Dead Space 2 PS3 Review

March 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher – EA – Developer – Visceral Games – Genre – Action/Horror – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360

We’ve had a fair few horror games this generation, although for me none have been up to the standard of the original Dead Space. The visuals and sound worked together to deliver a very atmospheric experience, and the precision shooting off of limbs was a superb idea, which made the typical lethal headshot a thing of the past.

I was sad to hear that Dead Space underperformed at retail, but fortunately EA commissioned a sequel, a sequel which the publisher has heralded as a great success. This time around Isaac Clarke finds himself on the Sprawl, a metropolis which was once bustling with people. Things pick up three years after the events of Dead Space, and poor Isaac has no memory of the horror of the Ishimura. Isaac is no longer the mute type; instead he has been given a voice, while there’s plenty of moments in which his face is shown – a sharp contrast from the fleeting (be warned, spoiler of Dead Space incoming) revealing of his face at the end of the original game. It certainly makes Isaac a character that I felt more of a connection to, while the story itself is good for what it is.

The beginning of the game sees Isaac escaping from his captors with a little help from Dead Space Extraction’s Franco, whose body ends up penetrated by a Necromorph’s limb. When you get to play the thing, this is a fairly tense sequence – Isaac isn’t able to defend himself from the attacking Necromorph, being that he’s unarmed and restrained by a strait jacket, thus the only thing you can do is run as if your virtual life depends on it, because, well, it does.

These are a new type of Necromorph, they attack in packs and rush you. Indeed, they can be quite deadly.

But when Isaac does get a hold of the Plasma Cutter, the stasis device and, later, his suit, it’s much more familiar territory, with the Cutter (as well as other guns old and new) Isaac can then fight back and dismember the limbs of the nasty breed that are the Necromorph. Yes, Dead Space 2 is everything that made the original game such a classic, but it’s also more action focussed and somewhat flashier.

With the huge number of the Necromorph, Dead Space 2 feels more challenging than the first and shocks do feel that little bit more predictable. But, I’m certainly not complaining as it makes the Necromorph feel even more dangerous (it’s certainly well worth using stasis to slow enemies down as well as to propel their own limbs back at them once again) and it still has some shocking moments – I sometimes found myself pausing when an object rolled across in front of me readying myself for a Necromorph attack, but sometimes such an attack did not come. Chilling is a word that best describes the Dead Space experience.

Actually, chilling describes the high production values of Dead Space series perfectly. The dark visuals are brought to life with spots of beautiful lighting and splashes of gore, and certainly amongst the most impressive in any game today. The sound on the other hand is just downright creepy and is designed so well that it will chill the spine, with creaks, groans and Isaac’s heavy breathing creating an atmosphere that is lonely, depressing and tense.

The environments that you’ll be visiting are a lot more varied than the corridors of the Ishimura, and, believe it or not, there’s even a bit of colour in some areas. Speaking of environments, the zero gravity portions of the game now allow you to fly freely through them and, with the muted sound, they’re just as haunting as they previously were.

It’s still possible to upgrade Isaac’s suit, weaponry and stasis with nodes that you find or purchase, but now, with cash, if you feel the need you can remove nodes and place them somewhere else. It’s little things like this that make for a superior game. But, if I do have any complaints, there’s still a lack of bosses, with very few throughout the game.

Some doors can now be shot open, in which the resulting vacuum will then suck any nearby Necromorph out. Just remember to close the door behind them, otherwise you'll be following them into space.

The single player is so good that multiplayer is something that would never have entered my head had it not been included. Developer Visceral Games did decide to include the option, and admittedly it is rather novel to be given the opportunity to take charge of a Necromorph, although it feels very much secondary to the single player and has its balance issues. It’s far from awful and is a good little bonus, but it’s nothing more than that. Some games just don’t need multiplayer.

But as a single player game Dead Space 2 is something quite special. True, it’s hardly unique, but it just does everything so unbelievably well – manifesting a choking atmosphere and once again bringing fun, strategic shooting – that it will only bother the most jaded gamer. The increase in action may not go down well with some, although for many Dead Space 2 will be an action and horror mix that will be an early contender for game of the year.