Dead Space 2
is a fantastic - sometimes harrowing, sometimes adrenaline-pumping - experience. Protagonist Isaac Clarke has a miserable fate. After his initial encounter with Necromorphs aboard the Ishimura ship, leading him to practically lose his mind to the influence of the Marker artifact in Dead Space 1, Isaac is yet again put to the task of escaping the horrors set by said ancient artifact. Dead Space 2 will confront Isaac with unfamiliar mutated forms of Necromorphs, as well as an even more prevalent and overbearing existence of the infamous religion blindly based around the belief that the Marker will be their savior. Isaac’s battle is no longer predominantly against his tangible enemies; he has to fight through an entire, misled community of worshippers hellbent on obstructing your mission.
As Isaac attempts to escape the clutches of both the Necromorphs as well as a creeping insanity intent on consuming him, he will slowly learn more about the Sprawl - a civilian space station built on what remains of a planet-cracking expedition on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Picking up the informational pieces via video and text logs from people who have worked on the site, Isaac discovers the conditions through which life slowly altered from normal to crudely violent. Wild claims from the Church of Unitology are scribbled on the walls, revealing simultaneously how misinformed and dedicated its members are. While Isaac is exploring and delving deeper into the storyline, he is dealing with his own difficulties and past. Flashbacks and random hallucinations bring Isaac back to dealing with his deceased girlfriend who haunts his journey throughout Dead Space 2. If there is one thing Isaac can rely on, it is the uncertainty of his entire situation, as well as the dire need to escape it.
Dead Space 2 often presents players with dramatic and disturbing scenes that can be difficult to experience for those with a lower tolerance for graphic violence. Isaac will watch as a deranged man gashes a knife through his throat out of desperation, and this is just in the first few minutes of the game. Clearly, something has disturbed this man to the point of embracing a self-inflicted, violent death and Isaac is about to find out for himself what exactly those experiences entailed. Visceral does a good job of psyching you out before you’ve even gotten to the more terrifying levels of the game.
Isaac is mainly alone in his journey. He is initially being directed across the Sprawl by a woman named Daina, but she is always separated from him behind the veil of a video feed. What small human encounter Isaac does make always involves witnessing people’s deaths. It’s obvious Isaac wants to help, but he’s often just a minute too late to rescue what humans there are left. It is tragic, and Visceral manages to implant players in an intentionally emotional perspective that renders them feeling helpless.
Of Isaac’s journey in the Sprawl, Dead Space 2 is as linear as its predecessor. However, Dead Space 2’s experiences take players on paths that don’t heavily and obviously revolve on one ship. Visceral has upped their game on the gameplay sequences in the sequel. Although I enjoyed my experiences with Dead Space 1, certain levels felt monotonous. Dead Space 2 will have you flying through much larger spaces of zero gravity, tumbling down a crashing train and fighting off Necromorphs while hanging upside down. Not only does this add to the variety of gameplay sequences, but it also heightens the level of fright. Being faced with a swarm of differently-abled Necromorphs is that much more alarming when stuck upside down with one leg tangled in wiring.
Within the zero-gravity levels, Isaac has to solve puzzles typically in line with somehow moving obstructions or activating power cells to be able to progress. Because not every room is immediately accessible - thereby forcing the player to find an ulterior means of gaining access - Visceral has effectively switched up the pace of the game. Rather than constantly being confronted with surprise attacks from Necromorphs popping out of ventilation shafts, players will have to tinker with various tactics to get a door to open, etc. Occasionally this involves really twisted methods, like [semi, non-storyline related spoiler alert] holding up a mutilated corpse to gain access into a recognition-based security enclosure [end spoiler alert]. Dead Space 2 puts you in situations that would make you uncomfortable in real life, and this works to the favor of the theme portrayed in the game as well as the amount of fun you will be having while exploring it.
One of the more entertaining features of Dead Space as a franchise has been the weaponry. Even the first weapon you are given - the Plasma Cutter - is capable enough to last you the entire game. With “benches” located around each level, you can upgrade any weapon to your desire. I started off relying heavily on my Plasma Cutter, and maxed out its damage and capacity nodes. Style of weaponry is varied, and there is one for any strategy you prefer. The Javelin is perfect for the show-off player, with a long spear penetrating your enemies and sticking them to a wall. The Line Gun is something akin to a rocket launcher style weapon that shoots out a powerful energy beam at enemies. The Ripper is my favorite of the bunch. I feel practically invincible with a spinning saw slicing Necromorphs apart. Enemies can barely approach me when I am equipped with this weapon. I can also choose to launch said saws, but I much prefer using them as a barrier between myself and my gangly foes. Each weapon has an alternate fire option, as well. What better way to make already fun weapons even more entertaining?
Isaac has the ability to use kinesis to grab items that are far away, and optionally launch them at enemies. I often used this to grab crates that are too far away, or even to pick up a light source to help light up a particularly dark hallway. Kinesis can be used to your advantage in creative ways. Stasis also returns in Dead Space 2, and can be used on fast-moving machinery or on charging enemies. Stasis is useful in a tight spot, and gives players another opportunity for a personalized combat experience because of this added battle tactic option.
One thing that consistently blew me away was the work of the texture artists. Every level is fairly unique from one another; from biohazard tarp-covered walls to black-lit hallways highlighting large spreads of blood stains. I caught myself staring at the texture detail of the tarp and being amazed. Blood animation, particularly when stomping on enemies either for insurance of death or for loot, glistens with a realistic likeness. Besides being fun to play, Dead Space 2 looks absolutely fantastic. Dead Space 2 also sports the same creative UI layout from its predecessor. Isaac’s health and stasis gauge are indicated on his suit, and a waypoint can be activated with indicating lights drawn on the floor.
Dead Space 2 features an array of enemies that we’ve already encountered in the first iteration. In addition to the deformed creatures brought back from Dead Space 1, Visceral has invented new enemies for Isaac to face. Several of these new enemies are formed from infected infants and children. Everyone knows horror-themed media are scarier when little kids are involved. The Crawler is an aptly named baby Necromorph that explodes on damage much like the Pregnant. The Lurker is perhaps the cousin of these baby Necromorphs, but with a unique ability to both crawl on walls and ceilings to shoot from its three tentacles. The Pack are a less mutated, and older breed of children. They swarm Isaac in large numbers. The most appealing and horrifying feature of these new enemies is the whining cries you hear from a distance. Wandering the day care center on the Sprawl and listening to the echos of a baby’s cry is one of the more unnerving moments in Dead Space 2. Everything that was once meant to establish a happy and pleasant children’s environment is now effectively part of its eerie setting. The variety of enemies certainly keeps you on your toes. You’ll have to respond appropriately to each enemy. Lurkers will attack from all angles, while Spitters will attack from a good distance away, while others, still, opt to charge at you directly.
Adjacent to this enthralling single player experience is a more fast-paced multiplayer one. In a similar vein to Valve’s Left 4 Dead franchise, Visceral has created a multiplayer versus experience which allows players to alternate rounds between playing as a mob of Isaacs or one of four different Necromorphs.
Within the five maps available, players on the human side will have various goals suited to the map. Within the Titan Mines, for instance, players will play as Tiedemann’s security force as they attempt to construct a shockmine to stop the outbreak of Necromorphs. In the Marker Lab, however, the human team will have to destroy Marker experiments. Because humans are always given an objective, it consistently feels like an unfair burden against the rapidly spawning Necromorph team whose only objective is to detain and kill the humans. Ultimately, although each map’s objective is unique, all it requires is holding a button for a boring amount of time while you are undoubtedly being attacked by swarms of Packs and Lurkers. In the end, no matter what team you play on, it always seems as if the Necromorphs are predetermined to win given their much easier objective as strict predators.
Even in their movement, the Necromorphs are at an advantage. The human players are relatively slow to strafe, especially when aiming. The Necromorphs, on the other hand, are more agile and can easily swing around human players to gain the better angle for attack.
As for the Necromorph side, players can choose from one of four enemies: Puker, Lurker, Pack and Spitter. Although you’re virtually given zero guidance on how to use these Necromorphs, I soon found that the Puker was most adept at getting quick damage before its inevitable death. Basically, the Puker is the most powerful in terms of melee, the Pack is best in swarms of enemies, the Lurker can hide from advantageous angles given its ability to scale walls and the Spitter can attack from a distance. You’ll have to wait a longer spawn time for the more advanced Necromorphs, but this amounts to nothing more than a few extra seconds.
The basic fun of a multiplayer component is there. Part of what makes Dead Space such an alluring game is the variety of enemies, so it’s only appropriate that being able to play as them would make the game that much more enticing. However, Visceral’s construction of maps composed of fairly confined spaces and their placing of heavier obligations on the human side make the playing field seem one-sided with the favor leaning towards the Necromorph team. Although the gameplay is fun, many gameplay decisions seem unfair and frankly unreasonable.
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* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I was expecting Dead Space 2 to be a great game, but it exceeded my expectations with beautiful, creative environments and a large array of both enemies and weapons with which to kill them. Dead Space 2 is much more than a horror-themed, third-person shooter experience. Playing as Isaac, players will delve into the 25th century and learn about an imagined society corrupted and blinded by unrealistic ideologies and horrific realities.