Monday, 10 October 2011

Review: Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2 expands on the first game in almost every capacity; the controls are tighter, the set pieces are bigger and the graphics and animations have been refined. This is survival horror at its very best with quite an emphasis on action. Inspiration has been taken from games like Resident Evil 4 and films like Alien, The Thing and Event Horizon, but the developers have combined them together to make a unique experience.
Dead Space 2 plays as an over the shoulder shooter, there is no heads up display; all the relevant information is shown on the player’s back or gun. Conversations and the inventory are done through holograms projected in front of the player. All this keeps you immersed in the game, especially as you can’t pause to look at the inventory.
You can see Issac's life status on his back and the holographic inventory projected in front of him.

Set two years after the events on the USG Ishimura players are once again in control of the unlikely hero Isaac Clarke; an unfortunate engineer tasked with stopping a zombie-like infestation of necromorphs. Necromorphs are dead humans hideously mutated in a variety of ways for different purposes. The game starts with Isaac waking up in an asylum without any memories. Over the course of the game Isaac learns what happened to him through dialogue and data logs left throughout the city. Restricted in a straight jacket you must attempt to escape to safety. Not only are you fighting against the necromorphs but also the sprawl’s security forces and your own dementia; manifesting as visions and hallucinations of Nicole from the first game. It’s not until halfway through the first chapter that you get your first weapon, the trusty plasma cutter; which fans of the original will remember well.
If anything death animations have gotten even more brutal.

The first game was criticised for having a lot of backtracking, thankfully this is now gone, with players following a very linear path. For a lot of games a linear path would be a bad thing, but in Dead Space 2 this allows for a more enjoyable experience, with excellent scripting for a cohesive campaign. Tactical dismemberment is back with shooting off limbs still the fastest was to kill enemies. As before each weapon has an alternate function and working out what to use against different enemies is great.
The setting of the game is breathtaking and varied.

To add variety a few new types of necromorph have been added to the game. The stalker hunts in a pack; hiding behind cover until the player is most vulnerable. The pack is a collection of undead youths who are individually weak but attack in great numbers. The puker uses ranged attacks whilst other necromorphs harass with melee. All the new enemies are a great addition requiring the player to use new strategies for each.
The pack attacks in overwhelming force.

New bosses have been added to the game but unfortunately they are often reused and mostly consist of shooting yellow sacks to dismember limbs, whilst avoiding charges. New weapons help tackle the new range of enemies. The defensive mine layer is great for crowd control. The javelin gun can pin targets and its secondary function is an area of effect electric shock. Lastly the seeker sniper rifle is great for large enemies doing even more damage when the alternate function is used.
Unfortunately bosses still mostly consist of shooting large glowing sacs on tentacles.

The music in this game is phenomenal and the atmosphere this helps create is palpable. With the dynamic lighting the music helps oppress the player so that the slightest movement causes an involuntary jump. Whilst not as scary as the first game this game is still chilling even whilst being more action oriented.

For the first time multiplayer has been added to the Dead Space series. Playing a lot like Left for Dead, with four humans versus four necromorphs, the multiplayer is an enjoyable diversion from the single player campaign. Four people play as engineers given a task, whilst the other four play as a selection of necromorphs whose only job is to kill the humans. Objectives include planting bombs and simply escaping, though most of the modes feel very similar. Another problem is that if the humans stick together they will most likely win as it is more difficult for the necromorphs. As the campaign wasn’t sacrificed to allow for a multiplayer section it is a nice addition to the franchise which will hopefully get expanded on in dlc or future games.
The single player is the main attraction, the multiplayer is just an extra is you want it.

Overall Dead Space is a great addition to the series, building on the first game with new units, new weapons and a more character orientated campaign. Whilst the narrative is still lacking Isaac is now fully voiced and shows his face more often adding personality to the single player. Dead Space 2 is gripping from start to finish with its gory, graphic and ultimately satisfying single player.

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