I was a little surprised to see a sequel to Dead Space. The first entry in the now hot series was good, but did not make a big impact in terms of sales. After having thoroughly enjoyed both the original Dead Space and the iOS game, I was stoked to fire up another chapter in the journey of Isaac Clarke. More accurately, I wanted to know more about the man behind the suit. In short, that is precisely what Visceral Games accomplished.
The story begins with your once mute, faceless hero awakening from a coma. He is out of his famous engineering suit, complete with iron helmet, and reduced to a straight jacket. You can’t help but feel vulnerable in the opening minutes. When you finally retrieve a suit, it’s a moment of power where you really feel like you’re out of harms-way. If only that were true. The following 15 chapters are full of plenty of necromorphs that range from fast to slow, and from small to explosive. These enemies have evolved from the original Dead Space in how they vary. You won’t find yourself in a pinch and know exactly how to get through it. While I died maybe a dozen times, I only died once from the same situation. It’s not a game that will teach you how to master the mechanics and controls, rather it’s a very tactical experience where you live from save point to save point being as ammo efficient and accurate with your shot as possible. This method will teach you only to be afraid of what will come around the corner next. In fact, I played with my 7.1 surround sound headphones and several times I was so engrossed in the game I would turn my head when I heard necromorphs behind me. I haven’t been this scared of a game since Eternal Darkness on the GameCube. All the while I felt compassion for Isaac. He’s a smart character who can’t help but be involved in this outbreak and battle with the church. There is a moment near the end if the game where Isaac has to do something painful…the way I felt at that moment is reason enough to tel others it’s a must play game.
I have a hard time finding faults in this game. I paid just under $20 for it. I got at least 8 hours out of it; a ton of thrills and several moments of triumphant exhilaration. The game plays well, looks beautiful, and has a variety of combat interactions. While there are only a few enemy types and the recipe for success is consistent, I still felt the need to continue. If one fault must be identified it is this. As frightening as it would have been I would have liked to see a few more enemy types. The core mechanics of engineering tools, stasis and kenesis could have been better combined to be necessary against certain enemies. Instead one could play the game without hardly ever using the two latter mechanics.
Dead Space 2 is a game designed from the ground up to immerse the player in the story of Isaac and his universe. While they did improve upon the mechanics that make this series standout, it’s clear their focus was on storytelling and fidelity. I tip my hat to Visceral Games - well done.