Three years have passed since the Necromorph outbreak on the Ishimura and Isaac Clarke is awoken from a drug-induced haze in a psychiatry ward aboard the Sprawl, a city-sized space station built on the remnants of Saturn’s moon Titan. With no knowledge of the past three years Isaac discovers another marker has been built and now the entire city is reduced to rubble as the Necromorphs run rampant. Haunted by debilitating visions of his dead girlfriend Isaac must quickly piece together the source of the new outbreak, who he trusts, and how he can escape unharmed.
Aware that Isaac was a mostly silent protagonist of the first Dead Space, the developers put him front and center with a personal story, taking time to remove his mask for pivotal scenes to create a better bond between player and character. Without this change, the story might have fallen flat as a basic save-the-world endeavor, but with a voice, this mission of survival is more about battling internal demons that pays big dividends as the game progress. Similar to Dead Space’s Ishimura, the Sprawl is a character in itself as a dark haunted labyrinth Isaac must cross.
Dead Space 2 is a horror game in every sense of the phrase as the successful elements of sound, setting and tension return from the first game in an even darker, more disturbing atmosphere. Within the first hour of gameplay alone, you will be spooked by silence, startled by shadows and haunted by sounds in the ventilation shafts. The Sprawl provides the perfect setting as you can look out the windows and see fires in the distance, enter apartment complexes and see the remnants of families who fought to survive. Heightening this experience is the lack of a heads-up display, which immerses you into the experience. All of Isaac’s stats are either located on his back or projected via holographic images immediately in front of him. If that isn’t enough to scare you, then the Necromorphs should finish the job.
Visually disturbing and twisted, the Necromorphs return with a passion. They pop out when you least expect it, packing a few new varieties of enemy types to keep you on your toes. Hunters hide behind objects and wait for a good moment to come sprint at you, necessitating effective use of your stasis to slow them down. Swarms overwhelm you with sheer numbers of child sized necromorphs that require more tact to take down. Regardless, ammo is at a minimum and the action is upped from the original to create suspenseful fight sequences that take place inside and outside of the station.
Fans familiar with the original Dead Space will feel at home with the third-person shooting mechanics as well as loving the new additions this sequel throws at them. The standard weapons like the plasma cutter and the ripper blades return while adding some additional arsenal to Isaac’s repertoire. Of note are the sniper rifle and the proximity mine gun that help change the dynamics of the fight in Isaac’s favor, but a gun is only useful if it has ammunition, and this game heightens the terror by constantly letting you run out. It is vitally necessary to use all of the tools at your disposal to fight the hordes, slowing them down with stasis, using all equipped weapons, blowing out windows to suck enemies into the vacuum, using telekinesis to throw Necromorph limbs back at them, and when all else fails using good-old-fashioned melee attacks to take down the overwhelming odds of enemies.
The game is difficult, you will most likely die several times in a single section as you attempt to memorize how best to take out your foes, but the autosave function saves this from being overly frustrating by putting you succinctly back in the action. As hard as the game is, it is worth it for the increased action set pieces and the heart-pounding thrill of surviving, although past its puzzles and boss fights, the action becomes rote Necromorph killing and item searching towards the end of the game.
If the single player begins to get repetitive then you can immerse yourself in the new multiplayer aspect. While nothing exceptional, the multiplayer gives you a chance to play as the Necromorphs themselves trying to stop another team from achieving an objective. These team matches are interesting to a point, as it is pretty fun to play as a Necromorph who has more spawn points allowing you to jump out of almost anywhere at your enemy, but even these matches can only add to the game so much before they get repetitive too.
Dead Space 2 does an admirable job following up the horror and suspense of the original while giving Isaac more of a form. Fans of the genre or of the original should pick this up with no doubt, while others with a squeamish heart should steer clear of the blood and guts.
Pros: Perfect horror atmosphere, better action set pieces than the original
Cons: Repetitive gameplay sections, ho-hum multiplayer