Two words to begin this review… Zombie Toddlers.
Dead Space 2 finds everyone’s favourite Necromorph slayer Isaac Clarke receiving alarming news from a (soon to be dead) psychiatrist that things are about to get really ugly. The game is set 3 years on from the success that was Dead Space and pits you against some old foes you would recognise but also a myriad of new terrifying and occasionally down right frustrating alien mobs combined with some stunning areas in the beautiful ‘Sprawl’. Add to that, some new fun weapons for slaying excellence and we have quite the game.
Firstly what is different about this game in comparison to the first Dead Space? Well there have been a number of smart tweaks to the game play which makes playing the game a lot easier and controlling the often sluggish Isaac a treat as he is much more responsive in the sequel. However one wish I did make was that you didn’t have to perform anymore WWE like ‘stomps’ to loot enemies… unfortunately nothing’s changed there. While that may annoy me to an extent I suggest you don’t let it put you off as that really is a tiny complaint. I was always a massive fan of the futuristic-like UI and especially the way you could use the objective line to keep you on track. Brilliantly the tracker has now been improved to show you where save games, stores and work benches are (this is game changing when playing on harder difficulties). The biggest achievement in this game is the phenomenal cutscenes where you find yourself spamming keys to prevent Isaac being sucked out of a window into a colossal and extremely sticky monstrous hole. They are so immersive and often trick you into thinking you have saved yourself only to be instantly faced with a large number of necros without any warning. There is no easy way out on Dead Space 2 – after killing a boss you’d expect some rest and slow game play but you never seem to get a couple of minutes peace to wipe your clammy hands.
If you saw the trailer, I’m sure like most people you were salivating over the zero gravity sections in the game and I must say they do not disappoint at all. While the puzzles are on occasion relatively simple, they are for the most part on the line of slightly challenging to being not puzzling at all therefore not really being too easy to seriously damage the game. The zero gravity in itself is extremely well made and easily controlled – especially the moments where you are flying through space, escaping some over gown mutant hedgehog. However for me the hacking mechanic is seriously pointless and so simple, I would say either make it more challenging or just remove it all together because it really has no place nor worth in the game.
The game is gorgeous and I’m not some sado-masochist, honestly it really is beautiful. Obviously one must ignore the masses of blood and dead bodies (unless you’re into that kind of thing) to truly admire some of the locations that you find yourself creeping around. The locations range from a childrens’ nursery, a Gothic Unitology church and back to the dark corridors and elevators that you know from Dead Space so well. This really is a positive that the first game didn’t have; the game is gorgeous and on the odd occasion when you aren’t screaming at the screen you will find yourself in awe of the panoramic views, only to go back to screaming…
The new Necromorphs in the game do provide a large number of variables to contend with. The most demanding in my opinion are the babies/children/toddlers. They are well hidden on the first encounter and do surprise you. I must admit they are absolutely TERRIFYING. Not only do these little critters arrive in swarms but they also are like proximity mines and explode when they are too close to you. This really gets frustrating in the childrens’ nursery because they arrive out of nowhere (in true horror-survival fashion) and overwhelm you. If you get through that point without dying a million times I will be ever so slightly in awe of your exploding baby dodging. Not only are there horrifying dead babies, there are also stalkers which are fast moving charging enemies that hide and let off a horrible squeal… much like the ones I let off while playing this. Many of the enemies in this game are standard if you have played games like Left 4 Dead however don’t let that be a negative because it is the way in which they are revealed to you and the decisions you make that really make you sit on the edge of your seat for hours.
You are introduced to a number of new weapons which help you dismember aliens in all new fun ways. Most weapons have a costly secondary fire which you don’t need to use, but if you do it will cost you which induces those difficult decisions that need to be made in order to survive and which ultimately make this game so engrossing. There is a new assault/pulse rifle which fires a grenade secondary but really burns through ammo. In addition to that you will find a buzz-saw, a ‘javelin’ which fires electrified metal spears and a slower, bigger version of the plasma cutter to name a few. They are all well made and equally balanced leaving you to decide which weapon takes down each enemy most successfully- unfortunately more often than not you will only just have enough ammo to survive and it will be for the worst gun possible to take down that enemy, but that’s the FUN isn’t it?
The multiplayer isn’t terrible but it feels disappointingly thrown together. It pits 4 humans against 4 Necromorphs; you can choose which necro you are, much like you can choose which zombie to hunt with in Left 4 Dead. There are only a handful of maps and there really is nothing I can find to shout about with regards to multiplayer. This is definitely not what the devs were focusing on and in all honesty I’m sure you didn’t really buy Dead Space 2 looking for a Black Ops-like multiplayer experience. For that reason I won’t be letting the multiplayer seriously dent my rating on the game; these days it’s all about the multiplayer so the developers in my opinion had no real choice but to throw some form of multiplayer into the game. I would commend the way in which each map has its own objective, from generally escaping to destroying fuel cores to killing all necros and activating three components to detonate a bomb, but that is literally all I can offer by way of a compliment.
Overall this game really captured my imagination and wasted my university budget on new undergarments. While there are many moments where you can predict the ‘jump’, there are thousands upon thousands of extremely clever ways in which the game catches you off guard and really makes you think. I have completed the game but the challenge in ‘hardcore’ mode has got me hooked yet again, where I only have 3 saves throughout the entire game and everything is well… hardcore. Also snooping around tells me that there will be DLC landing soon called Dead Space:Severed which includes a whole bundle of new items and a new story line with two new characters. I hate the fact that I love this game as it is genuinely scary but I just can’t put it down and urge anyone regardless of whether you like this genre to buy this game and give it a go, because it is one of the best survival/horror games I’ve ever played.