As part of our ongoing horror series for October, The Witching Hour, I did a short review on Dead Space. Here, I’d like to talk about the sequel, Dead Space 2. Released on January 25th, 2011, Dead Space 2 is the sequel to Visceral Games’ critically acclaimed horror hit Dead Space.
One of the major improvements over the first game is that Dead Space 2 is an incredible plot. Isaac Clarke is now fully voiced, which lets him interact with the rest of the cast in a much more believable fashion. When the game starts, it establishes the mental trauma Isaac has suffered and the nightmares he’s struggling through. It doesn’t linger too long though, and the moment you gain control of Isaac you’re going to hit the ground running.
Quite literally too, as Isaac is bound in a straightjacket and a Necromorph outbreak is happening all around him. From there, he quickly learns that he’s on the Sprawl, a space station built in the remains of Titan. His goal? To figure out what’s caused the outbreak, try to get rid of the horrifying hallucinations plaguing him and somehow survive the whole mess.
The opening isn’t alone in its frenetic nature though, as throughout the entire game, one of the most amazing things is the unrelenting pacing. Dead Space 2 is one of the most well-paced games I’ve ever played, one that keeps the tension and horror all throughout, ramping up the intensity and action where needed.
Visceral Games did a great job improving the graphics over the level in the first game. All around the Sprawl, the lighting looks better and the overall quality of the animations has also been improved. Even now, the grotesque designs of the Necromorphs hold up well. Every single one (including many new types) feels completely distinct.
The Sprawl is a vast space station, so we get to see wider variety of environments than in the first game. Everything has been thought out, with apartments, shopping malls, a school and more all available to explore. You can even shoot out different windows and decompress the area to clear out Necromorphs (though you’ll need to close the window manually very quickly afterwards. When you fly outside the station, the sense of scale is simply breathtaking.
Aside from the amazing environments, shooting and puzzles, a new struggle is provided in the form of Isaac’s hallucinations. Mental illness is rarely touched on in games and when it is, it’s usually something like “Those people have been driven crazy, kill them.” Instead, you are now the crazy one, unable to be sure what’s real and whether or not your hallucinations are actually harmful, leading to very real battles in the center of Isaac’s mind.
We’re also introduced to an awesome new character named Ellie Langford. She’s a capable pilot and extremely helpful to have helping you across the station. Other interesting elements in Dead Space 2 include rebalanced weapons. In the first game, many guns are objectively better than others and it was entirely possible to beat the game using just the Plasma Cutter (in fact, you’d earn an achievement for it). If the base difficulties aren’t enough for you after beating the game, Dead Space 2 also introduces the super challenging Hard Core mode. It’s somewhere between Hard and Zealot in difficulty, except there’s a twist: you can only save your game three times. Choose your save stations carefully.
As an interesting sidenote, Dead Space 2 is still (officially) one of the most expensive games ever made, with a development and marketing budget that totaled around $120 million.
While I love all of the Dead Space games, Dead Space 2 is an excellent example of how to take a great game and improve practically every aspect of it. With an improved story, incredible environments and exhilarating pacing, if you’re looking for a horror game this October I recommend turning down the lights, getting comfortable and booting up Dead Space 2.