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Jeremy Jastrzab
26 Jan, 2011

Dead Space 2 Review

360 Review | Excuse me sir, there is a necromorph chewing on your arse...
Whether or not you thought it was scary, it can’t be denied that Dead Space was a damn great game. It had one of the most pulsating and enthralling atmospheres ever conceived on a digital medium, as developers Visceral Games lived up to their name with a gruesome and intense survival-horror experience. However, the open ending was always going to leave room for a sequel, and developers are looking to up-the-ante in Dead Space 2.

And up-the-ante they did. Almost everything about Dead Space 2 is bigger, better, gorier and harder than the original. Very generously, the developers have included a succinct recap of the original game’s events, which is a great little reminder and means that playing the original is merely recommended, not essential. Taking place three years after the necromorph invasion of the deep space mining ship, the Ishimura, engineer Isaac Clarke is thrown back into another necromorph infestation, this time on the ‘Sprawl’, a mining colony established on Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn.

Completely mentally devastated by past events, Isaac has the necromorphs after his flesh, and the Government and the religiously fanatic Unitologists after the information in his brain. And the only way for Isaac to stop all this, is to destroy the ‘Marker’ that’s causing everyone to go funny and violent. More thriller than horror now, this is a remarkably well told story, that has a lot of layers, twists, fantastic direction and it all happens at a reasonable clip; you always have to be on your toes. Nothing highlights this more than the mental interactions between Isaac and his (supposedly) deceased girlfriend, Nicole. While no longer the silent protagonist, Isaac has been remarkably well characterised – a hardened exterior used to fight off the enemies betrays a grieving, regretful and fragile mental state.

Hey! That looks like the girl I bought drinks for once...

Hey! That looks like the girl I bought drinks for once...
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Right up until the end of the credits, the story will keep you invested and questioning what’s going on, including where this series will go from here. However, what allows the story to rise above the average game is its implementation into the game's presentation. You slowly learn about the fate of those on the Sprawl through audio and text logs, which shed more and more light as you play. Furthermore, Dead Space 2 has some superb visual and audio direction and design that allow not only the story to be fulfilled in an action packed and satisfying manner, but to complement the game design and the much vaunted atmosphere that made the original game so endearing. You're always in the thick of the action.

Fans of the original worried when the developers claimed this sequel would be ‘more action-oriented’. And for a while, there is actually some very cleverly implemented scary moments, which include gushing water pipes and random alarm clocks, which are much more welcome than the cheap scares abundant in the original. While the superb aesthetic design and atmosphere create an intense experience, it’s hard to categorically say that Dead Space 2 is a scary game. Tense yes, graphically gory yes, but chances are most won’t get that scared. Isaaac is no longer the scared engineer, but the desperate fighter. And with the action focus, it’s much more of a thriller now, with something more of a Bioshock vibe.

But boy does it thrill. There is very rarely a dull moment, as you’ll often have something lurking around just about every corner. While managing to retain the intense atmosphere, Dead Space 2 has a much smoother and considered design. Backtracking is at a minimum, and gameplay has a beautiful flow. You’re also less likely to get lost with a handy new tracker, which points you in the right direction. Rather than making things too easy, it actually encourages you to explore more now. Chapters have a much more natural transition, rather than just catching the tram to the next location. Your new environment, the Sprawl, is more varied than the Ishimura but the lack of backtracking means you’ll have to traverse some other locations as well.

These kids are NOT alright.

These kids are NOT alright.
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While the Sprawl takes you through some homely yet eerily creepy locations, such as the Unitologist church and School, it doesn’t necessarily feel larger than the Ishimura. Because you’ll be walking through a lot of familiar living quarters and shops, you only get a sense of size when you look out the windows. The environmental puzzles, however, are a total blast. They’re often simple but cleverly implemented, highly interactive and intuitive. An example of this comes with the improvement of control in zero gravity conditions. Rather than just sticking to surfaces and jumping to different points, you know have complete control in these situations, making for some more interesting and open puzzles. And along with a mini-game addition, these help Isaac feel a bit more like a proper engineer.

Despite the improved design, Dead Space 2 still has Isaac playing errand boy at times. At least it’s not as prominent. Still, the design does well to throw in the occasional gameplay twist to add variety. And when they’re thrown, it’s like a pie in your face. Yep, this game is intense all round. And it doesn’t get more intense than in the heat of combat. There hasn’t really been too much changed since Dead Space, but boy is it brutal. There are a couple of new weapons, such the Javelin Gun and Seeker Rifle, new types of necromorphs and the ability to skewer necromorphs using kinesis on sharp objects and their own limbs. The only thing really missing are some substantially memorable boss battles.

If you were to describe Dead Space 2 as survival-horror, there would be a lot more emphasis on ‘survival’. Ammo is scarce, enemies are fast and brutal. You’re an engineer and not a solider, and your kinesis and stasis (freezing enemies temporarily) are limited. However, it’s the challenge that the game throws at you that makes the game so intense and memorable. Unfortunately, there is a point about two-thirds through the game, where the difficulty spikes incredibly and at times it’s almost too hard, especially if you’ve started on a higher difficulty than normal. Dead Space 2 doesn’t quite have the same level of mastery of random item drops as its inspiration, Resident Evil 4, leaving you often completely helpless against remorseless assaults. So save your controllers and start on normal. Oh, and to anyone who finishes ‘Hardcore’ mode, where you have stuff-all ammo and three saves in total, you deserve a medal.

That would be handy for the next time you miss a train.

That would be handy for the next time you miss a train.
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Depending on which difficulty you start, Dead Space 2 will likely clock-in at around 10-15 hours. Remember though, the game clock doesn’t count playtime between checkpoints and death. The game finally adopts Resident Evil 4 replayability with acceptable unlockables and the ability to play through higher difficulties with your enhanced character. There is multiplayer this time around, but it’s nothing to write home about. You play as either humans or necromorphs, across five different maps. The humans need to get to various objectives, while the necromorphs (which come in four, very different flavours) try to stop them. And all the points you earn carry over into increasing your level, which unlocks your customisable options. It isn't particularly endearing, and there are some odd tactics emerging, but to its credit, the net code is rock solid and everything ‘works’. And it doesn’t take away from the single player.

The presentation of Dead Space 2 is very difficult to fault. Graphically, things are a marginal improvement over the original. While it retains the visual style and direction of keeping you in the action, it’s executed much more proficiently this time around. It’s a dark, gruesome and intense game to watch, with a whole heap of new death animations as well. As far as the sound track and design, Dead Space 2 is not only among the best of survival-horror/action games but pretty much all games in general. Isaac and the whole game crew have all been well characterised in their voicing too.

Visceral Games lives up to their name, with one of the most visceral, intense and atmospherically engaging titles around with Dead Space 2. For what it may lack in originality and subtlety, it makes up for it in spades with some of the most incisive design, blatant brutality, some great balls-to-the-wall action and an intense and expertly directed story. And it improves just about everything on the original. So it doesn’t really matter whether Dead Space 2 survival-horror, action, thriller or all three. All that matters is that it gets the gaming year of 2011 off to one of the best starts possible.
The Score
You'd be hard pressed finding a more visceral, intense and atmospheric experience with top-level design and a brutal challenge than in the package that is Dead Space 2. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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29 Comments
3 years ago
I'm skipping to the score and my verdict of your review is:

IMPRESSED!

can't wait to get the superior pc version icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
Woah! You must of loved it.

What difficulty did you play it on for your first play through Jeremy? You seem to recommend selecting normal a few times.
3 years ago
One question Jeremy - does the sequel explain WTF happened at the end of the first game, right at the end? I don't really want to spoil it for anyone else so I'll obscure the text:
Quote
Necromorph Nicole? Is she explained?
3 years ago
^^
I'm up to chapter 4 and there's been no explanation on what you mentioned Grim, couldn't it be concluded that it's kind of an hallucination, given that we already know her fate?

Edit: now that I think about it, maybe not... But no explanation so far.

I'd personally give it an 8-8.5 based on what I've played so far, it's a great game without question, but it doesn't offer any new features from the first game to warrant a score of 9; its just a continuation of the story with some cool set pieces, hallucinations and a couple of new weapons. The stomp melée still remains frustrating when conserving ammo, I can rarely stomp without getting bitten after I remove an enemy's limbs. If anyone is interested in this game and hasn't played the first, I strongly suggest picking it up at 1/5th the price of the sequel as it's essentially the same game, and the graphical improvements are very minor (playing on 360.) Will post a proper impression after I plow through a couple more chapters later today. Survivalist difficulty is tough so far, but manageable.
3 years ago
Haven't read the text but I'm glad to see the high scores pouring in.

On a side note, I just saw an unboxing of the collector's edition. Extremely disappointing! The plasma cutter is so tiny that it fits in the palm of your hand. The rest is bog standard.
3 years ago
@dloiscute
I started out playing the game on Survivalist (out of Casual, Normal, Survivalist, Zealot, the later unlocked Hardcore), and got about half way through chapter 10 before I had to resort back to Normal (you can change difficulties at any time). Up until then I had been managing fine.

@Grim-one
Yes, I believe that by the end of the game, you'll have an answer to that question.
3 years ago
THEMAN wrote
I'm skipping to the score and my verdict of your review is:

IMPRESSED!

can't wait to get the superior pc version icon_smile.gif
The PC version of the orignal was rubbish. I had to hack the config in order to get it to aim the mouse correct, even then, it felt like a port.

Console is the way to go!
3 years ago
^Pretty sure the PC version of the first absolutely destroyed the console vers. for me. Never had control issues though (albeit I knew about the mouse issue which was really weird).

Will buy DS2 eventually.
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
THEMAN wrote
I'm skipping to the score and my verdict of your review is:

IMPRESSED!

can't wait to get the superior pc version icon_smile.gif
The PC version of the orignal was rubbish. I had to hack the config in order to get it to aim the mouse correct, even then, it felt like a port.

Console is the way to go!
XBOX360 controller for pc? That's how I played my version of DS pc. Also great for a LOT of other games. (supermeatboy/ NFS)

MUCH BETTER

pay the $68 and get better visuals. I played the PS3 demo and ... yikes!
3 years ago
Something just *off* with the PC port, not as tight is probably a good description.

Perhaps with a controller on PC would be the best option, true. I didnt' think of that.
3 years ago
Denny wrote
^Pretty sure the PC version of the first absolutely destroyed the console vers. for me. Never had control issues though (albeit I knew about the mouse issue which was really weird).

Will buy DS2 eventually.
if you like cropping that is icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
This review reminds me of the evolution of character, story and action of Alien -> Aliens
3 years ago
Jeremy wrote
@Grim-one
Yes, I believe that by the end of the game, you'll have an answer to that question.
Sweet, thanks. I might buy it now. I hate cliff hangers and I hate unexplained crap even more =)
3 years ago
http://www.giantbomb.com/dead-space-2/61-25444/reviews/

The Giant Bomb guy loved it too. 5/5.

Now my hype level is truly in overdrive.
3 years ago
Agreed. Cannot wait till tomorrow. Lights off, sound up, game on.
3 years ago
I think its now safe to say the multiplayer didn't take anything away from single player so take that NONE BELIEVERS!!!! /goes back to cave!
3 years ago
Cian wrote
On a side note, I just saw an unboxing of the collector's edition. Extremely disappointing! The plasma cutter is so tiny that it fits in the palm of your hand. The rest is bog standard.
Glad i didnt bother paying the extra then, actually looking forward to playing the hardcore difficulty heres hoping its in the mail box tommorow.
3 years ago
I don't want to start anything here but it's gotta be said...

I've noticed over the past few years the majority of the multi-platform games reviews on this site seem to be on the XBox-360.

Are you guys achievement whores or what?

Anyway, nice review looks like it's worth a play.

Cheers
3 years ago
Oh and just to back up my above post with examples:

Dead Space 2
Need for Speed
Mind Jack
Homefront
Battlefield BC2: Vietnam

All previewed and reviewed on 360.

Thats every Review and Preview on the current RSS news lists with the exception of 1 DS game.

Don't get me wrong I love this site and have been coming here for years it's just something that I've been noticing for a while and thought I'd mention.

I own both consoles so please don't hate me for saying this.
3 years ago
It all depends on what code is sent out (or not), preference has nothing to do with it.

Except with me, I'll always buy the 360 version over the PS3 equivelant. That's where I spend most of my time.
3 years ago
Exactly, it depends on what code we receive.

In fact, we have a review for the multiplatform title Spare Parts coming up on PS3, since that's the platform we received code for.
3 years ago
THEMAN wrote
can't wait to get the superior pc version
Ah, so the PC version comes with a free HD version of Dead Space: Extraction as well does it? icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Agreed. Cannot wait till tomorrow. Lights off, sound up, game on.
You forgot pants off, or does that happen before lights off?

Man I wasn't really planning to get this but after reading that review I may just have to change that.
3 years ago
Pants are optional at all times.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  31/3/2010 (Tentative)
Publisher:
  Electronic Arts
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2009
Players:
  1

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