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Dead Space 2


The marketing campaign for Dead Space 2 has been nothing but diabolically brilliant. Using a group of mothers and grandmothers as a Dead Space 2 focus group is mean and just plain smart. Of course they are going to despise the grotesque and flagrant violence of hideous, nasty Necromorphs and thatís going to sell games to the target market of Dead Space 2. Marketing aside, Visceral Games had much to live up to following the surprise hit that was Dead Space. Dead Space, in part, helped the survival horror genre reemerge as a dominant force while franchises like Resident Evil waned. Following the events that took place on Ishimura, Dead Space 2 brings back the lonely engineer that is Isaac Clarke to face another outbreak of those disgusting and inherently evil Necromorphs. (Sidebar: I bet that Isaac Clarke and Gordon Freeman, post-Ravenholm, could have much to talk about, probably mostly about engineering and blood-thirsty freaks.)

The events of Dead Space 2 take place on The Sprawl, a highly populated city built on one of Saturnís moons. Three years have passed since Ishimura and Isaac is a couple tacos short of a combo plate, straightjacket and all. The source of his brain pain is The Marker, government protected and extremely tough to destroy. He sets out to take down The Marker to regain his sanity and escape the Necromorph outbreak. You will also see the Church of Unitology pop up again and a couple other familiar characters. Rather than silencing the engineer, Isaac has his own voice now. Heís still understated as a main character though, something that definitely works to the advantage of the overall presentation. The story is well paced for the most part; only a couple hours in the middle of the game seemed a bit thin.

dead space 2 isaac talking friends

If you played through the original Dead Space, you will immediately be at home with the style of gameplay. (If you didnít play through the original, thereís a recap in the game for you.) Itís still a third person shooter that relies on frantic running and gunning to blast through each situation. A subtle difference from the original is that you feel like Isaac moves a bit faster and can react slightly quicker, a necessity in The Sprawl, not so much in the claustrophobic Ishimura. Itís definitely helpful in slicing off the Necromorph limbs and Visceral also included a couple more toys to accomplish that. The javelin gun, for instance, impales those nasty freaks to the wall and trip mines offer a wonderful explosive surprise for any Necromorph stupid enough to trip the laser. You also have access to all the original weaponry in Dead Space like the line gun, ripper, plasma cutter, etc...

Stasis powers also make a return in the game, very helpful when ole Isaac is lacking in the firepower department. The game seems very well balanced between large scale battles and firefights in very tight spaces. Thereís a wider variety of giant, freaky creatures to dispatch along the narrative as well. You will also find the much disliked zero gravity sections return from the original game, but the developer was smart to improve them. Isaac now has the ability to jet around the areas with small rocket boosters on his suit. Itís extremely helpful and makes those sections of the game entertaining rather than a sore point of the game design. There are also a couple new enemy types in the mix, the biggest pain in the butt being the puker. He loves to spew crap all over Isaac, forcing a severe slowdown and occasionally death when being swarmed by Necromorphs.

dead space 2 isaac puker gross

Also included in the package is adversarial multiplayer, pitting up to 8 players against each other in a Human vs. Necromorph battle. Similar to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the game assigns goals to the Human team that all have a strict time limit. Humans run around attempting to complete these goals while the Necromorph team only attempts to destroy the Humans. Players on the Necromorph team can choose from pukers, spitters, lurkers, etc. while Humans are basically given better stats. Necromorphs also have the luxury of choosing where to spawn on the map, a key advantage when attempting to split up a well-organized squad of Humans. Similar to the Modern Warfare series, you earn experience and new abilities by winning multiplayer matches. There are some especially nasty attacks in the Necromorph group that will help dominate the competition. All the matches I participated in were very smooth and I had no problem finding players as well.

Beyond multiplayer, there are 51 trophies to earn in the game. Most of them are awarded for leveling, beating the game and killing X number of Necromorphs, but there are some creative inclusions; impaling an enemy into a decompression window to cause it to blow out or shooting three tentacles of a Lurker with a single shot, for instance.

Graphics

I do applaud Visceral Games for moving away from the closed in feeling of Dead Space and branching out into the wide open spaces of the Sprawl. Again, they were able to use flickering lighting effects to freak me out consistently. This is a game thatís better played at night if you play at the default brightness level, but also increasingly scary. Character models donít appear to have changed dramatically, but I did love the inclusion of the stasis / health meters on the back of Isaacís suit. I also believe that Visceral ramped up the special effects on Necromorph kills, so except to see even more gushing blood flying around the room. The game is gorgeous in HD and runs perfectly fine. Different from the Xbox 360 version, it all comes on a single disc rather than being split over 2 discs.

dead space 2 isaac freaky death

Audio

A key part of any survival horror game is the audio, specifically directional audio. Dead Space 2 does an absolutely phenomenal job of making your skin crawl the entire time. It could be a creepy announcement bouncing off the walls of the Sprawl or the ear shattering screech of a Necromorph, but itís going to get you. The musical score, created by Jason Graves who also composed the original score for Dead Space, is phenomenal as well. It does an excellent job of not only capturing the mood, but also supporting the scariest moments in the game. The voiceovers, while arenít up to the caliber of a Mass Effect or a Fallout game, where decent enough for the game and Isaac sounded great.

Conclusion

While Visceral Games didnít push the envelope in regards to opening up the sequel to new twists on the gameplay, they did an excellent job of capturing the terrifying intensity of the original in addition to providing a more captivating narrative. Depending on difficulty level and your own level of fear, you are probably looking at about 12 to 15 hours of play time to finish the 15 chapter single player campaign. You can also take your upgraded weaponry into the next playthrough, thus itís pretty entertaining to play through the game multiple times.

If you purchased the game at launch, you also received Dead Space Extraction (previously seen on the Wii) as an excellent bonus (3.5GB install); completely compatible with the Playstation Move! You also have the multiplayer mode to tackle, an excellent addition to the franchise (even if itís very similar to the Left 4 Dead series). If you have any love for the survival horror genre or are a horror movie fanatic, you are going to love playing through Dead Space 2. Even without Extraction, itís well worth the $60 MSRP and should be played immediately by all Dead Space fans. Highly Recommended!



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