Dead space 2 sees the return of possibly the unluckiest protagonist in the video gaming world in the form of engineer Isaac Clarke. Dead Space's first outing was a great success and garnered much critical acclaim, so with a bigger budget and a larger scope have Visceral and EA managed to outdo their previous efforts the second time around? Dead space 2 starts around three years after the close of Dead space, after contracting a form of madness from the red marker at the end of the first game Isaac awakens in a mental institution on ‘The Sprawl', a vast space station constructed around the remnants of Saturn's moon Titan. Released from his confinement he then embarks on a mission to find and stop the new outbreak of Necromorph's that is busily turning the stations inhabitants into gory wall decor. This is all well and good, and certainly after an hour or so the Dead Space 2 plot sends you on a wild and varied ride to finish. The only problem however is the sense of pace at the start. You are thrust right into the action with hideous creatures ripping their way through the hospital and you trying to run as fast as you can in the other direction. This means that you cannot savour any of the little details and what's more the atmosphere that was so carefully cultivated in Dead Space is simply not there. There is no sense of grim foreboding and increasing dread at the blood soaked corridors and scrawled symbols. The skittering clangs and bangs of creatures roaming the air ducts at the start of Dead Space made tangling with the source of the noise a sort of relief. In the sequel I awaited their arrival with a sort of grim relish, knowing that the first Monster to cross my path would shortly have a steel pole nailing it's head to a wall, this is great action and poor horror and though it is certainly fun, does much to detract from the feeling of fear I felt aboard the Ishimura.
Characters are another area where Dead Space 2 suffers another ignorable but frustrating problem, there was no sense of terror from Isaac, or even a sense that he was way out of his depth and fighting with every last breath to survive. This man is meant to be an engineer with no combat experience and he's been locked in an asylum for over three years. He should be capable owing to his previous encounters but by no means invulnerable and certainly not confident. Therefore it was slightly galling when after surviving a train wreck of considerable size and nearly being eaten in the process his only words on the matter are ‘unscheduled stop'. This is all well and good for a wise cracking gunslinger but Isaac surely isn't meant to be so self assured. Other characters play their roles just fine, although most fulfil the role of dying horribly on the first face to face meeting. However Isaacs self confidence in facing a second nightmarish situation remains something that for me somewhat breaks the immersion.
Gameplay and graphics are of course excellent Dead Space 2 making significant visual improvements on its predecessor but I feel in a big budget game, excellent graphics should come as standard. The controls are easy to use and intuitive and offer no problems. Kinesis and Stasis both make a return, Kinesis has also been revamped allowing you to fling objects with considerable force at approaching enemies and there is something highly satisfying about braining a Necromoph with a toy train. Level design is also to a high standard and is suitably varied to prevent boredom or a sense of sameness which makes a change from the effective but somewhat generic steel corridors of Dead Space. Notable moments of course include the zero gravity sections that helped make Dead Space as a franchise so unique. This has now been further improved with the use of a RIG mounted jetpack which allows Isaac to fly around his environs like a power tool equipped iron man. The selections of jury rigged mining tools also return and are still as satisfyingly meaty to use as ever with a few excellent new additions, a personal favourite being the ‘Javelin Gun' which allows you to pin unfortunate foes to a surface with a length of steel rebar.
In conclusion, If you want a survival horror game this is probably not for you, Dead Space 2 is simply for want of a better word ‘too much fun' however if you are looking for a tense visceral and interesting space ‘survival shooter' then Dead Space 2 will hold you captivated. Although I can point out minor issues such as Isaacs buoyant confidence in the face of almost certain death and the poor pacing at that runs through the first hour or two of the game. Dead Space 2 is a well produced and well designed experience that certainly kept me hooked to the final finish.