Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dead Space 2 (2011) - Horror Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

I wanted this game since the day I first heard about it, I love Dead Space and the whole mythos behind it.

Dead Space 2 is set three years after the events of Dead Space.  Isaac Clarke has been kept in a mental institution on the Sprawl (a giant city on one of the moons of Saturn) during that time.  The horror of the necromorphs (basically alien zombies) erupts in the city and Isaac is brought out of suspended animation by a mysterious group for unknown reasons.  Isaac caught up in events must find a way to destroy the threat whilst avoiding the corrupt administration of the Sprawl who are quite literally gunning for him.

As sequels go Dead Space 2 ticks all the right boxes.  Whilst feeling and sounding much like the first game this time around there is more action, more enemies and a more refined engine.  The game starts off on a chaotic high with none of the opening suspense of Dead Space.  The very first thing you do in the game is run a crazed gauntlet of necromorphs whilst tied up in a straight jacket and from this point the game hardly lets up with threat and danger around every corner and in every vent.

The location this time around is a giant city which whilst varied enough never flows together as smoothly as the space ship setting of Dead Space.  Isaac seems to travel between locations that wildly vary and feel disjointed; going from an apartment block to a church to a school with no smooth changeover.  In the fiction of the game the Sprawl was so named as it grew so quickly with little planning so in that context the random locations can be explained away I guess.

The plot for Dead Space 2 is not as complicated, it couldn't have the suspense and mystery of the first game as the necromorphs are now a known quantity.  The plot instead elects for a simpler style with a bad guy in the form of the corrupt director of the Sprawl Hans Tiedemann.  The eventual payoff is satisfying with a plot device used in many zombie films being deployed to good effect.

There are a lot more enemy types this time around; as well as the returning monsters of Dead Space there are acid spitting necromorphs whose acid makes Isaac unable to run, children necromorphs that are very weak but swarm you in packs, raptor style animal necromorphs who are quite sneaky, and even baby necromorphs who are slow moving but explode when shot.  The new enemy types bring in some nice variation though my favourite enemies are still the common grunts with their claws and teeth.  You have access to about 10 weapons this time around, new ones including a powerful harpoon gun that can pin enemies to walls, proximity mines, and a sniper rifle.  Returning are Isaac's other abilities of using anti gravity to use ordinary objects as weapons, and his stasis field that slows the many enemies down.  Once again this abilities can be upgraded at shops dotted around the game.

The first game had many show stopping bosses, some which literally took up the entire screen but in this game they are all gone, the game has no real bosses to speak of which is disappointing but what this game does have are set pieces.  A fight aboard a speeding train, a crazed battle whilst being chucked around in space and a very cool revisit to the space ship the original game took place in.  Many of the scare techniques used in the first game return here as well as a few more but again the game is never scary; tense and panic inducing certainly but not really scary.

The game features multiplayer this time around, I gave it a quick go but was quite hard to find a game as my stupid broadband NAT is set to strict.  Multiplayer sees 4 players as humans charged with an objective while 4 other players control necromorphs whose aim is to disrupt that objective.  It is quite fun playing as the necromorphs and experience gained by playing levels you up providing new weapons and other bonuses.

Reading through this it sounds like I hate the game but I really don't it is an immense experience and has a hell of a lot of replay value.  I have played through the game once but intend to replay the game at least another 3 times and that's not even including the crazy hardcore mode that is definitely something that will destroy me.  The games music score as well as sense of immersion (audio and visual files are back with a vengeance) really makes this game a true experience.  A fantastic sequel in a great series!



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review - very descriptive!

Btw, don't take offense to this, but must you say 'whilst' so frequently?

Daniel Simmonds said...

Lol, I really didn't notice that until you pointed it out. I guess it is in there quite a lot! Thanks for the feedback :)