Dead Space 2 Review
Dead Space 2 is an even better version of the first game and a must have.
There's a point fairly early on in Dead Space 2 that convinces all but the most ardent critic that this game is something special. You stand on one side of a corridor that has a pane of glass at the other end. The familiar shrieks of Necromorphs alert you to their presence and, sure enough, they emerge in front of you. One of them has a convenient explosive growing from his forearm. Chuckling, you take aim and blow them all into chunks. But the explosion takes out the pain of glass, too. You begin to get sucked towards the void of space. Panicking, all your shots miss the button that would save your life. You're halfway out into the atmosphere when the shutter kicks in, slamming shut and tearing the struggling, screaming form of original survivor Isaac Clarke in two. Once again, Dead Space 2 has managed to pull the rug out from under its player and the effect is nothing short of spellbinding.
While the first game enjoyed throwing you into pitch-black rooms and then unleashing a swarm of enemies, this sequel is far more intelligent, happily toying with your expectations before leading you completely astray. The best part is that you'll constantly fall for developer Visceral Games's cunning sleight-of-hand, continually wandering blindly into a trap only to have another hideous apparition emerge from the shadows to chow down on your face.
There wasn't much wrong with the first Dead Space, but many of those tiny issues have been addressed here, transforming a mere sequel into a testament of just what happens when a developer cares about the product. Visceral have taken the 'survival in space' idea and upped it to the next logical step. Instead of running back and forth across a massive ship, Isaac is left to explore The Sprawl, a massive city orbiting Saturn that's easily twenty times the size of the Ishimura. This means that you very rarely retrace your steps and are constantly thrust forward into new areas and explore new vistas that you might never have even thought of. One outstanding chapter sees you attempt to slip through a children's school, avoiding hideously mutated babies and terrifying fourth graders, while another sees you swooping through the atmosphere high above the city, fixing the power distribution.
Of course, it's not just the locations that have been given a swift boot up the backside - the disgusting Necromorphs themselves have also found new ways to mutate themselves and make Isaac's life a misery. The original horrors all return, alongside a host of new abominations. One monster spits goo that not only burns but restricts Isaac's movement for several terrifying seconds. The aforementioned babies explode in close proximity. Perhaps the best new creature is the Stalker, a nightmarish four-legged beast that takes pleasure in hiding behind obstacles and screaming before charging and knocking you to the ground.
On top of these are the improvements to the already-excellent Zero Gravity sections. This time around, Isaac can do more than simply leap from one surface to another - he can use his built-in jetpack to zip around in any direction. It's a lot less confusing than the first game, too, thanks to elegantly simple controls and the incredibly useful ability to orient Isaac to the ground. These sections quickly become a highlight, allowing for precision control and exploration of a brand new environment, without ever overstaying their welcome.
It's also a massive step up from the original title in the visuals department as well. The crisp, sharp details of The Sprawl are excellent, with jaw-dropping sights of the rest of the city orbiting Saturn occurring frequently. It's so impressive and pushes the limitations of the hardware so far that the 360 version of the game comes on two discs.
Far more outstanding than the visuals is the audio. The game possesses sound effects that might later become referred to as, 'why the hell isn't this as good as Dead Space 2?' The guttural moans of each individual Necromorph, the cold silence of the vacuum, the general sounds of the dead city and genuinely outstanding voice acting all combine to form the most impressive horror game soundtrack of all time. If the gorgeous graphics aren't enough to make you believe in the world, then the immersive, fully realised soundtrack will.