Dead Space 2 Xbox 360
Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Visceral Games
I don't think anyone can doubt that Dead Space was one of the finest games of 2008. The survival-horror third-person shooter in space wasn't the most original game we've played and it was clear that developers had drawn on several different influences. However, the result was superb and the game has been one of the highlights of this generation of consoles for survival horror fans. Dead Space 2 essentially takes what was good about Dead Space and builds upon it with the result of being an even better game.
Dead Space 2 is engrossing right from the word go. Set three years after his nightmare encounter with the Necromorphs on the USG Ishimura, Isaac once again finds himself faced with having to dismember hordes of the demonic looking creatures. The game begins with Isaac apparently suffering from some form of dementia and he has been restrained at a medical facility on Titan Station, orbiting Saturn.
If you've played Dead Space you'll be pretty much aware of how the game plays because very little has been changed to the core gameplay. The sequel once again features no HUD, instead all the information you need is displayed either on Clarke's back (such as health and stasis meters) or through the use of holograms. It's still as impressive here as it was in Dead Space. The best way to stop the Necromorphs (there are a few new types of Necromorphs including ones that look like hideous, demonic children who attack you in hordes) is once again to dismember them. You'll collect various items such as ammo, schematics (which allow you to purchase new items), cash and power nodes. Power nodes are important because when you find a workbench, you can choose to upgrade such things as your armour and weapons and you'll need to, if you're to have a chance against some of the later bosses in the game. The weapons are a mix of the old, such as the plasma cutter and line gun etc., and the new such as the detonator mines and javelin gun. You'll also be able to use kinesis powers against your enemies if you're looking to economise on your ammo usage (although the amount of ammo seems to be in plentiful supply on the easiest of the five difficulty levels).
The zero gravity moments return in Dead Space 2 but thankfully you'll have much more control over Isaac's movements than in the original game. He now has thrusters attached to all of the available suits he can wear during the course of the game and this allows him to move more or less where he wants to in zero gravity conditions rather than simply drift around.
One of the most notable changes in Dead Space 2 is that Isaac Clarke has been given a voice and you'll get to see his face during the game's cut scenes. In Dead Space he was a silent protagonist which is something I personally don't mind as I think it can add an extra layer of immersion if done correctly. That's not to say the character of Isaac Clarke suffers in any way for being vocal in this sequel. Sure he could have been given a little more charisma and had more depth to his character but as the game pans out we do learn a lot about him and his mental anguish he's suffering as a result of his experiences.
Dead Space 2 even offers a multiplayer experience. The quality of the multiplayer game isn't anywhere near the high quality of the single-player game but it's still a welcome addition. Essentially you'll play in teams of up to 4 vs. 4, humans against Necromorphs. The humans have several objectives to complete whilst the Necromorphs naturally have to prevent the humans from completing them with the roles being reversed so that both teams get to play a map from the two perspectives. The game comes with five maps, which does seem a rather small amount, and a character progression system to encourage long term play.
If I had to pick the best aspect of Dead Space 2 I would say it's the atmosphere. The game has a terrifying ambiance that's as intimidating as any game I've played since System Shock 2. In a survival horror game it’s essential that the quiet times - when there are no enemies present - are almost as chilling as when you are being overrun by blood-curdling enemies. In this respect Dead Space 2 is spot on and makes good use of the quiet moments to build up the psychological fear factor.
Visually Dead Space was no slouch and Dead Space 2 is also an impressive looking game. Where as in Dead Space you were confined to the Ishimura for the most part and naturally there wasn't much variety in the game's various locations. In Dead Space 2 there are a much wider range of environments as Titan Station appears to be an entire city with the various locations that you might expect to find in a futuristic city. Dead Space 2 is all the more enjoyable for this variety and there is a good mix of well and dimly lit locations to mix up the general ambience during the course of the game. The Necromorphs look pretty terrifying and the new additions have a real twisted look that only serves to magnify the fear factor.
Dead Space 2 is subtitled and you will be able to enjoy the game's creepy storyline. The method of enabling the subtitles could have been better however. You can't enable the subtitles before starting a new game. Thankfully you can press the start button as soon as you begin a new game and enable the subtitles to avoid missing out on the dialogue. If you didn't play Dead Space there's a 'Previously on Dead Space' movie to watch. You'll need to start a new game and enable the subtitles before you can watch this movie with subtitles which is all rather odd. Still it's a minor inconvenience and once the subtitles are enabled the problem is all sorted. Tutorial messages are shown in text. The personal log entries you'll find are all in text. Audio logs are subtitled. You're notified in text when new objectives have been given and when they have been completed. There are no visual clues for the horrific noises that serve to heighten the fear factor but this is only a minor complaint. Dead Space 2 is a game where you expect enemies to come at you at any moment so you're permanently on edge. On the whole the game is just as accessible as the original Dead Space game.
The original Dead Space was a great game and is still a title I would highly recommend to anyone who missed it. However, Dead Space 2 manages to improve on the original game and is easily the best survival horror game I've played on this generation of consoles. Some may be a little disappointed that the core gameplay hasn't changed too much but when the original Dead Space was already very impressive it's a little unrealistic to expect the developers to tinker with a winning formula. If survival horror titles are your thing then Dead Space 2 is quite simply an essential purchase and without a doubt it's going to be considered one of the gaming highlights of 2011.