What can I say about Dead Space 2 that hasn’t already been said? The intense horror feel, walking through poorly lit corridors with the sounds of scuttling feet nearby. The sudden flash of movement as something lurks behind a corner or darts past an open door. The Necromorphs, mutated creatures and the stuff of nightmares, taken from the likes of John Carpenter’s Thing and the furtive imagination of Hieronymus Bosch, terrible things, all spines, teeth and misshapen limbs. Not that all this would bother you, the reader. No, you are made of sterner stuff. You won’t bat an eyelid at the corpse that suddenly leaps up at you. I however, had the fright of my life. My backside left the chair by a good six inches and I was left clutching my chest and breaking into a cold, clammy sweat.
The physical horror is heaped upon you by the bucket load. Necromorphs jump down from false ceilings, they burst through glass windows and lunge at you, they come up through the floor or from behind seemingly harmless, everyday objects like a drinks dispenser. EA and Visceral Games have produced a masterpiece of the truly terrifying. But it was the physiological horror that freaked me out more, the unravelling of Isaac Clarke’s mind as we share his visions of Nicole, his dead girlfriend from the last Dead Space. His absent memories of the last three years, since the USG Ishimura incident, his hospitalisation and apparent dementia. As you progress, you begin to delve deeper into the psyche of Isaac and ultimately the true meaning of the infection.
Dead Space 2 hits the ground running and it doesn’t stop until at least the second save point, and that’s on the easy level! Trying the game on Hardcore is just brain cell suicide. Your eyes are burning from a severe lack of blinking and you exhale loudly as you realise you must have spent the last few minutes with your breath held. Finally, you get hold of something you can fight with, the old faithful Plasma Cutter. Later you breathe a sigh of relief as you don your familiar engineering suit, now you feel up to the challenge. The weapons and suits available in Dead Space 2 are wonderful. Unlocking blueprints and finding secret locations can give you access to the ten different weapons and nine different suits, each are uniquely upgradable via the holographic ‘shop’ in exchange for power nodes and credits, which can be found by looting corpses, or stomping on boxes to break them open. The power nodes are worth their weight in gold as they can not only upgrade your weapon but can also grant you access to some of the secret locations.
The game plays in a linear fashion, which isn’t a bad thing. One of the complaints in the last Dead Space was the backtracking and getting hopelessly lost in the maze of corridors. This time, the developers have created a game that literally shepherds you from one location to the next, with a cast of characters that crop up and give you advice on where to go next and what to do. Pressing ‘B’ will bring up a handy locator which emits a strong blue line showing which direction to take. This, mixed with a running tips (which can be turned on or off) projection can help those who are new to the game. The tips are pretty good, brief, but to the point. They don’t require you to read too much info before they vanish. ‘Press ‘C’ to quick stasis the closing door’, that type of thing. Finding audio logs reveals parts of the story behind the infection on ‘The Sprawl’, the Titan-based metropolis where the game takes place, but it’s the interaction between Isaac and his guide, Diana, that really move you along the first few chapters and help fill in some of the blanks. Although being herded from one point to another may not appeal to everyone, the game doesn’t suffer from it, in fact you are concentrating on the Necromorphs and what might jump out at you next far too much to bother with the linear qualities of the game.
The controls are easy to get a grip of.I opted for the keyboard/mouse combo as opposed to a gamepad, but it comes down to personal preference. There are times when you can become a little flustered, being surrounded by the Necromorphs, trying to shoot at their limbs and control your Kinesis at the same time can leave you with cramped fingers and burning forearms, but you soon get the hang of it.
The graphics are splendid, sharp and suitably terrifying. Walking into a vacuum, with drops of water floating by, merging and bouncing off their surroundings is a visual dream come true. Quick tip, don’t spend too long in the vacuum admiring the eye candy, you’ll run out of air – not saying that happened to me of course, ahem, moving on.
The music and sound effects are spooky, Sci-Fi and can immerse you into Isaac’s world better than the visuals in some cases. Suiting up for the first time plays a heavy rock track that gets you ready to take on the hoard of Necromorphs and the sudden gushing of air followed by a terrible, deathly silence when stepping into a vacuum will make the hairs on the back of you neck stand on end.
Dead Space 2 is wonderful. You can play it through to the cinematic climax, sit back and say to yourself ‘Woah’. Then play it again to unlock the bits you missed. The only gripe I have is with the fairly bleak multiplayer option. I was left feeling a little let down. You can play as a human or a Necromorph, but it just doesn’t have the same thrills and spills that the single player campaign has.
Buy Dead Space 2. Play it. Finish it. Play it again. Welcome to the horror.
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