Dead Space 2 Reader Review
There are some minor spoilers in this review - nothing about the ending or the big plot twists but just exampes of things that happen to you.
Good game. It starts off pretty scary and certain parts later on in the game certainly have their creepy moments, but once you get into the "rhythm" of the game, the scary side melts away a little. Its deffinitely still an intense game all the way through and it keeps you guessing all the time - it certainly isn't predictable.
The premise of Dead Space is that mankind has uncovered a "marker", an alien device that some sections of humanity have begun to worship. Its actual purpose is to turn all organic life into a hive mind.. and it does this by brutally murdering everyone and turning most of them into living dead murdering machines. You are Isaac Clarke, an engineer attached to an emergency response team and in the first game you are sent to a giant "planet cracker" mining ship called the Ishimura, where contact has been cut off.
The second game starts with you waking up on board a space station, three years have passed, you are in a straight jacket and know they have been doing strange experiemts with you. The station is in chaos and the necromorphs are back. The game starts with a bang, you have to make your way straightjacketed through most of the first level, incapable of doing anything except running and dodging. You are slowly reintroduced to the old game mechanics throughout the first chapter. Your health and weapon status's are on holographic or physical displays about your characters person (its a thirrd person shooter), there is no actual HUD. You move slowly and are generally pretty cumbersome, so there is vertually no "run n gun" gameplay.
There are various weapons to choose from that are all very different, ranging from a simpe pistol like blaster (a modified surgical cutter), to flame throwers, pulse rifles, spear launchers, mine layers, saw blade launchers etc. A lot of the guns are jury rigged engineering equipment which is a nice touch. You have a stasis module as well, this can be used like a gravity gun to manipulate objects or launch them as weapons. You can also use it to shoot out a bolt that slows time around whatever it hits, giving you precious time to aim and loose off some shots at the faster moving necromorphs. Your gear can be upgraded through collecting power nodes, giving various improvements such as improved health, air supply, stasis duration, stasis shots and then all sorts of upgrades to your guns. You can also collect credits and buy and sell gear from sparcely located vending machines.
Inventory and gear management is a key part of this game. Ammo is sparse for all the guns. The game does feed you ammo that is relevant to the guns you tend to use in random pickups and loot drops from opponents. This is good because your inventory space and supplies are limited. I played through the game only using 4 of the approximately 10 guns - so that i could carry plenty of ammo for them and focus on upgrading those specific guns. Quite a few times I was down to the last scraps of ammo and health and really having to be careful how I played through the sections until i could pick up some more.
The real trick with this game is the way that combat plays out - you can just plow shots into the opponents, but that wastes ammo. The quickest way to kill one is to knock off two of its limbs - meaning precise shooting. This means that when you get jumped, it can make it a real scramble to deal with, especially with several of them at the same time. Some of the more powerful mobs have weak points you have to shoot instead of limbs to dismember.
The environments you play through in this game are more varied than the first. It is still mostly industrial or science lab like facilities, but these are broken up with locations like a childrens education centre, a mall, residential facilities and even a church. There are lots of set pieces that are generally well designed - the first one that I thought was particularly memorable sees you hanging upside down, out the end of a crashed tram, having to defend yourself against large numbers of necromorphs.
There are also plenty of relatively simple puzzles, usually taking place in areas of no gravity and often with limited air supplies. These offer a relatively simple challenge, but are usually a welcome change of pace from the relentless skulking around oppresive corridors.
A particularly clever section involves you returning to the Ishumura. The layout is much the same as I remembered from the first game. It looks different because its full of cleaning crew gear and science aparatus. As you are walking through it it really ramps up the creepy effects and this was deffinitely the creepiest section of the game. It also imposes flash backs of particularly noteable events from the first game, over your view in a way that you dont realise isnt real until a few seconds later - very clever effect.
The game unfolds at a steady pace, generally the difficulty curve is pretty consistent. There are a large variety of opponents and later in the game you start to encounter tougher versions of them as well, so there is usually a wide variety of things to shoot, most of which require different tactics to deal with. There were a couple of spots where I really struggled and had to repeatedly reload. One section sees two tank like mobs (a mini boss, very tough and they attack by charging you) in a long straight tunnel with hardly any way of avoiding their charge. Thats followed by a swarm of mostly toughened necromorphs. I had very little ammo left and no spare health when I got to that section and no way of changing that... queue much cursing and gnashing of teeth. Got through it in the end but i considered lowereing the difficulty to counter that section. The game can be very unforgiving and there are times where the only way to get through is to reload from several saves back and try again.. if you havent been saving sensibly then you could be screwed and need to restart the whole game.
Technically, the graphics are excellent, particularly the use of lighting. Level design is detailed and lots of effort has been put in to make the levels different and as atmospheric as possible. The guns look and sound good. The necromorphs look suitable vicious and certainly have an effective batch of sound effects to accompany them. In fact the whole sound design is superb and used throughout to really build atmosphere. Voice acting is also very good and this time Isaac actually has a personality, a lot of the plot revolving around his guilt over the death of his girlfriend in the first game.
This is a high quality game that builds on and generally improves the foundations laid in the first Dead Space. The single player campaign took me around 11 hours to complete on the "hard difficulty". After that it unlocks various challenges and new equipment to play through with again. There is multiplayer but its frankly of no interest to me.. I don't really udnerstand why they bothered, it's not as though the first game suffered from not having competetive deathmatch. Regardless, its well worth your time and a very enjoyable game.