The Average Gamer

Dead Space 2 Review (360)

“Your basic Arachnid warrior isn’t too smart but you can blow off a limb and it’s still 86 percent combat effective. Here’s a tip: Aim for the nerve stem, and put it down for good.”
Carl Jenkins, Starship Troopers (1997).

I completely overlooked the first Dead Space game when it first came out back in 2008. DeadSpace2_BoxArtIt wasn’t until the start of this year that I finally got round to playing it. What a surprisingly great game it turned out to be. The original Dead Space was easily the most atmospheric and genuinely scary game I’ve played since Dungeon Master’s Chaos Strikes Back expansion many, many years ago. It’s totally immersive, cleverly written, damn scary and very violent. I had real trouble scraping myself away from my PC.

So after finishing Dead Space on the PC and then Dead Space 2 demo on the Xbox 360 I was itching to see what scares and disgusting horror the full Dead Space 2 game had to offer. Thankfully, I wasn’t to be disappointed.

This ain’t Kansas

For those Dead Space veterans amongst you, Dead Space 2 will feel very, very familiar; like a well loved pair of slippers or your favourite seat in the pub. Visceral Games is evolving the Dead Space games in a way similar to the way Ubisoft is handling the Assassin’s Creed franchise. DeadSpace2_DontFancyYoursMuchIt’s evolution rather than revolution. Your character – Isaac Clark – is now easier and more responsive to control, has access to more deadly weapons and has discovered the power of speech. He can also heal himself without having to open up the inventory screen. This is a simple but very welcome skill as now you can keep Isaac alive even in the most heated of battles. He can’t however, leap tall buildings in a single bound. I imagine that will appear in Dead Space 3 along with saving small children, finding lost kittens and defeating evil geniuses.

The kinesis ability has been given a little upgrade as it can now slowly recharge itself, if you can be arsed to wait long enough. Dead Space 2 encourages you to make better use of your environment by littering the place with all sorts of objects that suddenly become deadly when projected at high speed across a room. Teddy bears, train tracks and toy planes are everywhere. Obviously I went off to see if I could kill a Necromorph armed with a teddy bear, which proved to be a fun and surprisingly successful trip. DeadSpace2_SkyRocketThe flaw in this plan to make the player uses object to kill rather than guns is that ammo is still pretty abundant. It is present in sufficient quantities (almost every Necromorph carries ammo) for it really only to be a problem on a few occasions. Even then I just popped by the nearest store and bought a shed loads of ammo.

You will probably blast your way through the game, occasionally taking out Necromorphs using kinesis-powered projectiles, as I did. However, in the heat of battle, I just couldn’t be arsed to pick up a random object and fling it at the big, scary monster, when I could just blow its legs off with a single shot. Top tip – the pointy bits of Necromorphs are surprisingly good at killing other Necromorphs.

Guns, guns, guns

The arsenal available to Isaac has been bolstered by the arrival of 4 new weapons – rivet gun, detonator, javelin gun and hand cannon. Of these, the detonator gun is coolest as it shoots sticky mines. What’s even better is the ability to deactivate any of the planted mines and re-use them later. For the nervous player, laying mines everywhere to snag the unsuspecting Necromorphs is a handy stress reducing tactic. The hand cannon is an incredibly powerful foam glove, which requires you to have completed the game on hard or zealot mode to unlock it. Whilst wearing the glove, in primary fire mode, Isaac says “bang” and in secondary fire he says “pew” to kill things. Seriously! Watch the video by BigKahuna22 to see what I’m talking about.

Although Visceral Games have added these new weapons it is still hard to beat a fully upgraded plasma cutter; it is so wonderfully powerful and accurate. With the gameplay geared around blowing limbs off every Necromorph in sight and the plasma cutter is so perfectly suited to this task, why would I want to pick anything else. Whilst the detonator gun is great for protecting you from being ambushed by sneaky Necromorphs and the ripper gun (essentially a chainsaw) is ideal for close quarter destruction, I always relied on my plasma cutter.

The locator feature has been made more powerful now. It can now show you the route to the closest store, save point, bench (to upgrade your weapons) or the next objective. This means that you spend less time doubling back to save your game only to find a save point was just beyond the next door. I like the fact that the locator has to be activated. It is not an always on feature like in the Fable series of games. This means that your screen isn’t constantly filled with a glowing line, almost demanding that you follow it without question. One quirk of the locator is that it can show you the areas that are worth investigating for hidden goodies like power nodes. Simply go in the opposite direction to the route shown. Try it. You will find it works amazingly well.

Zero-g sections are much more involved as Isaac can activate/deactivate the magnets on his boots. This ability coupled with the 4 movement jets on his suit allows him to float round anywhere within the zero-g environments. This makes controlling Isaac a breeze which is essential during the various zero-g engineering jobs that you have to complete. Just like in Dead Space, these sections are a lot of fun, as you jet around the station fixing giant solar arrays or engaging in a space battle with some Necromorphs.

Even the store has had a graphical overhaul, which I think makes it even less user friendly. In the first game you had a nice clear, crisp, simple store interface. Now it’s cluttered with unnecessary graphics of all the different weapons, ammo and other items. Making it pretty does not make it good, or more functional. Ok, it’s not a game breaker and you do get used to it, but still. Bring back the original store’s simplicity.

A much discussed change before Dead Space 2 was released was giving the gift of speech to Isaac. Mercifully they have picked a decent voice actor. Hearing Isaac speak does give him a lot more character as you can relate to him as a real person as he- complains, argues, gets really pissed off, tells bad jokes and laughs (occasionally). For me, I felt more sympathy hearing him struggle to deal with what was happening to him, than I did in the first game.

Beep, beep, beeeep

The scary, disturbing, uneasy atmosphere that this game creates is really second to none. From the moment you start the game, your nerves will be repeatedly shredded. To achieve this Dead Space 2 utilises a whole variety of techniques from the simple, dark rooms and corridors in which you struggle catch a glimpse of any lurking Necromorphs to random sounds and surprise Necromorph attacks. At one point I had to pause the game as I’d been startled to death by an alarm clock. Yes, an alarm clock.

DeadSpace2_ABitOfHaematuriaI was exploring a very dark room looking for ammo (as usual) and as I was leaving the room an alarm clock beeped. Doesn’t sound scary, does it? Well, given that the level was crawling with Necromorphs, the music was doing its best to unnerve me and my distinct lack of ammo meant, I was a little on edge. The last thing I wanted was a Necromorph to turn up behind me. So I would have jumped at pretty much any loud sound at the point. In this case the culprit was a little innocent alarm clock. I blew the crap out of it anyway.

The setting of the game is now a giant complex called The Sprawl on the moon Titan. You find yourself battling Necromorphs in kitchens, bedrooms, children playground, shopping malls as well as airlocks, Solar Arrays and other spacey locations. This is real-world sci-fi. That is, environments that look familiar and aren’t too outlandish. Personally, I think this makes the game more unsettling as you can imagine yourself wandering around that shopping mall only to be attacked by hideous space monsters and god-awful advertising. Although, I do hope that when we do colonise other planets the technology doesn’t break as much as it does in this game.

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