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Dead Space 2 review

AT A GLANCE
  • Well-realized, constant intensity
  • A bigger and better plot than the original
  • Dismembering the crap out of Necromorphs
  • Some brutal difficulty spikes
  • Occasionally repetitive
  • Doesn't build enough on the first game

2011 looks like it could be one of the best years in gaming history, and Dead Space 2 starts that year right. Taking what made the original a scarily good reinvention of the action-horror genre while adding enough to keep things interesting, Dead Space 2 is an incredibly polished experience that falls just short of true greatness.


Space is still pretty scary

The first Dead Space did so many things right that only fools would completely turn their backs on that winning formula even if the original wasn’t the massive success it could have been. Fortunately Dead Space 2’s developers know what they’re doing, as the newest entry in the series builds on the foundation rather than tear it all down.

Picking up three years after the last game, Isaac finds himself trapped in the space colony the Sprawl as all hell has broken loose. Isaac has to slowly make his way through the city in hopes of finding out what happened and living long enough to escape his horrible circumstances. The hideous Necromorphs have returned too, and are just as eager to rip apart any living thing that stands in their way, while possibly hiding in every poorly lit corner of the city.

The core combat of Dead Space is pretty much unchanged, which is fine with us. The expertly done third-person camera meshes well with each new weapon you find, be it the standard Plasma Cutter or the crazy awesome Javelin Gun. The armory may not be incredibly deep, but each weapon has its uses and you’ll find yourself picking your favorite loadouts for blasting off the limbs of your enemies. The standard enemy types strike a pretty good balance between beatable one-on-one and pretty darn challenging when four or more show up. The newer baddies add some much needed depth to the returning roster, making most of your encounters with them pretty fresh throughout the game.

The game’s visual aesthetic only improves the combat, as there’s technically no HUD DS2, just like last time. Health, ammo, inventory, and waypoints are all mapped to Isaac’s suit in-game in a way that makes sense within the futuristic universe while simultaneously keeping the screen clear of anything that could get in the way of scaring the crap out of you. It makes for an immersive experience and keeps the intensity at a constant high, since you can’t take a virtual breather outside of quitting the game.

Dead Space 2 has some of the most perfectly realized atmosphere in gaming thanks to a focus not only on the great graphical detail of each forbidding surrounding, but on the audio landscape of each area too. Is that sound a monster creeping up on you or just a piece of metal rolling around? Isn’t it a little too quiet in the eerily empty auditorium? The musical score of DS2 is well implemented, naturally building during a heated confrontation, and then slowly calming down as you relax until HOLY SHIT THERE’S ANOTHER ONE BEHIND YOU!!!

Of course you can act like a tough guy and say, “no game scares me, I’m no wuss!” It’s true, if you’re dead set against something fictional not scaring you, then it probably won’t, but if you let Dead Space 2 in, it’s one of the more terrifying games around. Many of its scares are predictably based around a monster appearing when you least expect it, but DS2 gets the most fright mileage out of the anticipation of that monster appearing. This time around there’s no break between chapters which creates a steady intensity throughout, as the game rarely gives you a chance to breath. Maybe some will see Isaac’s journey as overly linear, but that direction is welcome as many games focus more on a plethora of choices instead of perfectly planned out ride.

The only things that deflate that intensity are the occasional difficulty spikes along the way. It’s a tricky equilibrium creating enemies that challenge you while at the same time being ultimately beatable, which Dead Space 2 manages most of the time. Still, on our normal playthrough there were enough times where we’d have to die and restart that replaced fear with frustration. But those were infrequent enough in the more 11-hour-long game that it didn’t ruin the whole endeavor.

More Info

Release date: Jan 25 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Jan 28 2011 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iPhone
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Visceral Games
Franchise: Dead Space
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:
18+

46 comments

  • jok3rxfear - May 10, 2011 6:37 a.m.

    Just finished this game last night. Apart from some very boring objectives between the game, I give it a solid 8/10.
  • Sevej - February 16, 2011 12:46 a.m.

    Just finished on normal (too old for harder difficulties lol)... awesome game. I really like the zero-G/vacuum parts... FANTASTIC!!!`
  • BoxBackResearcher - February 7, 2011 2:29 a.m.

    Great review. I liked it so much I read it twice.
  • Imthedoctor - January 27, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    Looks pretty good, i desire to butter this game on my toast :P
  • Brutalicus - January 27, 2011 3:40 a.m.

    @Smeggs there were a few of those good moments with your ally towards the end of the game. Isaac is kind of a smartass! I think it shows how over the course of the game he's regained some of his sanity and humanity. Also, naw, any game that wants to connect with you should try to make you lol. The scene near the end of Mass Effect 2 where the Collectors attack was some scary shit, and Joker's lines made me laugh my ass off. I don't know about you, but wisecracks are my favorite way to try to relieve tension. I'd probably be cracking jokes in between shitting my pants if Necromorphs were attacking me.
  • Smeggs - January 27, 2011 1:59 a.m.

    Not as scary as the first game. Not complaining about Isaac's new personality, but I think that's the reason. With Isaac talking now and actually showing his face more than twice, it's less scary because I feel like I'm going through the game with him rather than alone. For example, at one point you're trying to ascend an elevator, only to watch it be destroyed by an unseen foe. Your "ally" tells you she'll see if she can get it working while you go to fight an enemy who is quite a bit different from any you've fought before. A minute into the fight: "Isaac, I don't think I can get the-" "NOT. NOW." I lol'd. I should never lol while playing Dead Space, unless I'm laughing at my own girlish fear after screaming at a space-zombie that jumped at my face.
  • P0LARCLAW - January 27, 2011 1:52 a.m.

    Well I beat it after 9 hours, and I can honestly say that no parts were particularly difficult on Normal. That being from a person who beat the first on impossible with only a plasma cutter though. @BladeBlur I would consider this to be better than bioshock 2.
  • BladeBlur - January 26, 2011 9:23 p.m.

    BioShock 2 wasn't that good :(
  • CoktorBloktopus - January 26, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    lovin this game only gotten through the first two chapters and I already pissed my pants like four times. And to all who say dead space doesnt scare them I am sorry for you cause when you let it scare you a bit then it makes the game even better. The walk through that little cafe area with just a flashlight gave me a awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.
  • Brutalicus - January 26, 2011 7:58 a.m.

    Well, I just finished the game after not being able to put the controller down all day! I agree with the review for the most part; my only con to this game was the occasional (and brutal, as stated) difficulty spikes. Next time through I'm going to carry more guns around. The story was very well-told and satisfying. You really start to feel for Isaac after what he went through on the Ishimura, and now that he's actually got emotion he is very human. I often found myself saying "holy shit" at what was happening, only to hear Isaac say the same thing! Visceral also seems to know their fans well, as there are plenty of nods to the original Dead Space and various bits of fanservice (like a very tiny drawing of Isaac on the wall in the school level). I think I breathed about six times this entire game. The tension mounts and mounts and never lets up. Awesome.
  • Cag93 - January 26, 2011 3:22 a.m.

    ... are you saying that Dead Space 2 is BETTER THAN HALO REACH?!?! LOL, I had to ;)
  • santaclouse37 - January 26, 2011 2:43 a.m.

    BUT HANK, WHAT ABOUT THE QUICK AND ACCURATE RIVET GUN? I COULDN'T POSSIBLY PLAY MY PREORDERD COPY FROM GAMESTOP UNTIL I KNOW JUST HOW QUICK AND/OR ACCURATE IT IS WHEN PREVENTING ISAAC FROM BEING PUKED UPON!
  • NightCrawler_358 - January 26, 2011 1:46 a.m.

    Sweet review Mr. Gilbert. I'm always freaked out how at first, games like this make you flip out, but then by the end, you don't even blink when freaks jump at you etc. I lol when i think about my initial L4D reactions.
  • Drumdoctor - January 26, 2011 1:26 a.m.

    Played the demo for this, nearly pissed myself the first time those necromorph things sprung out of the frozen containers. Sweet game, but it's so freaky I can barely stand to play it. Not to mention my mom...
  • Yeager1122 - January 26, 2011 12:45 a.m.

    Intrested in this game but would have to play the first one before i ever got this one.
  • P0LARCLAW - January 26, 2011 12:18 a.m.

    Got the collector's edition 3 hours ago, and it's amazing.
  • elmaropwnz - January 25, 2011 11:57 p.m.

    I rented the first game but never beat it and i have 60$ in wal-mart money Exams tommorow so i only have to go to school for 2 hours and will probably be picking this up, multiplayer seemed meh though cause right now i'm playing brotherhood and i got bored of the multiplayer even though it was good, screw you CoD for ruining my standards!
  • JADENkOTOR - January 25, 2011 11 p.m.

    Personally I think games like this need to also have a really strong story to score above an eight... Thats just my opinion though. I wasn't much of a fan of the first and that was when it was something I hadn't seen before... This looks like much of the same and I was disappointed to find out that they hadn't fixed Isaac's sluggish controls when I played the demo. I might rent it just to see where it goes but I don't think its worth owning.
  • RebornKusabi - January 25, 2011 10:09 p.m.

    Got this in the mail this morning and I'm about to play it. Everything said here is basically what I already figured the game was gonna be like so... Onward to my 360!
  • mrm1138 - January 25, 2011 9:26 p.m.

    I have such a love/hate relationship with the first Dead Space. I loved it because it was such a wonderfully made game, but there were many times I was honestly reluctant to keep playing because of how terrifying it was. I know some people (like, say, Yahtzee) criticized it for being too predictable (and therefore, in their opinions, not scary), but for me the anticipation of being attacked would freak me out in a way that few things do.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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