Developer: Electronic Arts
by: Sam "Samoza" Tyler
With computer games becoming increasingly expensive to produce, there is a widening gap emerging between those companies that pour lots of money in to a game’s development and those that pour a seemingly impossible amount. Dead Space 2 is a game that sits in the impossibly expensive category with more time and money lavished on it by developer Visceral Games, than an Actress on Oscar day. The graphics, music, sound, presentation and gameplay are all of an exceptionally high standard.
The story follows on three years after the original Dead Space and you return as Isaac Cane, no longer the silent engineer of the first game, but a man with a face and a voice. Isaac wakes up in a hospital/asylum on the giant space colony ‘The Sprawl’, whilst under the influence of narcotics powerful enough to knock out the hardiest of aging rock stars. The Necromorphs have arrived and are taking control, quickly forcing Isaac to get up and grab any weapon he can. As the mystery of the Necromorph’s arrival unravels, only he can uncover the story of ‘The Sprawl’, the Necromorphs and the ghosts of those he used to know.
In terms of gameplay, Dead Space 2 oozes quality. A third person action horror game, with survival horror elements, you work your way through the giant space colony via copious numbers of blood strewn corridors and epic set pieces. No corner feels safe as Visceral Games have managed to place you on edge at all times. One minute you could be walking into a typical gristle adorned room, the next you are sucked out into to space followed by a small army of screaming childlike Necromorphs, known collectively as a Pack. Praise must fall on the sound design as much as the level design. Even in relatively safe areas the light music and sinister sound effects make you sit at the edge of your seat. This is a game best played with the lights out and a pair of quality headphones.
Dead Space 2’s class continues in its replay value. Throughout your first playthrough you can collect new weapons and armour that you then go on to enhance. However, it will take at least another complete run through of the game before you can max out everything and become an all powerful Isaac. The new “game +” mode allows you to bring your inventory through to a harder difficulty level, that is unless you decide to tackle Hardcore mode. Here you must complete the game with a fresh Isaac, extremely powerful enemies and only 3 saves throughout the game. Difficult? Extreme hardcore players only need apply.
Throughout its relatively modest run time, around 5-8 hours, Dead Space 2 is scary, exciting, and at times, a truly awesome experience. This is not to say I have no misgivings at all. The game owes a lot to the sublime Bioshock, and cannot quite reach the heights of that game; the atmosphere, music and audio files all remind you of Rapture. Dead Space 2 is a game that acts as the scariest ghost ride you have ever been on (yes, even scarier than Disney’s Haunted Mansion). This means that the game is full of great moments, but at times you feel like you are on a rail track leading you along. Exploration is limited and makes you feel like you are missing the best parts of the game. However, the Call of Duty games show that linearity does not always make a game less fun; Dead Space 2 uses its single minded gameplay to great effect. The game also takes elements of Left 4 Dead 2 with its online multiplayer mode, a decent effort at team based versus, but it lacks the balance of the Left games.
2011 has started with a fantastic game. Dead Space 2 is likely to adorn many gamers’ best of lists and we are not even had the first flush of spring. The minor issues of linear levels and homage to other games can be justified as Visceral Games taking what has gone before and making it better. There is no doubt in my mind that any fan of action horror or survival horror will be scared, exhilarated and entertained in equal parts by this triple A game.