Two years of public ridicule have led up to this very moment thanks to the fact that the first Dead Space scared the hell out of me. So much so that although it’s been over two years since its release, I’ve still not been able to bring myself to actually finish it despite a handful of attempts (I eventually had to youtube the final chapter and ending to get up to speed).
As punishment, it somehow only seemed right that I should be forced to play and finish the sequel in order to write our review. While I couldn’t play the first Dead Space for longer than an hour at a time, I found myself almost entirely unable to tear myself away from Dead Space 2.
Find out why, in our full review.
When the first Dead Space was released just in 2008, it was an instant hit that garnered praise from both critics and the public thanks to its slick controls, gorgeous graphics and terrifyingly thick atmosphere.
Set three years after the events of the first game, Dead Space 2 now seeks to continue the story of our helmet wearing, tool-weilding protagonist Isaac Clarke who – thanks to the events of the first game- has completely flipped his pip and lost his marbles. Things go very sour very fast and before you know it, you are back at it once again. If you are new to the series, have no fear (err…) because the game does a great job of getting you up to speed.
While the first game did an inexplicably perfect job of feeding gamers with feelings of claustrophobia, vulnerability, fear and loneliness, Dead Space 2 steps in to further explain and expand on the effects and aftermath of the events that took place in the original.
The pacing and overall setting of Dead Space 2 is a little different to the first game though and the horror has been eased up on a little, although the game has now added a very healthy dose of psychological thriller juice into the potion, so don’t expect a happy walk in the park by any means. Dead Space 2 still has some incredibly terrifying moments that will get your heart pumping and the levels of violence are still way, way up there.
Dead Space 2 definitely does have a little more of an action vibe going for it, albeit slight and as mentioned above, is not as frighteningly scary as the first. Also, while the first game kept everything feeling very closed in, Dead Space 2 has you traveling to new areas more which ushers in a touch of adventure that leans a little towards a Bioshock/Rapture sort of feeling.
One of the major problems that I had with the first Dead Space was that the situation was so bleak and the protagonist so faceless, that it all just never felt worth fighting for. Dead Space 2 brings Isaac Clarke to life and has him conversing with characters more often as well as lowering his helmet (in a very awesome Iron Man fold-away-helmet sort of way) on way more than one occasion. The connection to the character definitely allowed me as the player to relate a lot better to Isaac and want to see him succeed.
The gameplay may seem almost exactly the same as the first game, but a huge list of subtle changes have been made to almost all of the controls, systems and menus – and they really make a difference. Almost everything in Dead Space 2 feels that bit better, smarter, more responsive and more intuitive. This game is a pure example of how to take something that already works, and polish it to a degree that it keeps what made it great in the first place, but tightened it all up to perfection.
Zero-gravity wall-hopping has now also been replaced with the ability to jet yourself around and a greater emphasis has been put on your stasis and telekinesis abilities. As said previously, it’s all been tightened up to make it feel smoother and better although the game did feel like it was lacking a few of the great puzzle areas that did well to keep us busy in the first game.
Unlike the first Dead Space, the sequel no longer sticks to the same sort of chapter format. The story and locations progress naturally and are not split with tram rides. The story dictates where you will head to next and you are never ever presented with loading screens, bar the occasional elevator ride (which is usually masked with an audio log, video call or monster ambush).
From a design and technical standpoint, Dead Space 2 is nothing but pure class. Dead Space 2 has some jaw-dropping visuals aided with the addition of a more varied colour palette and stands as a worthy upgrade over its already great looking older brother. Some other fantastic changes to the design include the choices to completely drop the in-game map and instead allow the player to scroll through waypoint locations such as stores, benches and savepoints (the saving process is also a lot quicker now) while using the waypoint finder function that comes out of Isaac’s hand.
The sound design is also the top notch work and will both blow you away during the epic scenes as well as get your hair standing on end when necessary. Surround sound should be mandatory.
My campaign play-through on normal difficulty ran me just a few minutes shy of 11 hours long and once the game is complete, you are able to start again with a new game plus mode, which allows you to play again but retain all of your items and upgrades.
Along with the campaign, Dead Space 2 has been given the multiplayer treatment. We all know by now that unless your game is one of the heavy hitters, multiplayer really isn’t going to keep too many people playing for too long. On a less negative note, Dead Space 2′s multiplayer is actually a blast to play. One side plays as a team of humans that have to complete objectives to survive the round, and the other side plays as a variety of ugly-sons-o-bitches trying to prevent them from getting them done on time. It’s got a great vibe to it and even though I don’t think it will last too long, it’s still fun even if you only hit it every now and then.
On that note, the campaign itself is already well worth the money, especially considering that you will quite possibly be playing it more than once with the new game plus mode. The multiplayer is a nice bonus, but know that the package was worth it before you loaded up your first online session.
Dead Space 2 is quite simply a phenomenal game and an even better sequel. The controls are near perfect, the menu designs and game systems are ridiculously sharp and intuitive and the story expands into something much bigger via an epic, action packed yet terrifyingly immersive psychological thriller / horror that lasts 10-11 hours and includes multiplayer as well as a the potential for multiplayer play-throughs.
Dead Space 2 is easily the best survival-horror game of this generation as well as possibly one of the better games in this generation overall. Unless you are heavily turned off by violence and/or horror, this game deserves a place in your video game library.
Perfectly polished controls and gameplay that makes for a great survival horror with action elements.
Design & Presentation: 9.5
Gorgeous and smooth looking graphics with intuitive interfaces and inspired art design ranging from environments to technology and creatures.
High quality sound work that does enough to make your skin crawl all on its own.
A perfectly paced 10-12 hour campaign that you will want to play more than once along with a pretty decent online multiplayer mode added in for good measure.
The new benchmark for survival-horror.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]