Visceral Games are an EA studio that’s been around for a little over a decade, but didn’t have a very humble beginning. Things turned around for the company when a group of designers got together and created a prototype for a survival horror game during the last year of the previous console generation. However, seeing as it was still just a proof of concept and the console transition was about to take place they decided to flesh out their prototype on the next generation of systems. In 2008 Visceral unleashed their first new IP in the form of Dead Space; a title that received rave reviews and became known for breathing life back into the dying survival horror genre.
Both EA and Visceral saw the true potential of Dead Space as a franchise. So while EA has been working hard to create more back story and expand the universe through books, movies, and even a comic book; Visceral has been hard at work on a full-fledged sequel. But can an American developer strike gold twice in a row in a genre dominated by Japanese giants like Resident Evil and Fatal Frame?
A Divine Relic, Made by Man
Dead Space 2 takes place three years after the Aegis VII incident. After being one of the few survivors of the Necromorph infestation caused by the Red Marker, Isaac Clarke awakens to find that he has not escaped the horror yet. Set on a large space station called The Sprawl that is built on top of the remains of the Saturn moon Titan, Dead Space 2 sees Isaac haunted not only by the Necromorphs, but also by the visions of his dead lover Nicole.
Isaac’s story in the first Dead Space was a slowly paced tale that was only revealed through logs and messages left behind by the dead. Dead Space 2 on the other hand is far more fast-paced given that, instead of arriving on the scene long after the infection has devastated the area as in the first game, it is occurring all around him as he progresses. This change of pace greatly compliments an already good survival horror story and the on-the-fly manner it adopts makes it feel more like an adventure than merely a haunted house experience. This is also helped by a change in the environments that Isaac has to navigate. Though I enjoyed the layout and design of the USG Ishimura in Dead Space, I couldn’t help but find myself tiring of the same corridor-crawling over and over again. Being set on The Sprawl, Dead Space 2 is far more open and varied and actually feels far more like a lived-in environment due to a deluge of places to explore. These include a shopping mall, a large church of Unitology, residences, apartments, schools, and hospitals all of which are completely believable for the ship that homes over a million inhabitants.
Altman Be Praised
While the story does contain the usual assortment of friendships, betrayals, lessons learned and loves lost, what I found to be one of the more interesting elements is the fleshing out of Isaac Clark’s character. As is so often the case with main characters in games these days Clark was a silent protagonist throughout almost all of the original Dead Space. In this game however Clark is fully realized with a voice of his own as well as his own motivations and desires. Clark’s dementia also has him suffering through painful visions that warp the surrounding environment and have him constantly questioning his sanity. Clark’s anger, frustration, and exacerbating mental condition will have you rooting him on as he makes his way through the infested station.
The story of a game, for me, is probably the most important aspect of a game and I can’t help but say that Dead Space 2’s narrative is excellent. Clark’s journey through the dying Sprawl space station adds greatly to the already interesting Dead Space universe and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the majority of the experience. The ending is especially enticing and gives cause for speculation regarding an inevitable third title, as well as the extra downloadable single player content Visceral has coming down the pipe.
Excellent singleplayer experience
Multiplayer somewhat lacking