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Maul at the Sprawl- Dead Space 2 Review

For years, survival horror games have been a consistently problematic genre. Although titles in the Resident Evil, Silent Hill and even Alone in the Dark franchises have provided players with an unshakable sense of uneasiness, most have also ratcheted up the tension with a cumbersome control scheme. In 2008, Dead Space defied convention by offering a responsive input method while maintaining a nerve-racking feeling of escalating dread. Thanks to Visceral Game’s proficiency, players spent more energy struggling against the escalating tide of nefarious necromorphs than fighting with the game’s controls, creating a wonderfully intense experience then helped reinvigorate the horror title.

For recent sequel Dead Space 2, the studio has enhanced the agility of protagonist Isaac Clarke even further. Stasis and kinesis abilities, which were rarely compulsory in the original game, are now an indispensable part of our hero’s repertoire. Freezing an encroaching antagonist, blasting a leg off, and hurtling the appendage back at the still-frozen foe feels exhilarating thanks to the title’s zippy aiming and increased overall speed. With a nimble retreat speed and the ability to reload while on the run, Clarke now displays the agility shown by the nimblest game characters. Even the protagonist’s zero-G flights have been retrofitted to allow players to adjust their mid-flight trajectories.

Beyond a boost in athletic prowess, Clarke’s also been given the ability of verbalization. The once-mute engineer now converses with the rare survivor, allowing gamers to peer into his tortured psyche. Although it might seem like a trivial change, the addition allows for satisfying character development, and gives us a protagonist who feels remarkably less robotic. Regrettably, Clarke’s character can veer dangerously close to the “Oorah” space marine stereotype that gamers are well acquainted with, especially when he stomps incapacitated creatures into piles of pulpy goo. Ideally, his mental state should have been closer to the perilous precipice of breakdown, relentlessly blurring the distinction between real and imagined.

While Dead Space‘s rendering of the doomed USG Ishimura cultivated anxiety along its shadowy, steel corridors, the sequel wisely opts for venue change. Set three years after the cataclysmic events on the mining vessel, Clarke awakens up in a mental ward with a notable gap in his memory. Within moments the necromorph contagion starts anew, sending the straight-jacketed engineer sprinting for safety. While this tour is essentially linear, it’s elevated by a journey that alternates between claustrophobic ducts and expansive spaces ideal for a heated skirmish.  Nicknamed “The Sprawl”, Dead Space 2‘s remote colony accommodates a visual variety absent from its predecessor, as the players trek though science labs, schools, and residential dwellings. Smartly, most of back-and-forth errands of the first title have been dropped, allowing the developer to position every jack-in-the-box jump with pinpoint accuracy. See that pile of credits glowing in the corner? Chances are your gluttonous goal will be met with some type nerve rattling. As with most horror games, Dead Space 2 begs for a darkened play environment with the surround sound receiver set loud enough to spook the neighbors.

After completing the title’s fifteen chapter, ten-hour campaign, players have the option of continuing anew with their current loadout, giving Clarke the proper tools to hunt for trophies and achievements confined to the game’s higher difficultly levels. There’s also a four-on-four multiplayer mode that forsakes the games scares for a dependence on co-operation. Here, teams of human are tasked with collecting pieces before they are eviscerated by a band of necromoprhs. Although the game only has a handful of maps, there’s a persistent leveling system which rewards perseverance with a steady steam of new weapons and perks. For a limited time, the PS3 version of the game ships with Dead Space: Extraction, a port of the Wii light-gun shooter. While it’s a nice bonus, especially for Move owners, the title’s origins are unmistakable- the game lacks the immaculate textures and fluid framerate of the main game.

With a handful of new weapons, enemies, and a marvelously taut control scheme, Dead Space 2 thoroughly improves on its predecessor, forging a consummate title for horror fans. While the single-player campaign is probably hearty enough to warrant a full-priced purchase, additional content causes the game to be the first must-play title of the inaugural year. Takeuchi, we eagerly await your response.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

43 comments

  1. Eat that Greg Miller.

  2. Man, I love this game so far. Yes, I know it’s linear, but it manages to scare the crap out of me over and over.

  3. Unlike the commercial, my Mom say this and wanted to watch me play. She said it reminded her of when she watched “Alien” for the first time.

  4. I want this game so bad.

  5. Deagle, please teach him how to write? OK?

  6. Does it matter if I never played the first one? Does it explain the story?

  7. I saw that and I think the person criticizing Miller was being way too hard.

    The “original game” (rather than “first game”) comment tipped the boat for me; most end-users never see the alpha and beta games just the final products.

  8. thanks for the review, Deagle!

  9. I played the demo and man does this game seem to be getting overhyped. It’s a standard action game with a few jump moments. nothing more.

  10. It’s hoorah, not “oorah”

  11. So this or Two Worlds 2?

  12. I loved the first game, and will have to get this one this week.

  13. Theres a demo on Playstation 3? How did I miss it? I really liked the first game.

  14. Just an FYI- the 360 version comes on 2 disks. You have to switch it halfway though the game.

  15. It looks like one liner thrill ride. I don’t how it would be fun to play more than once.

  16. Ok, I got the PS3 version and I was having trouble with the game recognizing my Move controller. It would only use the stick, which made things really hard. Plus you get like 3 shots at the start of the game with a really slow reload time.

  17. Creepy babies look like they were leftover from Dante’s Inferno.

  18. You get more as the game goes on. I played the Wii version and really liked it.

  19. Pretty good review.

  20. I don’t know, Issac seems to lose it when his dead GF appears.

  21. Yep, it’s a bit bigger than a gig.

  22. Can you recommend one version over the other one? The PS3 one has Extraction but are the graphics as good?

  23. Great review.

  24. Any place offering this for less than $60? I want it badly, but it’s just not in my budget right now.

  25. Announcing DLC on the day of release was a bit of a douche move. Still, Id be lying if I said I wasn’t interested.

  26. Deagle, you’re being too kind on your competition. It was shit pure and simple.

  27. I want!

  28. Knowing that the first game dropped in price pretty damn quick I think I’ll hold off on getting this at launch. Only really good MP will make me drop $60 on week 1.

  29. I guess I’m the only person who didn’t like the first game. I just got tired on the setting before the end of the game.

  30. Nice review, you should apply for IGNs new opening.

  31. How come you guys don’t have Visceral on the podcast? You can give me a shoutout for the idea.

  32. KMart had a really great sale on this. This and LBP2 and a $20 PSN voucher for $90.

  33. How many times did you poop your pants while playing?

  34. Yeah, but he never really goes batshit crazy!

  35. This was on my buy list for some time, and was a day one purchase for my pS3.

  36. “I’m about write about its scary moments”

    Nuff said.

  37. The scariest thing on the face of the earth is clowns. Let’s see if they made it to space then got ripped apart by the Necros.

  38. Better than the IGN review by far.

    I’ll probably try to pick this up this weekend.

  39. Dead Space isn’t really Survival Horror, tho.

  40. I’m glad this just isn’t a rehash of the first game. MP isn’t going to make me buy the game, but it’s a nice addition.

  41. Thats news to me? You’re trying to survive in a pretty scary environment. If that doesn’t qualify, I don’t know what does.

    RE5 on the other hand, I can see the argument. It’s more of an action game these days.

  42. Marines say “oorah” Army says “hoorah”. A Space Marine would probably stick with Corp tradition.

  43. Start the game with the Move controller from the XMB.