Visceral Games and Electronic Arts gave us a great dose of hybrid survival-horror/third-person shooter goodness with their 2008 hit, Dead Space. For those of you who did not play it, you traversed the game as engineer Isaac Clarke who was tasked with fixing whatever might have caused the USG Ishimura mining ship to go off communications. As it turned out, however, what caused this was an infestation of insane people and undead mutations known as necromorphs.
Dead Space 2 takes place three years after the events of Dead Space. The game begins with Isaac Clarke being awakened inside the future-equivalent of a ‘padded room’ after another outbreak of necromorphs has occurred. Dead Space 2 on the Windows PC platform is a complete step above the first game’s PC port. The controls are smooth and graphics can be pumped up quite a bit over its console brothers.
Overall, gameplay mechanics stay similar to the original, with some exceptions. The best of these changes being the ability to use your ‘gravity gun-like’ telekinesis to grab objects and fling them at targets. More so, the telekinesis can grab things like the spiked limbs off fallen necromorphs. Basically, you can shoot their own spikey bits back at them. Spikey bits, water jugs, mops, etc… This, in and of itself, is extremely satisfying – especially if you are out of plasma charges. Best part is that this ability does not need recharging – you can ‘gravity gun’ things all you like!
Another big change to the gameplay mechanics is the ability for stasis energy to recharge itself over time. This makes the game far more user-friendly than having to constantly worry about your energy reserves. You already have so much to worry about in the world of Dead Space 2: Necromorphs, the mentally-ill, corrupt religious fanatics, and more – so, as Forrest Gump once said, ‘One less thing’. Of course, you can still charge up at stations (the auto-recharge can take a while) so that is an option for players looking for a quick top-off.
If Dead Space is the video game equivalent of Ridley Scott’s classic film, Alien, then Dead Space 2 is certainly James Cameron’s Aliens. Case and point, the entire way I experienced this game was very different than how I experienced the first one. Isaac Clarke as a character reflects these differences as well. In fact, it is quite an evolution and if you have not played Dead Space, I highly recommend you do so before embarking into Dead Space 2 – but I digress. More to the point, in Dead Space 2 I found myself not creeping inch-by-inch into every hallway and room encountered but, instead, often times charging in, plasma cutter blazing, just waiting for a necromorph to pop out from somewhere. As a character, Clarke has already dealt with this scourge before. His ordeal on the Ishimura has forged and hardened him. In the craziest of situations, this man – who not hours before was cooling his heels in a mental hospital, is the most qualified individual to handle things.
That is not to say the game won’t make you jump or surprise you – it will. More than once… However, much in the same way Aliens had its share of jumps, you get to dish out more than your fair share of havoc on the grotesque necromorphs. I distinctly remember one moment where I got jumped by a group of necromorphs: a few of the standard walkers and maybe five of the smaller child mutations. The one thought in my head at that moment was Cameron’s Vasquez yelling, ‘Let’s rock!!!’ as she began blasting away with her smart gun. It is a very satisfying mix of scare and balls-deep action that leaves you with a smile on your welding mask-clad face.
As alluded to before, the visuals of Dead Space 2 are excellent – effective at being both beautiful to look at as well as inspiring terror and dread. Textures are well-detailed and the necromorphs are truly-sickening in their mutations. They have this really gross ‘wet-look’ to them that inspires a visceral (no pun intended, Visceral Games) response. The level design is also well done, with routes being more instinctual than in the first game. Thankfully, you still have your route locator device to plot your course when things do get confusing. There are also several small, alternate paths that you can take – I highly recommend you not be afraid to explore. Often times, loot awaits you – even if you have to slay some necromorphs to acquire it.
The audio in Dead Space 2 is even more impressive than the excellent visuals. The entire aural experience is unnerving and creepy. It is easily the best use of audio I have ever experienced in a video game. From walking past residential hatches where you can hear the muffled horrors taking place inside to the general chaos of entering a public thoroughfare full of panic-stricken civilians, Visceral Games audio folks need some serious congratulations of a job well done. As a topper to the terrifying aural bouquet, even the voice acting is above average and believable!
The only annoying or repetitive parts of the game come in the form of the ‘act or die’ sequences. These are action-packed scenes featuring the player character in imminent danger. These scenes usually unfold in multiple segments and, in order to progress to the next segment (and continue surviving), the player has to perform a specific action in a short amount of time. Often times, it is difficult to make out your objective due to the Michael Bay-style camera shaking and the tons of objects/debris that occupies your screen. If you die several steps into the encounter, you must re-do all the past segments up to that point.
Overall, Dead Space 2 is an action-packed, suspense-filled, and jump-inducing experience which is a great second step in the Dead Space universe. It features all the best things about the original game while upping the ante in several areas. Go out and buy this right now for your favorite platform – you will not be sorry.