Visceral Games recreate terror and set an unprecedented gaming experience for survival horror games. With two disks to terrify you, Dead Space 2 (DS2) is a harder, and better, game this time around, with the added multiplayer aspect, which makes for a more intense and surreal, satisfying gaming experience. Should you think the chaos of the Ishimura was left conquered, and you feel as though you’re well-prepared for round two of the horror you’ll experience in deep space, think again.
Isaac Clarke returns, three years after the chaotic events aboard the planet cracking starship, the USG Ishimura*, awakening from a coma aboard the “Sprawl,” a space station orbiting Saturn. The game begins with Isaac sitting at a table with recording equipment, arms and body confined in a strait jacket, medical personnel interrogating him about the events that took place on the USG Ishimura. During which, you have the privilege of being graced with Isaac’s flashback memories of his long-dead girlfriend, Nicole, and the horrors he experienced aboard the Ishimura. Suffering from dementia, Isaac was disillusioned and confused as to exactly why and how he got there. From the moment you press start, Isaac is in a fight for his life.
**Warning: ambient spoilers below**
Surviving on the “Sprawl”
Immediately after inserting the first disc, you get a glimpse of what is to come—a deluge of horror and the thoughts that plague the mind of Isaac Clarke. The start screen has an option to watch ”Previously on Dead Space,” a short that will give an opportunity for those who are new to the game a pretty good idea about what occurred in the first Dead Space and what they will be up against.
This will be the first time that gamers truly get to be—in some aspect—Isaac Clarke. Isaac now has a voice, and you have the capability to see his character react to the other in-game characters and more intuitively with the non-aggressive, physical pieces of the game. Which was a big plus, because it added to the enjoyment of “being” Isaac this round.
What was most impressed with was the lighting, even with the light setting on its highest, you would still be found in complete darkness. The noises that surround and emit from the environment kept me on edge completely, and when entering “dead space,” the effects are seemingly felt as well. The sound design was extremely first class and easily facilitated the uncomfortable air of uncertainty in-game.
The controls are much like they were in the first Dead Space, but the most impressive factor of the game was the camera and the feeling you get while playing. The camera is rounded and more on point, which was a huge improvement. The feel of the game is unique. When I played for the first time, I felt as if I was physically in zero-gravity or a vacuum with Isaac, as my ears seemed to pop. The controller’s subtle vibrations and the stunning visual effects give an experience completely unlike its predecessor.
Depending on the level of difficulty set at the beginning of the game, items such as med packs, power nodes for upgrades or locked doors, and ammunition are less plentiful and harder to find within the non-interactive surroundings. There are five levels of difficulty in Dead Space 2 which range from casual to hard core, but you can change your level of difficulty at any time in-game–this disables certain achievements.
The visuals are extremely gory, and yes, there is a lot of blood. The environment is detailed to the very last smeared, bloody hand print on the wall and the corpses littering your path were viciously mutilated and disturbing. The cryptic Unitology*script detail messages in blood on the walls hold hints and secrets passed from one follower of Unitology to the next.
Controlling Isaac Clarke
This time, there’s more interplay between Isaac and his environment. In the ’08 version of Dead Space, Isaac would be more of a statuesque figure that would only move his head when placed in front of an item or in-game object. Isaac gets to use his technical abilities as an engineer to hack into machines and unlock doors. Not to mention, his stasis and telekinesis abilities are keenly improved upon, and are much more efficient.
The visual interface that is part of Isaac’s inventory selection is more appropriate with his character, and it doesn’t take up the entire screen. Isaac’s head would move along with the player controls to navigate through the items on the screen. You can watch him behave more realistically along with the guidance of the controls and not just standing there, facing a big blue screen. This is most apparent when using an upgrade bench.
Isaac’s left hand locater can now switch to different colors that help to locate either a save point (green), his objective (blue), a store (orange), an upgrade bench (purple). This was a most pleasing addition to control variation and helps out tremendously when entering new areas within the game.
There is a definite feel that you’re in “space” in Dead Space 2, and the three-dimensional framework is used to its fullest—especially without gravity. You watch as Isaac thrusts into an area of zero gravity, then simultaneously into a vacuum, and watch as he maneuvers through floating objects and yes, floating necromorphs, to save his hide. In these kinds situations, it is easy to become frustrated in the restrictive environments, and even with Isaac’s rig–which is much improved upon. The newly added thrusters in his suit are difficult and almost annoying to maneuver. But that is a good thing. Imagine the relief to be back in gravity and for just a moment, you can breathe again.
Isaac is more agile this go-around and his swings are faster and harder and can unleash limb-slicing combos without pause. Isaac’s other powerful move is his stomping capability, equally as fast and as hard. In the first Dead Space, Isaac’s movements were a bit robotic and stiff, and there was a distinctive pause between each swing. This time, there is fluidity with his movements and he’s more easily navigable and negotiates much better with the quick trigger commands. From the forceful swinging of the plasma cutter, to stomping the guts out of an enemy, he can immediately return to aiming and firing with ease.
He even gets to crawl through vents this time, just like the enemy necromorphs, and travel throughout the levels, and popping out of vents. Intermittently, Isaac would enter an area and a mental distortion or cut scene, where visualizations of horrible images from his mind are flashed onto the screen as his dementia slowly takes hold of him.
The nastiest of nastiest, the toughest of the toughest; the necromorphs are stronger, faster, and more grotesque. The introduction of new necromorphs will have gamers utterly concerned for the mental stability of Dead Space 2’s designers. To note, item drops does not always occur with the death of the necromorph and Isaac will have to “stomp” on them often for item drops to appear.
The “Pack” is a new child-like necromorph, it’s fast and agile with fierce melee attacks. In-game, they tend to attack Isaac in “packs” so it’s never just one of them attacking at one time. A few hard swings will knock a couple off of you—but it is advised to take them down, if possible at a distance with your plasma cutter before they rain in too close. However, the armor on the child necromorph isn’t as developed as an adult’s, and it takes one shot with an un-upgraded pulse rifle or rivet gun to take it down. But don’t let this get your hopes up, you’re probably still going to die.
The “Puker” is a range-type necromorph that spits a toxic, corrosive acid—puke—and has powerful melee attacks, should you get too close. The bile glob can ‘freeze’ or slow Isaac down briefly so that it can come in for, what I call the ‘momma bird’ feeding, puke attack.
The “Spitter” is a necromorph with distinctive characteristics. Males have smooth legs, not including the thighs, and females have some of the more “lady-like” features, but with necrotic legs. It has arms similar to a Slasher, and has long range toxic spit. Should it get a hold of Isaac, it can launch a vicious cannibalistic attack against him, ripping off his neck and…well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the rest.
The “Crawler” is the reanimated corpse of an infant—yes, a baby— with an engorged abdomen filled with an exploding, organic substance. Its limbs are twisted backwards so it ‘crawls’ at you, stomach upwards, and cries, like a newborn infant. The advantage to killing one of these, however, is that if you can kill it without exploding the abdomen, you can use your telekinesis to project it at your other attackers—killing them on contact.
The “Tripod” is a large pregnant-like necromorph. It has a long lacerating tongue with a crawler attached to it, and has three legs, made of arms. It is a very powerful enemy with a wicked kill scene, and no, the Tripod isn’t the one dying.
The “Leaper” isn’t new to Dead Space 2 but is highly improved upon and is a lot harder to kill.
The “Stalker” is one of those enemies where the name is exactly what the monster does. The Stalker hides behind objects, peeking out at you from around the corner. Should you see it, it screams just before coming at you straight on, and at full force to knock you off your balance, and stand over you as it just rams its head repeatedly into yours until it is in a bloody pulp. Definitely, an unwanted close encounter.
All of the necromorphs in Dead Space 2 aren’t so easy to kill, and mere decapitation and limb removal still will not stop many of the creatures. Although the developers and creative team at Visceral may be a bit twisted, but the result is a gritty, believable, and has worthwhile fright and shock value, which makes for intensely satisfying gameplay.
Dead Space 2 introduces its own version of online multiplayer, “outbreak mode.” In order to be able to participate online, first enter the online activation key provided in the 2-Disc Dead Space 2 Collector’s Edition case. The set-up is two teams—four players on each team of necromorphs versus humans. The maps are aggravatingly small, and makes for tense game play and intense combat set-ups. In addition, it was incredibly easy for the opposing team’s two players to find the spawning area and “spawn-kill” every member on your team, while the other two team members complete the round’s objective unscathed.
Multiplayer is an addictive addition to DS2 and lead me to my demise countless of times, but it does nothing to discourage me from immersing myself into the dark corridors and corners, just so I could get another chance to brutally attack the more experienced players.
Dead Space 2: 2- disc Collector’s Edition makes for an overall complete survival-horror game. There were the few concerns mentioned in the above review, but not enough to take away from appreciating the overall balance of the game. DS2 is not the epitome of the survival horror game industry—but it did what it was set out to do; create diabolical, survivalist gameplay, all wrapped up into a twisted, necromorph filled paradise. The level of panic felt throughout game play, the feeling of frustration, anger, sweat, and for some, tears– experienced while playing DS2, serves for a well done, love-hate gaming relationship.
Dead Space 2: Collector’s Edition includes:
- The Full 2- Disc Dead Space 2 game
- Replica plasma cutter
- Eighteen Original soundtracks compiled from the score of Dead Space 2. Featuring the music by award winning composer Jason Graves of Dead Space. Also included is a Scoring of Dead Space 2 video featurette.* The playlist includes:
- “Isaac, Are You There?”
- “Padded Room with a View”
- “Hospital Escape”
- “The Cassini Towers”
- “Fear of Flying”
- “It had to Unitology
- “Isaac Get Your Gun”
- “Titan Station Elementary”
- “Class Dismissed”
- “East of the Sun and West of the Solar Array”
- “Administering Control”
- “Start Spreading the Limbs”
- “You go to my Head”
- “The Government Sector”
- “Canonical Aside”
- “War and Pieces”
- “Convergence Delayed”
- Concept art lithograph “Opening scene slasher transformation concept” by artist Brett C. Marting.
- Downloadable Zealot Force Gun and Suit
- Online Activation Pass code
- Bonus code to unlock “Isaac Clarke-Inspired Armor” for Dragon Age II, out March 2011.
*To access the video, simply use the CD/DVD ROM drive on a computer or laptop. For Mac’s select Finder > Video Featurette > Movies > The Sounds of Dead Space 2. To access online content requires an EA account.
Collector’s Edition Boxed Extras – Replica Plasma Cutter
Modeled after Isaac Clarke’s in-game weapon, the collectible replica Plasma Cutter is far from being something you can go out and readily dismember imaginary necromorphs with—it is rather small, approximately 6” x 4” x ½”, about the length of a DVD case, with trigger activated LED lights. It is lightweight and not too fragile—much like a regular toy gun– and looks as if it has had some use. It requires AAA batteries–which are not included. Not very impressed with it, but it does serve as a decent book light.
‘Pre-order’ In-game fodder & Dead Space: Ignition bonus unlocks
If you were one of the many who pre-ordered Dead Space 2 and purchased the Collector’s Edition, there are quite a few bonus item for use in-game. The “Zealot Force Gun” and “Zealot Suit” are available only to those who purchased the collector’s edition. When you insert the first disc, you are notified that you will have the ability to equip for use in both single and multi-player mode at the start of the game. In addition, you would have obtained a code for the “Dead Space Rivet Gun,” via email. The rivet gun’s primary fire, fragmentation rivets, use in the game was perfect for shooting enemies in the farthest reaches of the corridor’s, but rendered semi-useless for the stronger enemies unless fully upgraded.
Isaac’s in-game plasma cutter has been refurbished—and is notably named the “refurbished” plasma cutter–is a high-energy mineral cutter, the signature weapon Isaac uses to dismember his enemies. It handles brilliantly in the game and with full upgrades it’s the best weapon in the game.
The “Hacker Suit” was an in-game bonus from playing Dead Space: Ignition,* a survival-horror/action/puzzle game, downloadable in the XBOX360 marketplace. The suit gives an extra fifteen inventory slots and one less action or stage to complete for Isaac to hack in game. In addition, there are items left by Franco from Ignition that are behind four conduit doors located throughout the game. Look for the “conduit sign” on doors and enter to find them.
**The starship, USG Ishimura, a planet cracker, is a ship that finds other planets and moons to ‘crack’ open for their mineral rich resources. During its search for resources, the Ishimura unearthed an unholy monolith of an artifact, The Marker. It was discovered that The Marker had instructions for genetic code—the genetic code for Necromorph contagion. This contagion rendered dormant as long as The Marker was within distance of the contagion. There are two Markers referenced in the Dead Space series: the Black Marker, an alien artifact found on Earth 200 years before the Ishimura. The Red Marker is the primary Marker surrounding both Dead Space games.
**In Ignition, you play as Franco Dillies, an engineer/hacker aboard the “Sprawl” just as a new outbreak of Necromorphs begins attacking the workers aboard the space station. This insanity is presumably the beginning to the Dead Space 2 game, where Franco escapes the attacking Necromorphs and after getting a decoded message, races to the Sprawl hospital in an attempt to revive Isaac Clarke.
**The Church of Unitology is a religion in the Dead Space universe and its belief system is that the Marker brings eternal life and founded (theorized) on the teachings or ideas of Michael Altman.
Dead Space 2: Collector’s Edition is rated M for mature and contains: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Strong Language. Online content is Not Rated by the ESRB. Dead Space 2: Collector’s Edition is available for the XBOX360, PS3, PC Download and PC.