Returning to the mouth of madness is Issac Clark, our maintenance man from the original Dead Space whose routine repair mission turned into hellish nightmare of survival. Well, the tough times are not over as Issac's his nightmare is brought to life for a second time in Visceral Games second installment of 'Dead Space.'
The setup for 'Dead Space 2' picks up three years after the original on an orbiting space station called the "Sprawl." Starting with a familiar, yet acceptable videogame twist, Isaac is once again wrapped up in a pyschotic episode of survival. Instantly the tension and beauty of this nightmare is inspiring and unqiue to the 'Dead Space' universe.
You see, another corrupt human mind has let the Necromorphs infect the Sprawl, leaving Isaac to deal with undead meanace. Visceral did an excellent job creating atmosphere in the original and the sequel is no different. 'Dead Space 2' screams classic "horror" and is one jumper intended for the "M" rated gamer on the box.
For those who haven't played the first 'Dead Space,' it's not a must, but it's recommended. If you fall into this category, a quick overview of the first game is offered up in the single player menu called 'Previously on Dead Space,' this short vignette will get you caught up on the major points of the first Necromorph outbreak and prepare you for what is to come. Also included is 'Dead Space: Extraction,' (Wii review) on the Playstation 3 edition. Extraction is an amazing game on its own that claimed our "2009 Wii Game of the Year" award. Updated with PS Move support, it is a great bonus that will surely sway the multi-console gamer. Adding up the introductory clip and the value of 'Extraction' you will sure get the gist of what is going on, but really, nothing beats playing through the original.
A contributing factor to the effectiveness of the delivery is the above-average quality of the graphics and attention to detail. 'Dead Space 2' is impressive with a notable amount of care taken to polish up the already perfected shadow/lighting effects. It's this type of dynamic from reds to blacks, darks and lights that really help brings out a heightened sense of tension. Even early in the year, I will be surprised if another title makes an impact on tension and fear as 'Dead Space 2.' It's might be a little early to say, but 'Alan Wake' did it last year and it already seems like we have our first GOTY nominee. Along with this the rest of graphical features really stand out including texture work, animation and so on. 'Dead Space 2' is a beauty and a pure pleasure to see running in motion.
Like all horror influenced games, audio plays a major role and 'Dead Space 2' audio keeps up to the high standard we expected out of the shrieker; with a convincing performance by our lead protagonist (for the most part,) the limited, yet effective backing audio tracks picks its spots and is used effectively. This also correlates with the creatures and ambiance from within the world, these effects are direful that helping to induce a feeling of fear with a simple sound. Apart from the creatures communication with the rest of cast and some specially placed "bumps" make this another early nod for end of year write-ups.
The best part of the 'Dead Space 2' experience is the demented re-focus role of psychologically and how it's delivered. Isaac is haunted and he takes the player deep down his own personal rabbit hole as he searches for the marker, and more importantly tries to keep his sanity. It's not quite 'The Suffering' (remember that one?,) but it is a great motivator to keep the player interested.
For gameplay, the mechanics remain the same as the original with some slight tweaks. This means the old RIG, status module, air timer, health indicator on your back is warmly familiar. The action is smooth with the camera slightly tilted to the left of the center which opens the players view for more scares. The combat is a mix of powers/magic styled tricks like telekinesis and status (slow motion) along with the standard run-and-gun mix-ups. Its not too far-off from what you already know. The 'Plasma Cutter' is your main weapon with some other limb-ripping favourites adding variety. Visceral kept their cool and didn't over complicated things with needless weaponry or lots of spoils for the player. Ammo, weapons, and upgrade choices need to be approached with a little bit of thought. The "survival" word also applies to the weapon management.