Dead Space 2 – PC
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date (NA): January 25th, 2011
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed by Proto Joe
I’ll admit that I’ve always been a wimp when it comes to playing horror games. When I was younger, I couldn’t even get 10 minutes into something like Fatal Frame or Silent Hill 2 before screaming like a startled giraffe, so when I saw the posters for the first Dead Space game plastered on game store windows so many years back, I just couldn’t bring myself to play it. Once Visceral Games released Dead Space 2 for the PC, though, I realized I was doing myself a disservice by not giving it a chance. “C’mon, this game has zombies, space, and guys in cool suits straight out of Iron Man,” my inner conscious told me. “It’s totally worth buying another set of pants for!”
So, after a quick trip to Old Navy, I finally jumped into the Dead Space franchise with Dead Space 2. I fully expected a terrifying experience that would leave me quaking in fear, but this third-person survival horror is actually quite lacking in the scare factor. Now, don’t get me wrong. The game is a bloody intense thriller with fluid controls and satisfying combat, but it won’t leave you shivering under your bedsheets at night.
As usual, let’s start with the story first. It’s hard to delve into Dead Space 2’s tale without spoiling the events of the first game, especially when the game does so itself in the first five minutes. Basically, our main protagonist, an unlucky engineer by the name of Isaac Clarke, wakes up in the mental asylum located a futuristic space station known as “The Sprawl,” where he spent the last three years doing… something. His memories are a mess, and even worse, the moon is completely infested with necromorphs, human abominations that hunted Isaac in the first game. It’s up to Isaac to escape The Sprawl while brutally dismembering any necromorph that gets in his way, all while being haunted by a ghost from his past. The plot doesn’t evolve much beyond that, with a few twists here and there to keep things from becoming too predictable, but the story is carried by action-packed cutscenes and some great voice acting. The actor who handled Isaac’s voice deserves special mention; you can just feel the engineer’s rage and frustration with every stomp he makes.
The gameplay matches the story: fun but unsurprising. You’ll be spending much of your time going from point A to point B with the occasional simple puzzle thrown in to help break the monotony. Fortunately, Dead Space 2 more than makes up for the lack of mission variety with its combat, offering you a ridiculous amount of ways to slaughter necromorphs. Not only do you have a number of unique weapons like the Ripper, which lets you control a buzz-saw blade from a distance, and the Javelin, which fires a giant spear which you can then electrify for shocking results, but you can also freeze enemies in time and grab distant objects using your suit’s modules. Nothing beats trapping a necromorph in stasis, shooting off their arm, then pinning them to the wall with their own limb.
The necromorphs are equally varied. You’ve got leaping ones, little baby ones that explode, sneaky ones that will stalk you through corridors and attack you from behind, and many more. Necromorphs are also much tougher than the average undead; while a zombie only needs a bullet or two in the head to put it down, a necromorph needs to be completely dismembered, from the arms to the legs. This means you need to carefully aim your shots to avoid wasting precious ammo, which can be difficult when you’re suddenly swarmed from all sides.
All of this makes for an extremely fun action experience, but like I said before, Dead Space 2 doesn’t quite deliver when it comes to actually scaring you. While I was startled more than once by a necromorph popping out from behind a door or a seemingly dead body lurching back to life, the game never gave me that rising feeling of dread and misery that’s made me loath playing other titles in the Survival Horror genre. Perhaps its because you’re so heavily armed throughout most of the game that practically any threat you come across can be blown away, or maybe it’s just that many of the scares are so quick and predictable that you get used to them far too fast. In a way, Dead Space 2 is more like a roller coaster than a horror show; it’ll give you your thrills, but it won’t linger in your mind. That’s perfectly fine for a wuss like me, but if you’re one of those strange folks who purposely search for scary movies or games to fuel their nightmares, this game isn’t enough for you.
Dead Space 2 also has an online multiplayer mode. It plays very much like a far more frantic version of Left 4 Dead, and not in a good way; you’ve got a human team and a necromorph team, and the human team needs to fulfill objectives throughout a large map while the necromorph team tries to stop them. Low health, infinite respawns, and cramped maps mean that the majority of your multiplayer sessions will consist of constantly rushing the enemy until one side gives up. It’s unpolished, it’s obviously tacked on at the last second to appeal to the competitive gaming crowd, and it’s not worth your time. Stick with the single player; it’s developed enough to stand on its own.
All in all, Dead Space 2 is an excellent entry in the Survival Horror genre, even though it does place more emphasis on Survival rather than Horror. While you may want to start with the first Dead Space to get yourself up to speed on the game’s story and setting, newcomers like me should be able to start from the 2nd with no problems at all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some pants I need to return…
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