Isaac Clarke is back and, unfortunately, so are the Necromorphs that he so tirelessly worked to eradicate on the USG Ishimura. The original Dead Space elevated the bar on survival horror, bringing high expectations for the sequel. Is Dead Space 2 able to improve on the original, frighteningly good formula? Or is that just insanity?
Dead Space 2 is the follow-up to EA Redwood Shores’, now Visceral Games’, sci-fi horror masterpiece from 2008. While the story itself was not too original, Dead Space truly shined in creating an atmosphere that completely engaged the player. From the intuitive user interface, to the waves of Necromorphs attacking every living being in sight, the game excelled at scaring the pants off players while still giving them more control than ever before in a horror game. The game itself is still great, but if you haven’t had a chance to play it, Dead Space 2 provides players with a short video explaining the events of the previous game to bring them up to speed on the current happenings.
You play as Isaac Clarke, the sole survivor of the tragic and freakish events on Aegis VII and the USG Ishimura. Isaac starts the game in a therapy session after his traumatic experiences and learns that three entire years have passed since the incidents of the first Dead Space, though he can’t remember the time passing at all. Awaking in a solitary confinement cell, Isaac finds himself in the middle of a Necromorph outbreak and must fight his way through one of humanity’s largest space stations, The Sprawl. While struggling through the station, Isaac also has to deal with a strand of dementia that is eating away at his very sanity. All in a day’s work, right?
Dead Space 2 once again gives players an unprecedented level of control in a horror game, and it immerses the player into the dark and dank world presented before them. While some might argue that one of the scariest things about horror games is how little control you actually have — ala the original Resident Evil titles — it adds to the entire Dead Space experience. This level of control really makes you feel like Isaac and the master of your own fate. It adds to the level of sheer panic when in a small room surrounded by Lurkers, Pukers, and Slashers and knowing that you can’t blame death on cheap controls.
As a Dead Space fanboy myself, I am continually astounded at the creation of the world you are thrust upon. The different locations are vastly detailed and feel unique to the situation at hand. The sound design of Dead Space 2 is also some of the best work seen in the medium. If you aren’t playing this game on a surround sound system, then you are simply missing out. Not only is Jason Graves’ musical score eerie and dissonant, adding to the already heightened tension of the station, but all of the sounds in the entire game add to the experience. From the creeks of the station, to the shuffling of a Necromorph in the vents behind, to the utter insignificance of existence in the vacuum of space — the sound makes the game. There were many times where I’ve found myself physically turning around and staring at a speaker when in reality, an object merely fell in-game. The tension created keeps your palms sweating and your heart pumping no matter the circumstances.
There are also some wonderful additions to make Dead Space 2 a fulfilling sequel. First, all the weapons from the original Dead Space make a triumphant return — while some of them do have modifications. The Pulse Rifle’s Alternate Fire mode is not a grenade instead of a spread, and the Flamethrower isn’t entirely useless. In the original, there was actually a Trophy called “One Gun,” which was to encourage players to beat the entire game only using the gun you started with. Dead Space 2 has no such trophy, and it’s actually a good thing. The enemy types are much more varied than the first game and it encourages you to experiment with new weapons. New weapons, such as the Seeker Rifle and the Javelin Gun, provide new forms of attack and tactics to even veterans of the Dead Space franchise. These weapons don’t exactly fit the needs of an engineer like the prequel’s weapons however, but more on that later… Continue reading…