I'm a gamer from the NES era and onward. I love pretty much all kinds of games with the exception of racing, sports, and bad games (obviously). I'm also the co-host on the weekly podcast HYPER KNEE (http://www.hyperknee.blogspot.com), which is almost 1 year old now. I aspire to be either a video-game journalist, or comic book writer (and currently working hard towards those goals).
It's been three years since Isaac Clarke went through the survival horror experience of the original Dead Space on the USG Ishimura. There's plenty of more thrills, action, and horror to be seen in Isaac's next adventure.
The story begins on the space station called Titan, in a city named Sprawl. Isaac wakes up to another Necromorph outbreak, lucky him. His memory has been shattered due to being locked away in an insane asylum, having nefarious tests being done on him for the government to learn more about the mysterious alien artifact called the Marker. On top of all this, Isaac's dead girlfriend, Nicole, is haunting him at what feels like his every waking moment due to his sickness called "dementia," which he contracted in the original game. All hope isn't lost though, as Isaac touches base with a mysterious someone who claims they have the cure for his dementia, and so the roller-coaster ride begins.
The game unravels itself in small bits and pieces, you follow objectives, talk to other characters, defeat Necromorphs, and so on and so forth. Thankfully, Isaac is usually in charge of his own objectives, so you don't feel like that little errand boy again like you most certainly did in the first game. Dead Space 2's story is somewhat vague on its details, and might leave you wondering a few things in the end, but it's not a big deal, and if you pay close attention you can probably connect the dots anyway for most things. A second play through cleared a lot of that up for me, personally. All in all, the story is pretty good and serves its purpose, to keep the game moving!
Gameplay in Dead Space 2 has been tweaked and fine-tuned since the original. The controls are much more responsive, faster, and tighter this time around. Remember when I complained about no hot-key button for Medipacks? Well, my prayers were answered here. The button layout is changed a bit, but for the best. Now your Statis recharge item and Medical items are mapped to specific buttons, so you don't have to frantically go into your inventory to heal yourself.
It's a good thing for that too, because Dead Space 2 is way more action packed and hectic now. You will find yourself constantly being swarmed by enemies, in much larger rooms than the tight hallways you're used to. Each encounter ends with that classic sigh of relief, once more feeling like you survived by the skin of your teeth, with lack of ammo reserves and medipacks to prove it. All in all, the gameplay is a huge step in the right direction for the series. I must also mention that Isaac's kinesis ability is much faster and precise, making Kinesis Impalement much more viable. I never used it in Dead Space 1, but I find myself constantly picking up limbs and tossing them into enemies to save myself the ammunition, and trust me, you'll want to save as much as you can for the brutal final chapters.
The game comes in a variety of different difficulties, from the noobish Casual, to the noobish Normal (yes, normal is still easy), the regular Survivalist (I would say this mode constitutes as the normal setting), and the hard Zealot, and the ridiculous unlockable Hardcore modes (limited to 3 saves, no checkpoints, less ammo, harder monsters, a true test gaming pride). Thankfully, there is a New Game+ feature once you finish on any mode, so going into the harder difficulties isn't as bad when you have the best suits and weaponry (assuming you found them all on your first run, of course). I think it's probably necessary for the harder settings of the game, actually. Unless you're a Hyper Knee Warrior.
Dead Space 2 is highly replayable due to the unlockable suits, harder difficulties, and that completist mentality of wanting to upgrade all your stuff. I know I keep going back for more as I try the harder levels, and continually grow stronger. The campaign will last you about 10-12 hours on your first run, and probably along the lines of 5-6 hours on your play throughs after that. If you were one of those people that played through Resident Evil 4 about seven-hundred times (I'm raising my hand here), then you're probably going to spend a lot of time with Dead Space 2 as well.
I'm not much a technical chump when it comes to graphics, so I always have a difficult time figuring out what to say about them. Do I know if they're super leet or if they are like zomg direct x version 25? No, not really, but I can safely say that I love the presentation. It's prettier than the first one, for sure, and shows off more variety too. No longer constrained to the USG Ishimura, Visceral Games went ahead and made more interesting areas to explore such as a dark, and enigmatic Church of Unitology, a day care center, which is hands down the scariest, creepiest part of this entire adventure, and plenty more.
Let's get into how the sounds of Dead Space 2. Once again, Visceral did a great job with voice work, and one thing you'll notice in particular is that Isaaac is no longer a mute. Before playing, I thought this would bother me, but from his first moment of dialog, I actually preferred him this way. He's funny, genuine, flawed, and just a downright cool dude. That had to be mentioned. Then of course there's the atmospheric music, the random noises of pipes dropping and random bursts of steams blowing around. DS2 managed to get a fear-jump out of me a great many times, even a few times on my second run. I shake my fist at you for scaring me, Visceral, but at the same time, I applaud you!
I dedicated a couple of hours to DS2's multiplayer component as well. While it's not as in-depth as games like Halo, and Call of Duty, it still manages to hold its own, and is an enjoyable time-killer none-the-less. All of the game-modes are very similar to one another, you will play as either the Humans or Necromorphs in the first round. As the humans, you will be tasked with different objectives that you must complete in order to win the round. As the Necromorphs you will have to, you guessed it, kill the humans and stop them from achieving their objective. Playing as the Necromorphs can be a bit boring, as they mostly play somewhat similar, whether it's a ranged or melee type. When I was in my mp matches, I was usually hoping the necromorph match would end already, so I could get to the human portion of it, which is, as I'm sure you could imagine, a lot more fun. There is some enjoyment to be had in multiplayer, but don't get this game if that's your sole purpose of playing it. Dead Space 2 is a single player experience before multiplayer, and we'd like to keep it that way. I'm assuming it was thrown in there as a nice diversion from the solo campaign.
To wrap up this review in a nice, neat package, Dead Space 2 is a fine example of what a sequel should be: you take everything good about the first game, put it into this one, and then fine tune everything to make an overall tighter, and more enjoyable experience. If you loved the original Dead Space, then there's no question that you're going to want to pick up Dead Space 2. If you didn't like the original Dead Space, then you still might want to give this a rental, as it is a bit more action oriented and fluid than the first game. Plus Isaac looks BAD ASS! That's enough of a reason to warrant giving DS2 a chance. Once again a Game of the Year contender slips in right at the first month of the year.