Review by Justinsl1986

Reviewed: 01/27/11

Isaac Returns For Another Horror Classic

Two years after Isaac Clarke's heart-wrenching trip through the USG Ishimura against the terrifying necromorphs, he's back for another horror masterpiece.

Story - 9/10
You play Isaac Clarke, engineer who was assigned to aid the planet cracker USG Ishimura above the atmosphere of Aegis 7 in Dead Space. After uncovering an alien artifact known as the Marker and a religious cult known as the Church of Unitology, Isaac had to battle his way through hordes of horrifying creatures called necromorphs, horrible mutations of the crew members. After enduring the events on the Ishimura, he is found half-crazed aboard a shuttle near Aegis 7 and is transported to the Sprawl. This massive space city is located on one of the moons of Saturn and where Isaac's latest adventure unfolds.

Due to his contact with the Marker, Isaac finds himself in a psych ward suffering from dementia and seeing his dead girlfriend Nicole. Someone is sent to rescue Isaac from this when a new necromorph outbreak occurs on the Sprawl. Isaac must explore this massive space station, all the while uncovering more on the Church of Unitology and the Marker, as well as fighting his personal demons.

Graphics - 10/10
If you thought Dead Space was a pretty game, wait until you get into this one. The Sprawl allows for a larger variety of locales and color palettes, as opposed to the originals winding gray corridors. You will find yourself from time to time just admiring how much detail and time has been put into putting these enviroments together. One of the most gorgeous images is just seeing the vastness of the Sprawl, with Saturn as a backdrop, as you rip your way through.

Character models are spectacular and the necromorphs are as terrifying as ever. There are new abominations for you to face and new people for you to meet, each introducing deeper visuals as the story unfolds. My only gripe is that creature models are used multiple times, but with varying colors (i.e. the black and stronger version of each monster). I just wish that different creatures were developed instead of just palette swapping the already made ones.

Gameplay - 10/10
Dismembering necromorphs is just as fun, if not funner, in Dead Space 2. Your trusty stasis and kinesis modules return and are still useful both against your foes and solving puzzles. Stasis can be used to slow enemies down while you carefully dismember them, while kinesis is used to grab things and throw them around. One major addition is the ability to take severed limbs from your foes and toss that at other enemies. For example, you can shoot the arm of a slasher, grab the limb with kinesis and shoot it back at it. The limb will impale the enemy and it's possible to pin them to walls.

As mentioned before, additional enemies come into play this time around. The quick slasher makes his return as the basic necromorph, along with lurkers, brutes, and leapers. One of the new enemies is known as the pack, groups of infected infants, that swarm Isaac in mobs. They do little damage themselves, but their large numbers can overwhelm you at times and they will inflict serious damage if you are not ready for them. Another new enemy is the puker, it's name should pretty much give away what it does. It basically pukes at you, slowing your movement until the acid wears off. Enemies are fierce and smarter this time around. One of the most exciting editions is the stalker, similar to velocirators from Jurassic Park. These creatures will hide behind objects, peeking out to see you, before charging into you and then running off while you are down. They are highly smart and work in groups to swarm you, so they require more than just run and gun.

Several weapons make a return from the original, including your trusty plasma gun and line gun. There are new guns as well, like the javelin gun, which can pin enemies to wall, or the seeker rifle, which is essentially a sniper rifle. As always, all weapons have an alternate fire, which introduces new strategies to deal with your foes.

As you explore the Sprawl, you may uncover power nodes which can be used to upgrade your weapon and armor. A weapon's damage, capacity, and reloading speed can be upgraded, and your rig's HP and air supply can also be upgraded. There are additional upgrades introduced this time as well, such as special upgrades for select weapons.

Another major change from the original Dead Space revolves around zero-g atmosphere. Previously, you had to aim and jump in zero-g to get from one area to another. This time around, Isaac has hover boots and is able to float in full 360 degree motions. This greatly expands upon an already great concept and allows for further depth in these sections.

While the game is mainly a survival horror title, there is a larger emphasis on action this time around. Several sections revolve around large battles or intense situations that really up the tension. One such situation is from the demo, where a gunship shoots out a window, decompressing the room. Isaac must climb into a nearby vent and drop away before he is sucked into space. He falls into a dimly lit corridor with a terrifying creature trying to rip him apart. Isaac manages to get away from him, but only to run into the gunship again. The window is again blown out, but this time, Isaac and the creature are sucked into space. Isaac must destroy the creature while he is dangling near the gunship and before he runs out of oxygen. The entire sequence is absolutely breathtaking and is one of my favorite sequences ever in a game.

Sound - 10/10
The atmosphere created in Dead Space 2 with the music and the effects are simply amazing. You will be completely immersed in this world and even the slightly of noises will terrify you. The screams of the necromorphs and their victims will chill you to the bone as you round each corner, wondering where the fight will come from. One of the most exciting bits is when you enter zero-g atmosphere, all music dies down and sound effects are almost negligible. This really gives the saying, "In space, no one can hear you scream" a real meaning.

Voice acting is top-notch once again, but there is a big bonus this time. This time around,Isaac actually has a voice. This allows you to become more involved with his character and really feel him struggle with what he is going through.

Replayability - 8/10
With a slightly longer single player than the original, Dead Space 2 tops out around 10-12 hours on a first playthrough. Really exploring the Sprawl and uncovering its secrets will extend game time significantly, but the experience is so incredibly worth it. There are five difficulties to play through and a new game + mode where you can carry over weapons and inventory from previous games. Dead Space 2 also introduces multiplayer into this universe, where you can battle as or against the necromorphs.

Overall - Rating = 9 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 8 = 9.4
Dead Space 2 is the first true contender for GOTY 2011 and one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I've had in a long time. Any fan of the original Dead Space, as well as newcomers to the franchise, will truely appreciate the effort put into creating such a triumph of a game.

Buy or rent -
If you are a fan of the original, or survival horror games in general, Dead Space 2 is a must own. If the genre doesn't excite you too much, then a rental is definitely still warranted. Dead Space 2 should be experienced by everyone.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Dead Space 2 (US, 01/25/11)

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