Games: Dead Space is the place

 
 

Picking apart the new release, Steven Balbirnie reviews Dead Space 2 giving it ample praise and a few minor criticisms

If premise and story was a major factor behind the success of a game, Dead Space 2 wouldn’t win any awards. Taking place three years after the first Dead Space, engineer Isaac Clarke wakes up from a coma to find himself aboard a space station called the Sprawl. Not only is he faced by another necromorph outbreak, but he is also being pursued by government forces and the shadowy Church of Unitology.

So far, so standard. However, thankfully there’s a lot more to Dead Space 2 than just a routine sci-fi horror plot. The sequel builds upon the foundations the original set such as through linked content between games, giving you rewards if you’ve previously played Dead Space or Dead Space Ignition.

The game features all of the old weapons as well as some new ones, such as the rather satisfying javelin gun, which allows you to impale enemies with harpoons. All of Isaac’s equipment is upgradeable, including his stasis and kinesis module, which he can use to freeze enemies and telekinetically manipulate objects.

The loss of the game’s map is irritating, though arguably this factor contributes to the atmosphere of unease and disorientation. Tension is also created by the requirement for Isaac to navigate the Sprawl’s vents, adding to the player’s feelings of claustrophobia and vulnerability.

The most striking improvement, in comparison with previous instalments, is the graphics. Dead Space 2 is visually sumptuous. The first view you get of the futuristic, desolate cityscape of the Sprawl is simply stunning.

Overall, the multiplayer mode is an enjoyable addition, as it is quite different from the main game due to its frantic pace. Like the Left 4 Dead games, players face off against each other as humans and monsters; and as expected, it’s much more fun to play as the necromorphs and hunt down the humans.

One of the only issues with Dead Space 2 is that it isn’t entirely sure what type of horror it wants to be. The first game was a clear action-horror, but the sequel has introduced other elements to the fray.

The tense opening and the fact that early on your only weapon is a torch are elements straight out of a survival horror; but it isn’t long before Isaac’s blasting his enemies away with automatic weapons.

Also, the inclusion of Isaac’s demented visions (of his dead girlfriend) adds a psychological aspect to the horror. But these hallucinations are tame compared to those seen in Eternal Darkness, and as far as psychological horrors for 2011 go, Konami’s Silent Hill: Downpour looks like it will be more mind-bending than Dead Space 2.

Overall, Dead Space 2 is a fantastic game. And despite its attempts to introduce psychological elements to the story, it is still primarily an action-horror – the genre in which its makers specialise.

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