The original Dead Space was one of the most well received titles of 2009. Coming somewhat out of nowhere, EA development studio Visceral Games was able to take many conventions of the survival horror series and take it to the next level. In the year that Resident Evil 5 was released to much fanfare, Dead Space even as a new IP was able to take a lot of the thunder away from that series with many gamers considering Dead Space the superior game; us included. So therefore it is of no surprise that EA has gone back to the world of Dead Space and produced a sequel. Usually sequels can disappoint, but this is far from the case with Dead Space 2 which takes the series forward in many ways and is the first must play of 2011.
Dead Space 2 picks up three years after Dead Space. Issac Clarke, the star of the first game is back. Having been in a coma for three years, he awakens on the Sprawl, a space city where he was taken after successfully navigating the USG Ishimura in the first game. However, all is not well in the space world as soon discovered upon waking, and he must once again fight the scourge of the necromorphs and save himself and escape yet again.
For those who of you who have played Dead Space, you will be instantly at home. In fact, looking at the two side by side it can be hard to see a difference, but it is once you start to go through the game that the major differences start to shine. Dead Space 2 to us feels a lot more action oriented and you feel more rushed as Issac to get through the levels. Don't get us wrong, it is still one of the most atmospheric and scary games on the market, but there is clearly a higher focus on action for the sequel.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. You constantly have to be on your toes in Dead Space 2 and while over time the scares become less and less (as you become more accustomed to picking times something will jump out of nowhere), there will definitely be areas you as Issac will be spinning around wondering where the next enemy will come from, especially when in a confined area, and this is where our first gripe with the game does come to pass.
There seems to be areas in the game which clearly are brick walls. Whether they were designed this way or not is unknown, but what is known is how frustrating it can be. You enter a room with tons of enemies and no exit and get bashed and beaten around until you figure out a way to either just run through, or take the enemies down.
The other gripe we have with the game is the checkpoint system. Whilst it is clearly marked where there are save points, they are not used upon loading a restart. Instead the game will load you either a room or two before. This is great, however this is no indication to you that this will not be saved when you turn the system off and your last save point is likely further back. You quickly learn this is the case, but it can be frustrating. Considering these are the only two gripes with the game, that should bring home to you just how good this game is.
The gameplay is incredibly well done and you will find yourself scared out of your wits during certain areas, especially with headphones on. The enemies are unique and many are new for this time around. As with the first game, the best way to get rid of them is hit the arms and legs rather than the body. They do work in packs which makes the game harder, however they are not that smart and will just run or crawl towards you. Usually the challenge comes from the number of enemies rather than smarts, except in the case of boss characters which offer some of the best and most atmospheric sections of the game.
A new addition for Dead Space 2 is multiplayer which functions well. The game does include the EA pass system, so to play online you either have to buy the game new or purchase a new EA pass. It is a team based squad game where you either play as the necromorphs or miners trying to take them down. The miners have to turn some computers on or flick some switches, while the necromorphs have to try and stop them. It works well aside from the fact that as the necromorph you are much weaker and generally have to restart many more times. More strategy is required when playing as a necromorph as opposed to just rushing the enemy.
Visually the game stands up to the best of them. You need to play this game in the dark to get the most out of the graphics and atmosphere. Most environments are dimly lit and you only have a limited view distance, however this is not a limitation of the graphics engine, more done to build the atmosphere. Issac has been significantly improved and has better animations than the original game, and the new necromorphs are well detailed. Despite the game takes place most of the time inside corridors and buildings, when you do venture outside the graphics still keep up the pace with no slowdown experienced.
And on the other side, the sound is also impressive and a key point in building the horrific atmosphere you will feel while playing this game. Wondering where the next scare is going to come from is where the scares come from and traversing a corridor while necromorph sounds eminate around really adds to the tension. Issac Clarke also speaks in this one and the voice acting is done well, adding to the game even more.
Dead Space 2 is an incredible game and there is no doubt it is the first must play of 2011. Visceral Games has taken what they did with Dead Space and improved upon almost every area of the game. The addition of multiplayer is interesting and there can be no doubt that the fear the multiplayer would compromise, the single player is now a moot point. Dead Space 2 could be right up there for awards come the end of the year and the gauntlet has been thrown down to other developers worldwide.