01 April 2013

Dead Space 2 review

After the well done and quite good Dead Space 1 was finished I began playing Dead Space 2. With sequels there is always a worry whether or not the sequel will suck, be basically the exact same game or just turn into something else completely. The way Dead Space 1 ended also made me wonder how and what Dead Space 2 would be about. Fortunately it turned out to be yet another solid game.

And guess what, my complaints from the first game about being too bright and not scary enough have been fixed (this among other things)!

So I will avoid writing any spoilers, suffice to say Isaac Clarke, the engineer from the first game survived his ordeal aboard the alien infested ship  - the "Ishimura" - and wakes up in something that looks like a mental hospital in space. Turns out you were found drifting through space and have been "treated" over the past years at a facility built on the remains of the moon Titan. This facility is a really a large city with a lot of civilians living there as well. Soon enough though the shit hits the fan and it turns out that the alien outbreak that occurred on the Ishimura is happening on this space station as well.

The difference however is that you can watch the chaos, panic and slaughter as it happens instead of arriving at the scene when things have settled down. The very first couple of minutes sees Isaac (still wearing a restraining jacket) run for his life from the monsters while personnel and other patients get torn to pieces. I loved this early part because it took a while before you found your first weapon, but also because of how well portrayed the mayhem was. It was also a surprise to see Isaac be fully voiced over this time around, instead of just being the "mute hero" from Dead Space 1. The game also immidietly lets you know that it will feature a lot more dark rooms and corridors and actually force you to use a flashlight to navigate. It makes it so much better to walk through shredded rooms with in the dark, tripping over metal objects and discover the horrors of blood and corpses as you are investigating or just passing through. It also makes the monster attacks, which still occur as monster smashing ventilation shafts, to be a bit more hard to quickly counter as you often hear the roar and trashing but don't immediately spot the monster.

There are also other improvements that make themselves known fairly early on. The zero gravity gameplay now actually features complete movement ability with small jets propelling you forwards instead of just jumping from terrain feature to terrain feature as in Dead Space 1. This makes the zero gravity areas a lot less frustrating and adds an immense freedom of movement. There is a bunch of new weapons added to the classic arsenal from DS1, but I can't see players using all of them in one play through (just as you probably didn't use all weapons in one play through in DS1 either), simply because you want to upgrade them. Upgrades to weapons and armor still works as in DS1, you don't start completely from scrats but rather add to what you would have achieved towards the end of DS1 in terms of health bars, air supply in your suit and so on.

One very good thing about DS2 is  that it does not involve immersion breaking moments that feel completely out of place like its predecessor. There is no asteroid shooting sequence, there is no basketball mini game, or anything like that. There isn't even a tedious level like you had at the end of Dead Space 1 that centered around the gimmick of your suit being able to manipulate gravity fields to pull or lift objects. There are two things that are new in terms of game play mechanics that doesn't really add any value however, both of these are presented during  the first level and I immediately began thinking about how the game would use it at some point to create a tense situation or drive the story forward somehow. One is the ability of crawling through some short tunnel sections, I expected there to be at least one jump scare or panicked chase sequence involving these - but there was nothing. You simply crawl through a wall as means of transportation as part of the level design.

The other thing is a very simplistic "hacking" of computers/terminals which basically requires the player to aim his mouse and click at the right position 3 times in a row before a timer expires. This is quite stupid and a waste of time, it doesn't happen often enough to become a pain in the ass but as you have to do it at some points in the game it often presents a worthless addition to an otherwise slick game. It is also only used for a purpose once late in the game.

But these are just tiny tiny fragments of dirt in an otherwise well oiled machine. The story remains fairly interesting, perhaps a bit more unpredictable than the story of the first game. It still isn't very original or mind-blowing, but it's not intrusive, stupid or silly. For a story in a game it is quite alright. And the game ending ties both Dead Space 1 and 2 together very nicely. It is a tad shorter than Dead Space 1 (roughly 12 hours) but doesn't involve as much backtracking and is overall a more interesting experience. I heard Dead Space 3 messed it all up and isn't as good as the first two games, and being quite happy with how well made Dead Space 1 and 2 turned out to be I’m quite happy to leave the series at its high point.


I  give it 8.5/10 it's a worthy sequel and good game.

3 comments:

  1. Dead Space 2 contains what I consider to be one of the scariest monsters in the series and in video games in general. Forget the behemoths that dwarf Isaac, and even the creepy exploding babies.

    Stalkers. Those damn stalkers.

    Seriously - it's one thing to be scared from a regular necromorph getting a jump scare on you. It's magnitudes higher to know that there is a pack of Stalkers actively hunting and baiting you. To see one of those things peak out, duck back, and then have another one come from behind or from the side - horrifying.

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  2. Heh, yeah that monster was quite clever and well made. I also loved the whole "revisiting you know what from game 1" part which I found to be the most atmospheric level and probably the only one place in the game where I was tensed up while playing :-D

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  3. There must have been something in the air, because I just picked this up a few days ago and am about 15 minutes into the game.

    Dead Space blew me out of my socks as it was the first console game I'd played since my trusty Atari 2600 (I'm not kidding either). When I wrapped up my first session at 2 or 3 in the morning I was literally scared to walk down the dark hallway to my bedroom. The fact that a video game can have such an effect on an adult is pretty impressive in my book. I did hate the asteroids (and stopped at that point on my second play-through), and just bypassed the 3D basketball as quick as I could.

    If #2 is half as good as #1 I'll be a satisfied gamer.

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