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Episode 422

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Episode 421

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Episode 420

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Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2
Game Name: Dead Space 2
Platforms: 360 / PS3 / PC
Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Developer(s): Visceral Games
Genre(s): Survival Horror, Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: 01/25/2011
ESRB Rating: Mature
Big Ups: Amazing storytelling, well optimized for PC, great control scheme
Big Downs: Linear, lots of reused content

Dead Space 2 is Visceral Game’s highly anticipated sequel to their 2008 hit. Set three years after the events of the first game, Isaac Clarke has now found himself in another necromorph filled predicament. But on top of this, he has to now deal with his own inner demons. Visceral Games manages to present an interesting Eldritch tale of unimaginable horrors along with Isaac’s attempt to deal with his own psychological trauma that greatly enriches the Dead Space universe. Also introduced in Dead Space 2, is a brand new multiplayer mode that offers a extra layer of gameplay. It presents a Left 4 Dead meets Alien Swarm type gameplay that is temporarily refreshing. However, Dead Space 2 retains a lot of the core elements found in the first Dead Space.

First off, the control scheme has hardly changed. There are a few minor alterations that are not for efficiency but are instead more preferential. The one of the newest control   features is the use of thrusters in Zero-G environments. Instead of being tethered by magnetic boots to the floor like in the first game, the player can now activate his thrusters and move freely about a 3D environment at will. Since being in Zero-G can be disorienting for most players, the developers realized this and implemented an easy method to orient with the ground. The only issue is that the player cannot control their rotation outside of this method of orientation.  The HUD and interfacing are all exactly the same. The health bar is still displayed on the back of Isaac’s suit along with the kinesis module. Telekinesis from the first game is now given a useful function by allowing the player to use dismembered necromorph body parts and the environment as deadly projectiles. Rarely does the player encounter an ammo shortage in the game, but this new function saves the player from having to keep an active count of every bullet.  The scares in the first game were amazing, but their reuse in Dead Space 2 really weakens their shock value. As I said to a friend once, the Dead Space series always teaches you to look behind you when an enemy appears in front of you.

A major issue with Dead Space 2 is the lack of interesting new enemies. The players do encounter a couple new ones, but for the most part they add little to the excitement. There is the Puker, which spits a projectile that slows your movement speed but this does not really affect combat as much as you would think. Visceral Games does implement these new monsters well but once the player figures out the method to effectively killing them, each battle turns into the same prioritize and dismember process. This is very true for one of the new enemies, the Stalker. The developers and recent players have expressed praise the AI of these creatures but even though developers will say they act procedurally, if you don’t panic you find out they act the same in every situation. They are usually found in warehouses with boxes just so their ‘amazing’ AI will behave properly. It doesn’t help the stagnation in combat when a majority of the fights involve the Slashers and Lurkers that the player fought constantly throughout the first game. So in the end, the combat of Dead Space 2 does not amount to anything new. What adds excitement to the combat experiences are the periodic quick time or scripted events. But these are few and far between the same old battles.

To possibly compensate for the lack of new gameplay, Visceral Games has added a pretty entertaining multiplayer mode. The player is either placed on a four man team of humans or necromorphs. The humans obviously play  exactly like Isaac does in the campaign, but where the real fun ensues is the necromorph team. The humans are assigned with unique map objectives and the necromorphs are assigned to stopping them. As a necromorph you have four classes to choose from: the pack, the lurker, the puker, or the spitter (which is oddly a female necromorph with a deformed jaw, just in case you play Left 4 Dead 2).  Each has its own unique abilities that make them fun to use, but not only on top of this you always get to choose which to use on each respawn. Not only that, the respawns for the humans are consistent so the action never ceases. To balance the strengths of the necromorphs each class has a specific spawn timer. So the stronger the necromorph, the longer it takes for the player to be able to spawn as one. The only issue with the multiplayer is the lack of content. With only five playable maps, after a couple hours of gameplay the objectives really do not engage the players. The players only inclination to keep playing is for the unlocks made available by leveling.

The first Dead Space’s story comprised of typical sci-fi horror cliches. There was the spaceship whose crew mysteriously disappeared, the mysterious object that somehow affected this mysterious disappearance, and the horrors that mysteriously appears and crawled through ducts to abduct their prey converting them into one of their own. So when presented with the story of Dead Space 2, the player is welcomed with a breath of fresh air. The story elements of the first are still there but now that Isaac came in contact with “The Marker”, he is afflicted with schizophrenia and hallucinations. This is illustrated by the fact that Isaac keeps seeing his dead girlfriend, Nicole, who Isaac had been searching for and discovered to be dead in the first game. However, in lieu of the “surprise” ending of Dead Space, Nicole is now seemingly a malicious, terrifying entity that haunts Isaac. What the player ends up getting is a story about Isaac’s confrontation and coping with the trauma experienced from the first game. Sometimes the story seems silly as Visceral Games attempts very hard to make Nicole creepy, but I’ll say without spoiling anything that in the end the story comes together very well.

A lot of developers in the history of video games have fallen short in storytelling by neglecting one major detail, the level design. They do not realize that this is where a majority of their story comes from but for Visceral Games this is not an issue. They do an amazing job of presenting a very convincing setting that effectively illustrates the events that lead up to and are currently effecting everyone living on the Sprawl. The Sprawl is a massive space station orbiting the remains of the planet-cracked moon, Titan. It is a massive space city. There are skyscrapers, shopping malls, schools, and so on. This setting would be just another generic setting but Visceral Games actually implements a human element to each area. One such example is in a an office where there are ‘Get Well’ balloons on one of the desks. It may seem mundane at first but this is the only place the balloons are seen. They catch the players eye and tell them that this person was probably one of the first to be afflicted by the Marker. Many other minor details like these help enrich the story and makes the player feel as if they are part of a living environment.

The first Dead Space was praised for its terrifying ambiance and Dead Space 2 manages to up the ante by using the sound dynamically. Instead of the same stock noises in each area, every level seems to have its own personal ambiance. These sounds vary from schizophrenic whispers to necromorphs dragging victims through vents. It wouldn’t seem as cool if Visceral Games hadn’t actually given hints to where these noises are coming from. In most horror games, distant screams and disembodied murmurings can be heard but are never given a source. This leaves some players feeling like they were being played into the idea of being scared. But Visceral Games actually articulates the horror by letting the player know that there is a source and at any moment that source might take you.

So with all this to consider, Dead Space 2 offers a refreshing addition to the series. Though not offering much new to the gameplay; the design, story, and multiplayer will give players enough content to keep them entertained. The campaign playtime only adds up to about seven hours, but it does offer a New Game+ feature once the player beats the game that allows them to try and discover new content made available by successive playthroughs. This coupled with the multiplayer gives a substantial amount of replayability. So in the end, I give Dead Space 2 four stars out of five. It’s definitely above the average but does not introduce anything revolutionary.

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