If I were a games developer, I wouldn’t be able to imagine anything more terrifying than being tasked with creating a sequel to a hit game that blew everyone’s minds when it came out. And since it’s the sequel to the amazing survival horror Dead Space that we’re talking about here, even the disgusting monsters in the game probably couldn’t scare the development team as much as the millions of sweaty-palmed, opinionated gamers waiting in anticipation to play the game then be the first to hit the blogs and forums to bitch about how it pales in comparison to the original.
Getting a good reaction out of these “connoisseurs” is no easy task, but if you do, it means that you have succeeded on every level. So, did Dead Space 2 manage to achieve perfection and satisfy the easily disgruntled fans of the original? A glance around the internet says that most journalists and gamers are more than happy with it. There are a few issues being brought up here and there, but nothing that seems to have put anyone off the game yet. But if broad opinions are not a comfort to you, then let’s take a closer look at the facts.
First, the premise: After the events of Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is picked up in his shuttle and transferred to a mental asylum on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn, where he is bunged up in a padded cell for three years because of his wild rants about monsters and secret plots. To make matters worse, he is actually starting to hallucinate and seeing horrific visions, most notably of his deceased girlfriend, Nicole. Luckily – or unluckily, depending on how you look at it – a sudden Necromorph invasion of the Sprawl, the main city on Titan, sets Isaac free. Soon afterwards, he is contacted by another asylum inmate and told that another “marker”, the source of all the trouble, has been activated, and only he can destroy it and stop the Necromorph invasion.
So, rather than hightailing it to the first shuttle off Titan like anyone without a death wish would do, Isaac decides to cooperate with this lunatic. It’s round about here that anyone who’s played the first game will notice one of the biggest changes. Isaac is no longer the faceless, voiceless, copper armour-clad golem he was in the first game. Now we get to see his face, hear his voice and get an idea about what sort of person he is. A good change, in my opinion. He is also no longer limited to his metal-clad engineer suit, and some of his outfits are more civilian-looking and give him special benefits, like increased damage with certain weapons or better hacking abilities.
The second glaring change takes a while to sink in, and only veterans of the first game will truly feel it. The pace and structure of Dead Space 2 is vastly different to the first game. In Dead Space 1, Isaac would travel to a new area in each chapter and spend quite a while there, backtracking across the place several times to complete his objectives, giving each area a hub-like feel. Dead Space 2, on the other hand, plays much more like a scripted shooter. Isaac will seldom have to backtrack, and areas that he leaves often become locked off somehow, preventing him from going back even if he wants to – so make sure you pick up any important items you see, because you can’t backtrack and get them later after you’ve sold your superfluous inventory items at the store. It’s quite different, and while I can see some Dead Space 1 fans not liking the change, it certainly keeps the story moving at a brisk pace.
Progression changes aside, it’s very much the Dead Space we know and love, just with new weapons, gadgets and abilities for Isaac to use, new enemies to fight, and significantly improved graphics and performance. The game is perfectly paced, just like the original, and every time players begin to feel that they’ve seen it all or that they could do with a new weapon, enemy or upgrade, one conveniently pops up. As in the last game, Isaac has access to an arsenal of creative and interesting weapons, and he can buy as many as he wants, but players can only equip four at a time and upgrading them all within a single play through is utterly impossible.
The new enemies are interesting too, and they don’t just look different and have different attacks – they behave differently too. Two good examples are the new child-like creatures that are easy to kill, but come in swarms and try to surround Isaac; and the goat-like enemies that hide from Isaac and then charge in to ram him with their bony skulls. Of course, our old friends are in there too, including the tentacle sprouting babies, the deceptively agile, tailed torsos, the insect-spewing fat guys and the standard issue eviscerators. Every once in a while, Isaac will come across a boss of some kind, and while their weak spots are usually easy to identify – getting a clear shot at them is the difficult part.
Oddly enough, Dead Space 2 includes an online multiplayer mode. While I honestly can’t think of a game that needed a multiplayer mode less than Dead Space – with the possible exception of Uncharted – I gave it a bash and it’s actually pretty good fun. Players are automatically sorted into two teams, humans and Necromorphs. The humans have to achieve several goals on each map while the Necros do their best to stop them. Players can rank-up to gain access to better armour and weapons as humans, and new attacks and abilities as the Necromorphs. It’s interesting, but we didn’t really need it.
So there you have it. The only reason you might not enjoy Dead Space 2 is because of the rather extreme pacing change, but apart from that, everything has been amped up, making it just as gripping a horror game as its predecessor.