Genre: Action Developer: Visceral Games Publisher: EA Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 25th Jan 2011 Platforms:
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The Good bits
Clinical approach to horror.
Artful use of references to increase tension.
The Bad stuff
The ending is a bit weak.
Dead Space 2 isnít the kind of game youíre going to put down and never play again because itís too scary. Like its predecessor Dead Space 2 is an action horror game - it has horrific elements, but itís mostly an action game. Mostly.
The game starts out as a legitimate horror situation - your arms are strapped to your body and youíre trying to escape from an all to familiar (if you played the first game) hell. You eventually get an item - a torch. No weapons, just a torch. For about 20 minutes, the game is pure horror as you run, terrified of every noise you hear.
Then you get the telekinesis attachment to your suit - an infinite use item, allowing you to pick up the sharp claws of your necromorph enemies and fling them back at them. Essentially youíre given an infinite ammo long range weapon to accompany your melee attack and stomp.
In no time you get your hands on the classic plasma cutter and the game abandons any pretense of being a survival horror game.
The key to the horror in DS2 is that itís closely tied to elements most people will already understand. Where games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadows used pop culture references to lighten the mood (some said to the detriment of the game itself) DS2 uses them to enhance the horror.
Your arms are strapped to your body because youíre in a straight
jacket when you start - youíre in a mental health facility. You start having hallucinations - and this is where it begins. Theyíre similar to the hallucinations in Event Horizon, so the player will feel the same way they did during the movie - if theyíve seen it (you should watch it if not).
It gets better - upon completing a particularly difficult encounter with one of the new enemies - the Stalker - you get an achievement. I wonít spoil the surprise, but every encounter with Stalkers afterwards was turned into a tense battle because of it - especially when you notice that the sounds they make are used to evoke the same reaction.
Visceral goes all out in its efforts to tear you from your comfort zone, which is why DS2 works so well as a horror game.
Three quarters of the way through the game Isaac spends literally minutes running through corridors fighting nothing. As the player youíll feel relieved for a moment - then scared as you start to expect the inevitable scare to occur... and finally as you begin to get complacent it hits you. Itís almost scientific in the way it does this - but these sequences and all the action pieces are just a sleight of hand set up for the gameís biggest con.
By the end of the game, when you start running low on ammo and health, it hits you - Bruce Willis was dead, Jaye Davidson was a man and Dead Space 2 is a survival horror at heart.
You donít stand and fight enemies any more, you set traps, abuse your stasis ability (which allows you to slow down time) and run. More than once I felt my heart sink through my stomach when I missed a single shot - knowing I wouldnít get another.
Itís genius - a marvelous magic trick designed to maximise the survival horror nature of the game. I started relieved that it would be an action horror game - then I was scared by the methods it employed, even as an action horror title... and finally, as I was beginning to get complacent with my ammunition it hit me with true
To really nail the horror element itís important to deliver the right atmosphere and Dead Space 2 nails atmosphere like a beast. The graphics are outstanding - the animations do wonders for emphasising the unnatural difference between the humans and the necromorphs.
The environments are beautifully done as well, especially when they use colour in odd (yet logical) ways. At one point the lighting changes from normal to black light and the area youíre in lights up like a set from CSI.
There have been a number of gameplay tweaks as well - anyone who played the first game will be pleased to hear the asteroids game is gone - replaced with a few inventive high octane set pieces.
The old guide has been swapped for one which points you to your nearest shop, bench, save point and your objective as well. Itís useful for the numerous situations where the game opens into divergent paths - giving the player a short respite from the otherwise linear nature of the game.
The branching areas are among the few areas where the game falters a little - but only because itís one of the few areas where the team at Visceral failed to take advantage of what was at hand. In many other areas of the game they subvert the reprieve given by the game - the inherent safety of an area with a Store or Save point is played with -
but they leave it alone in these areas.
The other faltering is the ending of the game - again, I wonít spoil it except to say itís a little underwhelming, especially considering the heart-thumping nature of the lead-up to it. The rest of the story is really well told but it seemed to me like Visceral themselves may have chickened out when it came to the ending.
The methods employed to make the player scared of - at times - nothing at all are flawlessly executed, so if youíre after an actually scary game you should look no further than Dead Space 2. The game plays like it was borne of a scientific experiment designed to test the best methods for delivering interactive horror fiction.
Dead Space was Survival Horror.
Dead Space2 was a dumbed down shooter.
Its hard to be scared when you have so much ammo you could kill three space stations full of Necros and still have plenty left over.
People used to get this much ammo in games by putting in cheat codes.
Final word: yuk.
After finishing my first game of deadspace, i loaded deadspace 2 (thank God for those steam sales?) - all plays well, and somethings are much better managed but the controls, and way you can only purchase power cells (not sell them back) was kind of sad.
I completed the entire game on 2 weapons, and a limited ammount of telek - but need to invest in those statis upgrades, or run around with a few spare statis packs.
Very enjoyable, and nice to see the large set peice of the skip from dead space 1.