Review: Dead Space 2

Susan Arendt | 8 Feb 2011 09:00
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When I learned that Dead Space 2 was going to give its hero, Isaac Clarke, a voice, and move the action from the cramped halls of the Ishimura to the huge expanse of a space station, I thought for sure I was going to wind up hating the game. Isaac's silence and the cold, dark sections of the ship were key ingredients in the first game's atmosphere, so I figured that if you lost them, you lost the heart of what made the game good. But I was completely wrong. Dead Space 2 is a brilliant successor, using the very changes I feared to create a fantastic horror experience.

The game takes place three years after the events of the first Dead Space. (If you didn't play it or are a bit fuzzy on what-all happened, take advantage of the "Previously on Dead Space" feature listed in the game menu, which does an excellent job of catching you up on the plot and mythology of the series.) Isaac has been committed to a psychiatric facility on an enormous space station known as The Sprawl and is suffering from a dementia that will, he is told, eventually kill him. His contact with The Marker has left him seeing horrible visions of his girlfriend, Nicole, among other terrors. Not that the real world is much better. Isaac is still strapped into his straightjacket when the necromorphs begin to overrun The Sprawl, but it's not long before he's back to business, slinging a plasma cutter and dismembering hideous monsters.

As with the first Dead Space, your aim during combat is to literally rend the necromorphs limb from limb; shooting off a single arm or leg - or even a head - won't put them down for good, so you'll have to be thorough when picking them apart. Thorough, but also precise; ammo conservation is key to survival. You can buy more at the stores that pepper The Sprawl, but credits are in short supply, too, forcing you to make tough choices about whether or not you really need that flamethrower. (Answer: Of course you do. It's a flamethrower.)

One thing I appreciated about the first Dead Space was how it based its weapons on what you might actually find aboard a mining vessel, admittedly taking a wee bit of license. Although The Sprawl is basically a small city, complete with shopping malls, schools, churches, and other sign posts of civilization, Isaac still ends up using pretty much the same exact gear. It certainly makes it easy for fans of the first game to jump right into the action, and the line gun and ripper are still as satisfying as ever, but a little more variety would've been nice, too.

The weapons may be repeats, but The Sprawl is a fantastic battleground, offering many different kinds of creepy. Dead Space 2 mixes up the ambience by sending Isaac to expectedly unnerving locations like hospitals and engine rooms with more friendly locales like schools and shopping centers. The game never truly gets scary, but it'll certainly keep you feeling uncomfortable and will unquestionably make you yelp like a tiny dog more than once.

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