Here at GD towers, I always seem to get lumbered with the pant-wettingly freaky games. Perhaps my comrades are big cissies, or perhaps they simply delight at hearing my screams echoing down the corridors at two in the morning.
So it was no shock when Dead Space 2 landed on my desk. Being a huge fan of the original, I certainly wasn’t complaining; the first Dead Space was the first game - in my opinion - to nail the survival horror experience since the second Silent Hill.
Dark corridors, terrifying gribblies that leap out unexpectedly, limited ammo and health packs, and horrifying set-pieces were all truly present and correct in the first Dead Space. Dead Space 2 knows not to change a winning combo, so retains a lot of the features of the first game while bulking it up with some excellent additions.
Once more you take control of Isaac, who wakes on Titan after his dramatic escape at the end of the original. He’s harshly dismissed as a total nut job and bunged in a cell, until the Necromorphs appear and do their whole ‘stab, rip, devour’ routine again.
There’s no easing you into the action with a hand-holding tutorial here, and it’s clear from the first second that Dead Space 2 doesn’t **** about. You’ll be through a week’s supply of pants by the end of the first bloody level.
Isaac is more of a character than a tool in Dead Space 2. In the first game he was hidden beneath the (admittedly cool) engineering suit, and all we really knew of his background was the occasional glimpse of his lady. Here, he starts the game unmasked and we’re first-hand witnesses to his mental breakdown as the events of both games take their toll.
We actually feel for the poor sod, which makes it all the more distressing when he has his limbs removed, head split in half, face dissolved, or any of the other horrible fates that Visceral Games has devised for him. It’s an obvious statement, but this ain’t a game for the squeamish - it’s the goriest and most disturbing PC title we’ve played.
But Dead Space 2 is also tremendous fun, whether you play through with mates or brave it alone. Your favourite weapons from the first game return, all fully upgradeable of course, along with a couple of newbies. Shredding those Necromorph bastards has never been more fun.
The action comes thick and fast, certainly compared to the first Dead Space, but - just as Resident Evil 4 bumped up the combat with great effect - Dead Space 2 comes out better for it. The difference to RE4 is, Dead Space 2 remains absolutely terrifying throughout.
Fan favourites such as stasis and telekinesis also return, and are expertly implemented. You’ll make full use of stasis if you’re smart, as some of the new enemies come at you ridiculously fast, and usually in numbers.
The problem with writing a review for Dead Space 2 is, there’s so much you’d love to spill, including the heart-crushing set pieces and cool little twists that Visceral has thrown in. But doing so would wreck the experience for anyone yet to play the game.
However, we will say that some of Dead Space 2’s finest and most terrifying moments are also the simple ones. Sure, the set pieces are well thought out and highly memorable, but you can’t beat the simple terror of entering a pitch black room with only a flashlight and a handful of ‘bullets’ remaining. Especially when a distant sound like scratching drifts from your speakers, and you wonder just how distant it really was…
Because you’re in a city instead of trapped on a mining colony, there’s a greater variety of environments in Dead Space 2. It was easy to get bored of Dead Space’s endless metal corridors after a while, but there’s no such problem here. There’s also less confusing backtracking and stumbling points, and the objective beam makes a welcome return in case you do find yourself lost at any point.
In fact, we’d be hard pressed to come up with a single complaint with Dead Space 2. Sure, it’s not perfect, but any little niggles would seem petty considering the strength of the experience. And that’s what Dead Space 2 is - an experience, one that you can enjoy over and over thanks to a host of unlockable features and the ability to carry your weapons and abilities over to a new game.
We didn’t spend much time with the multiplayer mode, as it’s definitely Dead Space 2’s weakest point. The ability to play as a Necromorph seemed like fun at first, but rapidly loses its novelty value when you’re torn apart in seconds by the humans’ heavy weaponry. Still, even discounting the multiplayer mode, Dead Space 2 still offers tremendous value for money just from the single player experience.
Dead Space 2’s system requirements are fairly tame considering the lush visuals, and we comfortably ran the game on a Core 2 Duo machine with a last-generation Radeon GPU, with no stuttering even during intense moments.