Dead Space for me was a tad underwhelming, while the game was solid enough and I did enjoy the storyline and my play time, I just didn't see why everyone else was calling it a scary game. I admit there were moments where the game startled me, but I never felt that hesitation of fear when entering a new area, I never really felt in danger playing Dead Space.
So here we are with Dead Space 2, can Visceral Games up the ante and make me feel like I'm four years old again with the "boogeymorph" in my wardrobe? Read on and find out.
Dead Space 2 kicks off upon the Sprawl, a city built upon the last remaining fragment of a moon in Saturn's orbit. It's been three years since the incident with the Ishimura and Isaac's first encounter with the Necromorph threat. The medical team think you're rather insane as the game kicks off with you in a straitjacket being interrogated by one of the station's medics. From the get go it's apparent that Isaac is not his old self as very soon you see an apparition of Nicole, your now deceased girlfriend who was posted on the Ishimura, looking rather sinister indeed.
This sets the tone for the entire game, as not only are you battling the Necromorph threat upon the Sprawl, you're now also combating against the frequent and alarming hallucinations which Isaac suffers. The walls of his own sanity are quickly crumbling down and the only cure is to remove the 2nd marker from the face of the universe, however details emerge that perhaps Isaac himself was part responsible for the creation of the marker.
Down to the gameplay itself, DS2 feels more like an action game rather than survival horror during the initial stages, from your gauntlet run out of your cell from the Necromorphs, to your first steps into the Sprawl's main complex watching the populace scream in terror as they flee from these alien invaders.
I had the impression that this would be more of a run and gun affair, oh how wrong I was. Ammo is on a distinct premium, rather more so on the harder difficulty levels but even on normal you'll be scavenging every box and corpse you come across to get another six or so shots.
Thankfully your Kinesis ability has had a bit of an upgrade this outing, not only can you pick up and throw objects like before but this is now a viable, and quite needed, option in dispatching the Necromorph threat. Shoot the limbs off one of your threats and use Kinesis to pick that limb up to impale the other threat that is charging down your eyelids, hell bent on examining your inner sphincter.
Now I said that the original Dead Space wasn't scary for me and I hoped that DS2 had rectified that problem, well thankfully they have, hurrah!
Environmental effects such as steam pipes unexpectedly bursting open, the lights just crapping out on you in corridors to the more atmospheric audio as you walk down the corridor in addition to the interspersed mental breakdown and hallucinations of Isaac all add up to an increasing sense of hesitation while moving through the game.
Visceral have also left in the good old startle moments where you have Necromorphs randomly jump out at you from nowhere, not just vent openings this time folks, not to mention the new types of enemies you'll encounter. Once you've experienced a swarm of Necromorph children you'll never get rid of that unsettling feeling as that's just too damn creepy.
Moving to the new multiplayer side of Dead Space and you're thrown into a world of complete contrast to singleplayer. Gone are the creepy mood moments of your exploration, instead it's replaced with gun fire, flying body parts and pressure as you try to complete your mission objective, or tear apart the Human team.
Multiplayer is an eight person affair split into two teams of four, one Human and one Necromorph, akin to the versus mode from Left 4 Dead. You've got a limited number of game modes and arenas to play in; for example the map Titan Mines is a mixture of CTF and Counter-Strike DE map folded into one mode. The Human team must recover sections of a bomb which are scattered in the map, the fragment carrier is handicapped as they are unable to run, so the rest of the team must defend him from the opposing side.
The Necromorphs have four types available to them, from fast but weak units to the more powerful yet cumbersome Necromorphs, however if you choose to respawn as a more powerful unit your time to rejoin is considerably longer forcing you into a tactical decision: do you wait and utilise the units' strengths or jump quickly into battle with a weaker unit?
Also showing it's face is the now seemingly obligatory XP levelling system allowing you to unlock goodies in the higher tiers of your levels, most of which are aesthetic looks to your Human characters however the more desirable unlocks will obviously be the weapons and associated upgrades to those weapons or upgraded Necromorph abilities. Inherently this offers advantages to those players that have put the time into the game and unlocked these goodies over newcomers to DS2 multiplayer, so if you are a late adopter of the game then you may find online games a tad difficult at first.
Unfortunately, like with all levelling systems, there is a cap and once that cap is reached there's very little to continue your interest; nevertheless there is still a good chunk of gaming hours to be pumped into the online modes to reach the cap of level 60 in this game.
Also, unless you're lucky enough to jump into a game where people are working together, you may find the experience a tad lacklustre as everyone is playing like a free for all.
This style of gameplay demands teamwork and quite frankly that's hard to come across in this day and age of self righteous glory hunters that prowl public hosted games, just because you've got a K:D ratio higher than your IQ doesn't make you a good player. Unless you're able to bond with a team you can GTFO from this type of multiplayer back to the CoD server you crawled out from.
Overall Dead Space 2 has taken my old view of the game, stamped on it repeatedly and blown it out of the airlock; this game is an absolute gem and if you don't play this in the dark to get the full effect then you're missing out and should be flogged in public. The improved combat, relentless emotional battering and gorgeous sound and visuals combine into a wholesome entertaining package, just go get it.