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Dead Space 2 Review

Review; Feb. 10, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Matthew R Johnson
In space, no one will hear you not scream.

Space, the final frontier -- or it would be if a million other games weren't already set there. But does Dead Space 2 stand out enough from the crowd? The short answer is yes and no. But it's a little more complex than that -- its biggest rival is its own son: the original Dead Space.

Dead Space 2 Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

Dead Space 2 is set on “The Sprawl” a future utopian metropolis set on a harvested chunk of the largest of Saturn's moons, Titan. The opening scene sees the return of Isaac Clarke -- only he's not looking as ready-to-go as usual. He's currently being held in confinement and in a strait jacket. Franco (who eagle-eyed people may recognize as the lead in the ignition puzzle prequel) leaps to action to save you -- and is promptly accosted by a necromorph and transformed in front of your eyes. You then have to promptly escape, still sporting the jacket, while gribbley horrors try to give your torso a catflap. After finding your way to your first safe room-style save spot and shop point, you can take a much-needed breather and clean up the puddle you just made under your seat. Then you purchase your engineering suit, and the game proper starts.

This is where the nostalgia sets in when you realize it's very much like the first one. Nothing has really changed in the way of game play, graphics or anything else for that matter. There are a few new tweaks and elements here and there, such as my personal favorite of shooting out exposed glass and sucking all the necromorphs in the room out into space before shooting a safety button and re-pressurising the room.

This is one of the more fun ways of despatching enemies because the array of weaponry just isn't that good. Linear cutting limb-shredding has returned, but it somehow doesn't feel as useful or necessary as it once was. The number of actual enemies coming at you at once is quite low -- simply flailing away at them with any gun works through about 80 percent of the encounters. The other 20 percent might also result in 99.9 percent of your deaths when the game employs cheap, new and ultimately unnecessary enemy types. Someone one should have told the developers that their use of large amounts of enemies is better than three annoying ones. They do look good, though … like someone has been very sick all over Marilyn Manson.

Which leads me to my last but most crucial point: The game just isn't scary any more. All of the tricks it tries to pull to make you go to brown alert are all things we have seen before. Maybe not done as well as this, but that isn't the point. As soon as you can predict it's going to happen, no matter how much technical merit, it's lost all point.

Dead Space 2 so much like the first game that anything you like about that one you will enjoy in number two.

Presentation - 8

The game is presented well, giving you a better feeling of being in space than the first game. However, it falls short in that it's still very claustrophobic and tight in a place that was portrayed as massive. I cannot fault the general feel of the game, however, and everything is tight and shipshape.

Story - 9

The story is something they have obviously worked very hard on considering all the prequel films and games before it, and this pays off. Though it looses pace in the middle, it grips you throughout and spits you out at the end with a good spoonful of “That was awesome,” with just a dash of “WTF?”

Graphics - 9

I hope you like browns and grays because it's another one of those pallets. But it makes up for it with stunning space vistas, brilliant if dark lighting, and some realistic particle effects. The faces of the characters in particular are quite nice, though I do wish Isaac didn't look like every other action protagonist nowadays.

Sound - 10

Another area where the game shines. There is hardly a moment in which the game isn't both stroking and punishing your eardrums in one form or another with groans, explosions, shouting, and general mayhem. And the areas where it's calmer are even better with the very walls moaning around you with half-heard wails and eerie gargles. Also hearing other soon-to-be casualties from behind walls and doors is a nice touch. Finally, it's good to see something based in space where it's actually silent with only Isaac's audible breathing.

Game play - 9

Tight as a nut is one way to describe this. If you miss a shot, it's down to your own aim, as it's very intuitive with good controls and great level design. With the way marker system back, you're never lost, and with the new ability to choose between objectives and save points, shops, and benches, finding where to go is easy. At no point in the game will you ever be stuck, but that doesn't make the game easy. Even though the general rule for enemies means you wont die to them often enough, the traps and security measures on the Sprawl will keep you on your toes. 

Current Stability - 10

I played through the game from start to finish and didn't find a single bug or graphical error.

Lasting Appeal - 6

Once you blitz the main story, which will only take you one sitting, as it's upsettingly short, you may find it hard to come back. Playing it on a higher difficulty just isn't the draw it used to be, and the multiplayer seems like a complete Left4Dead rip-off. It seems like we will have to wait for DLC for a reason to go for another spacewalk.

Just like its predecessor, it's fun, exciting with some stunning set pieces and a sequence at the end that I'm not going to spoil was so eye-wateringly tense I damn near picked the seat up with my buttocks afterward because I was clenching so hard. It may be worth the asking price by itself.

Here it may be a case of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it,” but if that's the case, why was I hoping for so much more? I guess in space no one can hear you scream because, in the end, it's not that scary.

Comments

Review Score
8.7

Mature

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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