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LCG’s Dead Space 2 Review

When the first Dead Space was released, it was hailed as one of the scariest games in recent memory. It successfully combined survival-horror elements with a dark sci-fi setting. EA who’s normally entrenched in “go-to” franchises like Madden and the Battlefield series, took a gamble with a new IP and it paid off. Fans of the first Dead Space have revisited the iconic USG Ishimura time and time again to experience the horrors that lay within and further upgrade their gear. Visceral Games has shown that they can stand neck-to-neck with Capcom and the Resident Evil Series. Has their winning formula proven itself in the series’ second outing?

To put it frankly; yes. Dead Space 2 has struck the same cord the first one did and often times plays the note louder. The story itself is fleshed out more in the sequel. When we catch up with Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 2, he’s still trying to make peace over his girlfriend’s death from the previous installment. He struggles with dimensia and his dead girlfriend haunts him throughout the course of his adventure. The once silent protagonist now engages in dialogue with other characters and this makes Isaac a much more appealing character overall. Those who are unsure about Isaac talking more often shouldn’t be worried. It helps build a more human side of Isaac and makes him less of a “go here and do this” robot. Not at any point does he make any “America: Fuck yeah!” wise-cracks. His dialogue is sensible, but it is developed enough for you to understand his strife.

No... he's NOT a robot...

As it turns out, Isaac is now on a space station known as the Sprawl. It is a colonized station on one of Saturn’s moons; Titan. From the get-go all hell breaks loose. Necromorphs are popping out of the vents (duh?) and have mercilessly overrun a hospital where Mr. Clarke is detained. The introduction itself is a very memorable experience as it doesn’t attempt to slow down the game in order to teach you it’s mechanics and controls.

"You are here"

The controls you know and love are back, but much more refined.
The controller layout is much more in line with most shooters on the market (ie X/Square = Reload), but still maintains Dead Space’s core stomp, slap, telekinesis, and stasis buttons. It’s a familiar layout that fans are sure to be at ease with as you’ll be using everyone of those buttons to take out the undead.

Controls are smooth as buttah...

Dead Space 2 maintains the core combat that made original great. The series separates itself from other shooters by having players dismember their foes instead of shooting at center mass all the time. It is satisfying as much as it is tense. The feeling of having a lack of ammo and being backed into a corner by members of the undead is still in play. This forces you to take your shots carefully. Fans that are worried that DS2 being a bare-bones shooter in space can set their worries aside. Dead Space 2 is here and it’s better than ever. Necromorphs still scare you half to death and the Sprawl, although brighter than the USG Ishimura, still maintains an oppressive atmosphere that will have you on the edge constantly. There were a couple occasions where I dropped my controller out of a good shock-scare. Play Dead Space 2 the way all horror games are meant to be played, in the dark, lights off, headphones on.

In the Sprawl, you always have to be on your toes...

When players aren’t too busy fending for their lives and trying not to get their faces eaten off; they can cash in on their loot. DS2 will have you stomping dead(er) enemies for ammo and credits. This will inevitably lead players to in-game kiosks that will let you purchase upgrades to your weapons and armor. DS2 still has you collecting power nodes in order to give your gear substantial upgrades, but this is all paced very well and is in line with other titles of the genre. Not to mention that DS2 has a plethora of suits to find and upgrade, all with varying abilities (dare I say perks?). And oh boy is it as addictive as ever. Players will still need to hike schematics to the store before they can actually use it. This is kind of a pain as schematics take up inventory space and NOTHING is more important than inventory space when you have 5 rounds left and you see SOMETHING peeking around the corner at you. But fear not, the GPS system in DS1 has made it’s way over into DS2 but is much more user-friendly. Instead of JUST showing you where your objective is, players can click up or down on the d-pad and it will lay out a path to the nearest upgrade bench, store, or save point. It’s simple, easy, and necessary.

Big scary boss got you down? Time to upgrade.

While Dead Space 2’s weapons are of the “mining tool” variety, they’re bascially rough translations of say a pistol or an assault rifle. Returning favorites such as the Plasma Cutter and Line Gun make an appearance, but there are some new additions to the armory as well. The Seeker Rifle is basically a sniper rifle, contrary to popular belief it DOES have a place in the Dead Space series. A new personal favorite of mine is the Javelin which essentially lets you impale necromorphs to walls and electrocute them if you so desire. With that said, the alternate fire on a lot of these guns do come in handy and are actually much more effective that their DS1 counterparts. The Pulse Rifle now has a grenade launcher-like alternative fire that gets the job done. Snazzy.

Pimp it. Use it.

Dead Space 2 has everything that made the first Dead Space so great. The upgrade system is addictive as it ever was. The combat is visceral and intense. The story is deeper and much more cohesive. The atmosphere is foreboding as it ever was and the scares are plenty. With Isaac partaking in a significantly improved role this time around, surely Visceral Games has created a checklist and nailed down all the points. But how’s the journey overall?

Isaac isn't exactly the most stable character

The USG Ishimura, an abandoned mining flagship, was the setting for a huge majority of the first title. In DS2, the Sprawl is a much more diverse environment. Players will be trekking through abandoned hospitals, schools, apartment complexes, government sectors, and of course, space. There much more color in the world this time around, but don’t let the bright atmosphere fool you. Enemies will still startle you and put you in those “oh shit!” situations that will have you scrambling for a clear shot. The Nercomorphs remain largely familiar with ones that basically come at you with bladed arms flailing. Some new casts to the undead consist of a necromorph that projectile vomits, a horde of undead school children (they’re FAST), and babies that crawl toward you and explode in a cloud of puss(wha?).

There are also varied boss encounters sprinkled throughout. All of them MUCH bigger than your lonesome Isaac Clarke and these encounters invoke this feeling of, “How do I kill it?” Eventually, it all boils down to shooting at the obvious orange glowing weak spot, but it’s much easier said than done.

DS2 has many setpiece moments that take cues from Uncharted and Resident Evil, but makes them it’s own. There are no longer tram rides that take you from one station to another. Players will simply move through the game’s paces within the context of the story. A chapter heading will fade in and out letting you know which chapter you’re on. Yup, no more train stations to halt the pacing of the game. One moment you’ll be running from a monstrous necromorph only to go toe-to-toe with it out in space. Another part has you flying out in zero-G to align satellites while simultaneously combating foes. The zero-G moments are something that need to be witnessed. Never has a game translated weightlessness so well. Players can flip and tumble but won’t find themselves fumbling over the controls. It controls well and it just works. Vanquishing the necromorph and have them float off into the abyss of space is a pretty cool sight to behold. There are numerous moments in the game that will make your jaw drop.

Sometimes it's difficult to figure out which way is "up"

During an epic elevator ride to the satellites, I was attacked by multiple assailants. They shattered windows causing oxygen to get sucked out and my suit was running through it’s reserves. I fought them off as best as I could, I was unloading round after round out the windows, hitting some and missing others. Eventually I was surrounded on all sides and needless to say it was looking bleak. As I exhausted my ammo supply, I reached the end of the elevator ride but, the monstrosities pursuing were all but gone. I ran through security systems killing what I could along the way and engaged satellite beams that led to me being hurtled head-first back towards the Sprawl. As I was free-falling I narrowly dodged debris from the resulting explosion I had just caused and my destination got closer and closer… the landing… well… you’ll just have to see for yourself.

The last boss fight at the end of the first Dead Space was one thing, just imagine that sprinkled throughout the second installment and you’ll have the right idea of what Dead Space 2 has in store for you.

The only blemishes in this great looking package is that the multiplayer is kind of a throw away. I’m not saying it’s terrible or anything, it is decent in it’s own right, but the fun factor merely comes from it being different. Most players will enjoy it for a weekend or two before they go back to beating the campaign for the second or third time. But multiplayer isn’t why you would buy Dead Space 2 in the first place. The PS3 version of DS2 comes with Dead Space Extraction, an HD port of the on-rails Wii prequel. It’s all in one shiny Blu-ray disc. The 360 version however, doesn’t come with any bonuses and shows up to the party on two DVDs. It’s not a big deal as both version look and play great. However, for a game designed with multiple playthroughs in mind it’s a only a bit of an inconvenience. I don’t mind switching out discs for every SEVERAL hours of gameplay, but it is rather annoying when you do intend to go back into New Game + over and over again. It’s a bit sloppy on the developer’s part.

Multiplayer = Meh.

Overall, Dead Space 2 is the sequel fans have been looking for. Visceral’s formula is intact and the journey was a thrill. It may be more horror-shooter than survival-horror this time around, but it shouldn’t prevent ANYBODY from enjoying this lenghty adventure. The campaign is excellent and rewards your repeated consumption of it; there’s always more incentive for another playthrough. The team at Visceral has undeniably trumped the first game and built a much improved story around it’s central gameplay. The multiplayer is there to divert your attention for a bit but, the main course of this meal is the single-player itself. What a way to start the year, EA has set the pace for the rest of 2011’s lineup of games already. Why wait around for the holidays? This is one blockbuster that you can play NOW. Buy it, play it, love it.

Am I suppose to give some kind of number or letter at the end of this review? How bout I just declare it: A MUST BUY

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