by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
The Pills Don't Work
Dead Space 2 retains the level of horror from its predecessor through its shocking visuals and tense atmosphere, but also adds a further psychological element that makes the whole experience that much more terrifying. The usual assortment of monster closets are as frequent if not more so than they were in Dead Space, but what separates Dead Space 2 is the inclusion of what I like to call “Nicole Moments.” In Dead Space you were occasionally guided on the right path by Isaac’s girlfriend Nicole, but the manifestation that Isaac was seeing was actually a projection of the Red Marker’s consciousness attempting to get it returned to Aegis VII. Though I do not wish to spoil this game’s Nicole, she is far more frequent this time around and is very aggressive towards Isaac. The result is similar to the Alma sequences in the F.E.A.R. franchise in which she would appear to scare the pants off of you before you get back into combat. Nicole will often appear to ridicule Isaac and his relationship with her, and it was these moments that disturbed me the most - though not enough such that I had to stop playing the game.
Another thing that made Dead Space so creepy was its excellent sound design. Dead Space 2 retains this element but is more precise in its execution to somehow provide an even more horrific experience. The background sound effects are still wonderfully done and the cries of enemies are fantastically creepy if not terrifying. The Stalker alone has one of the most terrifying screams I have ever heard in a video game; I don’t know what they killed to get it but I certainly don’t want to meet it. But the genius is found when the sound design further convinces the player of the dementia Clark is experiencing. Sometimes it is possible to hear his name said in the background of a sound such as a beep, or even in the tail end of a Necromorph’s dying scream. If you ever needed a reason to buy a surround sound system this is the reason to do so.
We’re All Going to Burn
Despite receiving odd looks from all directions, Visceral somehow found a way to translate the Dead Space 2 single player experience into a competitive multiplayer one. Taking place alongside Isaac Clark’s journey, players either take on the role of a Necromorph or a human soldier under orders to help contain the Necromorph outbreak. Being an 8 player team-based experience, the four human players are assigned to complete certain objectives in order to complete the overall mission, while the Necromorph team does what a Necromorph does best: kill in the most gruesome manner possible.
Dead Space 2’s multiplayer is certainly an oddball if there ever was one, but it definitely draws a huge influence from the multiplayer experience in Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately, in this reviewer’s experience at least, it seems balancing the teams is an issue as the Necromorph team has an almost unfair advantage over the human team due to fast respawns and being able to choose where to spawn. As this is an objective only affair (sorry, no team deathmatch variant to be found) and the objectives have to be done in a certain order, a real issue arises when the amount of time to complete objectives is far too short given the length of human respawn delays and the set respawn points.
For those in for the long haul though (or those who don’t have access to other multiplayer experiences), Dead Space 2 offers an apparently robust selection leveling system. As you complete objectives, get kills, and fulfill other requirements you earn upgrades and new weapons. These upgrades apply to both sides so you earn new abilities as a Necromorph as well. Most of these upgrades are on par for the course and will keep a dedicated fan playing long after their initial purchase. Needless to say though, this is not a multiplayer experience that can adequately compete with what is offered in the Call of Duty series or Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for instance.
Make Us Whole
Dead Space 2 had quite a lot to live up to, and it certainly meets if not exceeded those demands. The story is great and well told, the combat is just as interesting as it was in 2008, and the inclusion of a multiplayer mode that though flawed, still adds a good amount of replay value to the game. Visceral’s latest title is not only an excellent addition to their franchise, but also to the survival horror genre as a whole. Regardless of your experience with the franchise or the genre, you will find a lot of value in Dead Space 2. It may only be January, but we may already have a contender for the title of Game of the Year.
Excellent singleplayer experience
Multiplayer somewhat lacking