Dead Space 2 (PC) Review
It's every school kids dream to one day be an astronaut, jetting into the far reaches of the solar system to explore new worlds and potentially meet new species. We'll have engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandparents and children living millions of light years from Earth in their own, new world. Sounds pretty awesome doesn't it? Well, not if you're Isaac Clarke and certainly not if you're on-board the Sprawl; a giant colony built on one of Saturn's 3 moons...
Ok, so lets get the bad news out of the way first… In Dead Space 2 the multi-player function is rather dull. Seeing 8 players go up against one another as four become the survivors and four become the necromorphs, tasked with stopping their opponents escape at all costs isnt exactly mind blowing. It soon turns into a stake-out and gets really boring, really quickly. The introduction of some new and exciting game modes would have helped a lot in creating a truly fun multi player battle mode.
Now the good...
Anyone who played the original Dead Space title will know that the search for the main characters girlfriend didnt end well and closed with a cliff-hanger ending. Three years on we again take control of Isaac Clark and spend most of the game being chased by the distressing visions of our girlfriend. Eyes gone and replaced by brilliant white beams of light and a face as ghoulish as they come she, appears out of nowhere amidst screeching sounds and flashing lights at the most impractical of moments. It's just one reason why players are never given the chance to settle in to the game without being frightened beyond belief.
In most games in the survival horror genre the developers build up slowly to a crescendo of violence and terror in order to allow players to settle into the game, the controls and the feel of their character. Yet with Dead Space 2 it's the complete opposite. Things begin as we would expect with a sequence showing the protagonist Isaac Clarke speaking to the space stations local psychologist about the vivid and wretched nightmares he has been suffering from. After blacking out he awakes to find the ship in complete chaos with necromorphs running riot on-board, wiping out everyone they come across. Luckily help is at hand in the shape of Franco, the hero from the "midquel" Dead Space Ignition. Unfortunately just as he is about to cut our hero loose from the strait jacket he is enveloped and devoured by a necromorph in front of our very eyes. What follows is the most terrifying 2 minutes of Isaac's life as he must scurry his way past an infestation of the hideous alien creatures whilst wearing a straight-jacket, fighting them off as they go for the jugular. Once cleared players will get a few seconds respite before once again having to wing it through the early stages with their bare fists and a flash light - a life saver given that the long, twisting corridors make sight almost impossible.
Once players do manage to get to grips with the controls and pick up some weapons the game becomes a glorious mix of adrenaline and fear and thanks to the strategic dismemberment combat system players must stay on their toes at all times, picking apart the necromorphs before stomping them into the ground with a crunch. All of our favourite weapons are back again, including the Plasma Gun which has undergone a slight upgrade and we also see new weapons introduced, such as the brilliantly fun Javelin Gun; which will soon having players spearing the creatures just for the fun of it. As with the first title players must keep their wits and use their ammo wisely given that on anything but the absolute easiest difficulty ammo is as scarce as fresh water in the Sahara. Thankfully the use of Kinesis allows Isaac to craft makeshift weapons out of the remains of dead necromorphs, either smashing limbs off of their comrades or spearing them without having to waste those precious plasma charges.
When things get a bit too hairy the saving grace for Isaac, and our heart-rate, is the use of statis shots allow the player to suspend their enemy in a slowly animated state for a brief period, allowing players to catch their breath and line up the shot before blasting their foes to pieces. Throughout the 10 or so hours of playing the game we came across a vast array of enemies, each as terrifying as the next in their own way; ranging from the child mini-necro's which overwhelm Isaac with sheer numbers to the blisteringly fast stalkers which stand out as one of the most frightening creatures in any game we have played. It is in these situations when saving ammo becomes key and the use of Kenisis is vital. All in all, combat in the game is brilliantly done however the one thing that we felt let Dead Space 2 down, much like the original, was the melee combat, or rather the lack of it. Wildly clicking the left mouse button causes Isaac to swing punches not unlike Kimbo Slice with no precision, no guise, no technique. When up close and personal the over-use of the "Press E" whenever jumped or attacked by one of the necromorph's became generic and old pretty fast.
The game isn't all about the action filled battles with the necromorphs though and quite quickly players will begin to realise that the battle with Isaac's own mind can be just as intense and scary. Twisted from his experieces in the first game he is haunted throughout and as things progress what started as weird, flashing images and melancholy dialogue become much more sinister, seeing Isaac turn on himself before snapping out of it. Boss fights can also be extremely challenging as players must use their wits to figure out the best way of defeating their - usually massive and disgusting - foes. For newcomers though the lack of any real advice or hints on how to beat the beasts could prove problematic.
Of course no survival horror title would be complete without various puzzles and problems to solve en-route to the promised land and Dead Space 2 is no different, throwing various obstacles in the way of Isaac which must be overcome should he wish to progress.
Even working through the sprawling corridors and dark rooms has a sense of terror and the feeling that anything can happen, this of course is helped along by the many times that anything DOES happen; be it a necromorph smashing its way through the ceiling inches in front of our hero or Isaac crashing out of a vent as he tries to crawl past, unnoticed. The various ways in which Isaac can be killed by the environment such as shooting windows accidentally, causing a vacuum which pulls our protagonist to his airless, pressurised death also add to the sense of danger that's around every corner.
In terms of gameplay this could have been the perfect game but the linear "go here, do that, here's a route on how to get there" with little room for environment exploration, which is a shame really given how vast and eerie The Sprawl is, may bother some players. It's also a shame that the developers didn't do more with the "going insane" angle as the battle between Isaac and his demons can, at times, be just as entertaining to watch as the game is to play.
To put it simply... Wow. Rarely have I been blown away by the looks of a game yet Dead Space 2 takes it to another level. The cut-scenes and visual nightmares of Isaac's girlfriend look fantastic thanks to the deep colours used whilst working through the dark, damp underbelly of the Sprawl looks incredibly realistic. The distressed walls of the ship, covered in the vivid red blood of it's former crew add to the atmosphere and sense of panic, especially in the tight winding corridors which Isaac must manoeuvre. Another fantastic change to the game is the removal of any sort of generic HUD which once again creates that immersive feel. Players can see remaining health from a bar on the back of Isaac's suit whilst ammo projects itself as a hologram when the gun is in use.
The only issues we had with the graphics, and they are minor, were the rather clunky, blotchy blood that spilled from necromorphs as they ate bullets from the plasma gun and occasionally the animation of the creatures looks strange.
Completely terrifying sound effects make playing the game, especially alone, a heart pounding experience. Having spent a night working our way through the game there were some instances where we found ourselves jumping in terror. From the pitter patter of what sounds like children's footsteps to the haunting screams of dismembered crew Dead Space 2 builds on the tension brilliantly and that's before we even come to the haunting messages from Isaac's girlfriend.
Contrary to the first title we also get to hear our hero speak this time, no longer a mute it allows players to finally bond with Isaac in a way that wasn't possible in Dead Space.
It's not often that a developer can produce the perfect survival horror title, a game that is truly terrifying. Yet after a sleepless night of necromorph destruction we feel confident that Visceral Games have pretty much cracked it with the release of Dead Space 2.
It's also not often we find ourselves completing a game then jumping straight back in at the deep end on the highest difficulty setting, normally because no matter how good the game is there isn't as much enjoyment the second time round. With Dead Space 2 though that just wasn't the case. From the supremely engaging storyline which could stand up to most horror movies released these days to the excellent combat techniques and use of the environment to the sheer terrifying sense of not knowing what's next - even on the second time of playing - the game is superb.
Forget about Resident Evil, forget about Silent Hill, Dead Space 2 is perhaps the best survival horror game released thanks to the perfect blend of battle, puzzles, adventure and terror. Don't pass it up.
||Fantastically engaging storyline keeps players hooked whilst the tense atmosphere built will have us jumping out of our seat at times.
||Eerily constructed walls and tight, twisting corridors add to the tension and the vivid colours help to emphasise that. The only let down is necromorph animation which, at times, is rather stiff.
||Horrifying in almost every way imaginable anyone who has a remotely nervous disposition would be advised to play with the sound turned way, way down. Brilliant.
||With at least 10 hours play-time - and that's if we only play it once, which we doubt - it's great value for what is likely to be one of the games of the year. Ignore the multiplayer though, not enough game modes or variation.
(Not an Average)
||The best survival-horror title in a long, long time and the best game of the year so far, any true games lover would be mad not to buy it.