Dead Space 2 review
Dead Space 2T3
One of the best horror games to date?
Following on from the excellent yet cruelly overlooked original, EA's talented Visceral Games studio has taken an already terrifying game and spliced it with some grandly spectacular action moments. The result is a true emotional rollercoaster.
From its opening eerie minutes to the ridiculous, television-shaking conclusion, Dead Space 2 immerses you to the max. Only thing is, it immerses you somewhere not very pleasant and plays with your feelings like no game we've ever come across.
Set some years after the first DS (there's a catch-up video for you lot who skipped the first game - you know who you are), Dead Space 2 opens with protagonist Isaac Clarke awakening on the floating space city, The Sprawl, based off Saturn's Titan moon.
For reasons that later become apparent, the situation on the starry metropolis is just as dire - and monster-filled - as when Isaac last passed into a coma, when leaving the Ishimura - and the story has more than a few gigantic twists that plunge Isaac's plight into even more desperate areas.
The Sprawl is infested with Necromorph horrors, which - in case you're one of the shamed few who missed the original - are a sort of alien infection that mutate and infest dead human host bodies. You wouldn't want to kiss one, let's put it that way. Luckily for those who bypassed the first title, catching up on the story is over in seconds; within a blink of an eye, you're what the blazes is going on, with Isaac is running (and shooting) for his life through the burning city.
Everything in the city has a connection and context - if you're feeling brave you could even make comparisons to the ultimate gaming locale, BioShock's Rapture. In the school, for example, you'll fend off armies of corrupted children and screeching babies, while the Church of Unitology has a very Andrew Ryan-esque animatronics display explaining the origins of the shady religion.
Visceral is excellent at building tension - although it relies a little too heavily on the player running out of ammo to build panic. That said, you're going to be bullet-happy here: We can recall the first moment in the 10-hour campaign when a screeching Necromorph exploded into our moving elevator - but from then on we were ironsights-up for every single trip.
When you think something's going to jump out and get you, it probably won't. Yet when you jog off towards the 'safe' room a gunship will disintegrate the entire adjoining wall, as a 10ft horror drags you into air-less space.
The sense of fear and surprise instilled by Visceral's audio team in particular is sublime, and truly raises the bar for the industry as a whole.
In one early sequence, for example, you'll fight Necromorphs through a speeding train, space jump at 200mph to another carriage, smash through the ceiling in a spiral of flailing pain, and then desperately sprint as everything explodes and crumbles behind you in an incredible scripted firework display.
However, the added slant on action has been handled carefully. There's very little monotonous run-and-gunning here, and things never seem to descend into a senseless fragfest. Make no mistake: the scares aren't only plentiful, they creep up on you.
Dead Space 2: Characterisation
Dead Space 2 is undoubtedly scarier than its predecessor. Some of the new monsters are a nightmare to fight, forcing you to change gun strategies at a moment's notice.
Unlike the original game, this time main man Isaac has a voice and chucks his bare face about with great abandon. Some fantastic camera work and commendable controls complement in making Dead Space 2 feel like a real personal trauma; after a horrific battle Isaac might open up his helmet and drop to the floor for a breather, and there's plenty of interaction with fellow survivors.
Mechanically, one of the biggest new features is the Zero G flight mechanic, which feels a world better than the comparatively clunky space jumping from the first game.
This time around, a click of the left thumbstick Isaac ascends to a weightless glide, from which point you can elegantly and easily fly him around the room using the two sticks. This mechanic is imaginatively combined with the stasis and kinesis systems to satisfyingly solve certain inventive puzzles.
Dead Space 2: Conclusion
Dead Space 2 is quite simply a fantastic survival horror action game - it's everything fans of the original have been hoping for. If we were picking at straws we'd argue that the game's weapons arsenal - which now sees the addition of the satisfying javelin gun among others - still doesn't encourage diversity, while multiplayer is yet to full convince us. We're sure it will be popular in a public environment - there are too many neat gameplay touches ported over from the campaign for it not to take off - but we've been left looking cynically at its teamwork-shunning score system.
But if it's a genre-besting single-player experience you're looking for - and honestly, what more do you want? - you won't be able to do better. Polished, sickening, satisfying and occasionally heart-testing, Dead Space 2 is undoubtedly the best horror adventure on Xbox 360 and PS3. It's the Resident Evil of this generation - and it'll leave you an emotional wrec
Dead Space 2 launch: Out now on Xbox and PS3
Dead Space 2 price: £40-£55
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