Dead Space, released in 2009, came out of the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t too hyped, coming from a rather unknown group of developers, but shocked everyone with its amazingly brutal and atmospheric horror experience and became a critical success. With these high standards to meet, 2 years later, the second is released to incredible anticipation and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Dead Space 2 is amazing. It takes everything the original put into the series, and enhances it. The controls are more precise, smooth and convenient (with the addition of a single button health and stasis refill system), the visuals are even more detailed and gritty, the sound is as creepy as ever, and the story remains intriguing and intense. You must work to unravel the truth behind the Sprawl (the game’s setting), Unitology and Necromorphs, as well as battling (literally) horrific hallucinations and delusions from an alien form of dementia. If you are a fan of the first, then you will definitely enjoy this.
Dead Space 2’s gameplay is very similar to the first, but with the right tweaks and enhancements. The controls are basically the same with some minor changes (select is the default menu, square is to reload, aim and triangle is for stasis). The circle button is now a one hit health refill button, instead of square (from the first). The triangle button is similar, but for stasis refill. Isaac’s movements are much smoother, more precise, and easier to control. The melee attacks, for example, are far more accurate and can be used in quick succession, unlike in the first. The weapons are great and fun to use as well. One major change is in the zero-gravity areas. Instead of the wall-jumping from the first one, you have a sort of jet pack that allows you to fly around the areas and even latch onto the wall as if to walk on it (like in the first). Certain sections take advantage of this and offer fun new experiences for Dead Space. This game has pretty good replay value in that you have a new game+ option that saves the items and money you get from the previous playthrough so that you can go on to collect the weapons, suits, trophies and so on. There are also more difficulty levels and trophies to keep you occupied. This game still has it’s objective style in that someone tells you where to go, what to do, and you must reach the objectives. Although more freedom would have been nice, it doesn’t hurt the experience for me, because it’s just how Dead Space was. Also expect to be scared. This one is every bit as horrifying as the first, if not more so. Expect sudden encounters, random and loud equipment malfunction, and disturbing scenes and hallucinations. Overall, the gameplay is like the first, but even better.
Dead Space 2 is gorgeous. The settings are very detailed and atmospheric, and it’s really a key component to the game’s horror element. Technically, the graphics are better than the first (which was pretty good to begin with) with more detailed environments, characters, enemies, etc. It is even more graphic than the first as far as dismemberment and violence goes because of the greater detail. The lighting is very well done in this game as well. Isaac’s dementia hallucination sequences look as amazing as they are freaky (think Scarecrow in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but more disturbing). When I first played through the demo, I was impressed with the visuals, and I still am very impressed.
This is what really set the first Dead Space apart from every other game in it’s genre. The sound was absolutely stunning. This is what really sets the atmosphere for the game. Technically, the game sounds wonderful. The further you are from the target, the distance sounds realistic. The muffled screams and shouts from behind walls, doors or glass are all catered to their materials. Now the sound really shines in creating the horror element of this game. Lots of minimalistic sounds that really make a difference. The necromorphs sound as disturbing as ever, along with the distant screaming, babies crying and pleas for help. Even the silence is well placed, and builds incredible tension, because you never know what could jump out at you. The environment is incredibly unpredictable. A pipe could explode right behind you, a random monitor could flash, a window could blow out, a necromorph could come bursting out of a vent, or any other countless possibilities that are very loud and will make you jump a good foot in the air. I could go on and on, but no other game pulls off a horror audiovisual presentation quite like Dead Space 2.
The Dead Space universe has a very intriguing story about it, and this game does a great job at telling it. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout to keep you gripped (like in the first) and the inclusion of Isaac battling with his own dementia is very well presented. Now I won’t go into detail, but the basic premise is that Isaac has woken up 3 years after the ending events of the first Dead Space, to a horrific necromorph outbreak. The setting is on a large Earth colony, The Sprawl, that is located on the remains of one of Saturn’s moons. He doesn’t know what is going on, and is suffering from a deadly form of Dementia he contracted on Aegis 7 in which he has horrifying and disturbing hallucinations that seem centered around his deceased girlfriend, Nicole. You are set free and must unravel the mystery to save yourself, and figure out what is going on in The Sprawl. Now one major change from the first to the second is that Isaac was actually given a voice actor with real dialog. Although this does change the game in that you are no longer a silent protagonist, it is not necessarily a bad change. The new Isaac has a mouth on him, but you get to understand him far more and how he interacts with people and situations. The story and feel to the game is actually very similar to Alien and Aliens, you can sense the influence as you play it. Overall, the story is as intriguing as the first, and really keeps you gripped.
This game has no instances of sexual content, but it is INCREDIBLY graphic and violent. The violence is geared toward necromorphs (extremely mutated dead humans infected though an alien entity), but it is brutal. You can sever limbs, heads, smash enemies, and even break dead victims apart. There is a ton of blood, from it gushing out of enemies, victims, yourself, to being smeared all over the walls, ceilings, floors from previous attacks with horribly mutilated corpses littering the environment. Isaac himself, when killed, way suffer a unique cinematic death depending on the enemy that kills him that includes decapitation, dismemberment, being sliced in half, skewered, stabbed in the head, and being graphically vomited on by strong acidic creatures. The game is also very disturbing. Several people crying for help with be mercilessly slaughtered by the aliens in graphic ways. People suffering from severe delusions and hallucinations may kill others or themselves in a highly graphic and disturbing manner. Some necromorphs are of dead children, and even babies (very disturbing) that act as suicide bombs. The visions you have tend to be very demented and disturbing, and the entire game is very scary, even to mature audiences. The language in this game is also very coarse. Right from the beginning you will hear the f word and s word thrown out like crazy, as well as every other lesser expletive. These words are used in a sense of panic for the most part in that people are trying to escape or save lives from horrifying circumstances. This game is rated M for a reason and it is a high end M due to the violence. I can think of only very few games that come close to the graphic intensity of this game.
If you have an Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, even a computer, and think you can handle the mature gruesome, disturbing horror aspects of this game, it is a must buy. I’d recommend starting with the first (Dead Space Greatest Hits), as it is an amazing game as well, although it isn’t necessary to fully enjoy this game. If you are a fan of the series, I’m sure you already have and love this game. This game is an atmospheric masterpiece that improves upon the original in every way, and keeps the series at a high, high bar.