Necro team actually has bots that don’t count for experience as you kill them. It’s frustrating because you want to get better at the game to level up and get access to better equipment, but there were numerous matches when I only had one or two kills because I kept killing bots. All I can say is that I’m glad this new multi-player didn’t detract from the single-player experience at all. It’s fun, but let’s be clear —  it’s not the main attraction.

Dead Space 2 is more of the same that you’ve been wanting over the last two and a half years. Despite its few flaws, it’s still an experience that no one should miss. The core gameplay is as solid as ever and, despite a few hiccups and plot holes, the story is still incredibly engaging. Those looking for an action or survival horror game should not look any further than Visceral Games’ latest triumph. Even a particular part at the end of the game made me cringe with the controller in my hand, very reminiscent of one of 2010’s most powerful titles, Heavy Rain. And with the free pack-in of a former Wii title Dead Space: Extraction (exclusive to the PlayStation 3 version), the deal just keeps getting better and better. That game, though, will deserve its own review (it has a Platinum trophy!). All in all, Dead Space 2 is still must play game for 2011, even if it isn’t a must keep title.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+Brilliant use of atmosphere and sound design create an immersive world.

– Story and characters are not woven into the actual gameplay.

– Multiplayer is just too frustrating and feels unbalanced.

8 out of 10

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