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Review – Dead Space 2 | Level Up News

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Review – Dead Space 2

 

Publisher: Electronic Arts.
Developer: Visceral Games
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
Genre: Survival Horror
Rating: Mature
ESRB Content Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Purchase from: Amazon
OFFICIAL DEAD SPACE WEBSITE

The Scoop: Resident Evil is dead; I think we can all agree with that. No matter how good Resident Evil 4 and 5 were, and they were good, no one can say that the series hasn’t severely detracted from its horror roots since Code Veronica was released a decade ago. It seems that there is a tradeoff when it comes to horror games, you can’t keep the horror and the gameplay at the same time (let’s be honest, The original Resident Evil and Silent Hill games had subpar gameplay to say the least).

It wasn’t until 2008 that bloodbath and virtual baby slaughtering experts Visceral Games challenged that idea with the original Dead Space; a game that took the rather excellent gameplay style of Resident Evil 4 and 5 and combined it with one of the scariest gaming atmospheres since Silent Hill 2. Now just over two years later Visceral returns to bring our favorite limb-chopping space engineer, Isaac Clark, out of retirement to again save the galaxy once again from the Necromorph contagion.

The Setup: Three years have passed since Isaac Clark destroyed the madness-inducing Red Marker and stopped the spread of the Necromorphs, an alien contagion which mutates corpses into monstrous killing machines. Isaac wakes up in a hospital located on The Sprawl, a city-sized space station located in our solar system. He doesn’t remember how he ended up there, or any of the events from the past few years, but he does know that something has followed him to The Sprawl as the Necromorph contagion has begun to spread throughout the whole city. To add to his troubles the influence of the Red Marker is still affecting his sanity through horrific visions of his deceased girlfriend. Now Isaac begins a new journey to rid The Sprawl of a new Red Marker and the Necromorph contagion before it can destroy all life in the galaxy.

Forgive me while I try to avoid any real spoilers…

What’s Hot: This game is horrifying as well as intense! From the very minute Dead Space 2 starts you are knee deep in a Necromorph outbreak. Running through a maze of infested hallways while wearing a straitjacket and almost completely defenseless. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I was on the edge of my seat from the moment the game started. Oh, and Necromorph children and babies, can’t forget them. The part in the school when they introduce the babies may be one of the most disturbing sequences to grace videogames since Pyramid Head raping a manniquin in Silent Hill 2.

While the graphics themselves haven’t been improved too much over the last two years the environments you traverse are much larger and more detailed than before, and the animations are some of the best and most fluid I have seen. The most major improvement to the visuals is the transition animation from human to Necromorph. You can see every bone and organ rupturing through the skin to make vicious claws and spear headed tentacles; the bodies twist and tear in incredible detail, at one point so close that you almost wish you could watch it in slow motion to enjoy all the gruesome detail they put into it. There is also much more in the way of action sequences , leading to some very exciting moments you would never imagine seeing in Dead Space. Some of these action heavy sequences range from simple larger scale Necromorph attacks to more impressive feats such as sliding through a derailing train or being launched out of a two mile high tower and across the city through space, plummeting at re-entry speeds and aiming for a small exhaust port no more than two meters wide… I couldn’t help myself. There are many of these sequences, which are awesome yet manage to not detract from the horrific atmosphere of the game.

Gameplay remains remarkably unchanged from the original game; the control scheme is very similar to Resident Evil 5, except that you can move while aiming which is something you would assume would be a given in any game. The most major change to the controls this time around is when navigating zero G environments. Previously you would move around by jumping from wall to wall, this time Isaac’s engineering suit has been upgraded to include thrusters on his hands and feet which allow you to fly around in areas with no gravity. It gives you more control and allows you to travel around outside of the station in much larger areas, but it does seem to remove some of the tactic involved with zero G combat, making it almost too easy at times. A stark contrast to the difficulty present in the rest of the game.

The sound design in Dead Space 2 is absolutely top notch and easily the best I have ever encountered in the horror genre. If you have 5.1 surround sound attached to your television you owe it to yourself to turn it on and turn off every light you have. If you want to improve the experience further you should go ahead and invest in a pair of 5.1 headphones… potentially an extra pair of underwear. It sounds that damn good.

What’s Not: There is a hallway that rounds a corner and ends in an elevator and god damn if you won’t see that bastard a dozen times. Most of the areas are relatively full of variety, but it seems that one hallway just keeps popping up all over The Sprawl. Maybe it is one of The Marker’s side effects on Isaac’s psyche.

As an added bonus EA has tacked on, surprise surprise, completely pointless competitive multiplayer (yes I blame EA for this one). I don’t understand what it is with video game companies and their insistence that every game needs multiplayer. The big sell is that it adds replay value to the game, but no one ever falls for that crap. The multiplayer in Dead Space 2 is very bland and despite attempts to claim originality it brings nothing new to the table. There are a handful of modes, all of which pit the human security forces against a player controlled team of Necromorphs. The modes all have different objectives, but they are honestly all so similar you won’t even notice; the human team attempts to complete an objective (mostly involving running up to an object and pressing a button), while the Necromorphs attempt to kill them. I would be lying if I said that I played more than a half hour or so, but it was so mediocre I gave it about as much time as it deserved. Then I moved over to a game with more notable multiplayer, CoDBlOps. Here’s an idea, next time ignore this crap and develop a co-op campaign, maybe involving a couple of Earthgov security officers, or better yet a certain sexy security officer and the babbling lunatic she drags around for half the game. Even a 4 player co-op “horde” mode, which is becoming one of the most overused modes in gaming, would have been a more welcome addition.

Oh and the multiplayer utilizes the EA Online Pass, as if it wasn’t alienating itself enough from gamers.

Final Verdict: The multiplayer may be bland, but it does nothing to detract from just how excellent the single player experience really is. From the awesome gameplay, gripping twist filled story, and terrifying atmosphere Dead Space 2 stands out as the new king of the horror genre. Silent Hill and Resident Evil have a lot to live up to now.

***As an added bonus the Playstation 3 version of the game includes an HD port of the excellent Wii rail-shooter Dead Space Extraction, with full Playstation Move support (also available for purchase on PSN). I have this version and plan on playing the hell out of it and doing a review once I can get a Playstation Move kit. It seems like a solid port, well worth the price of admission (especially when that price is free). You can also play with the regular controller, but I wouldn’t recommend it as it would kill the experience.***

 

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