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Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360) artwork

Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360) review

"Thereís no sneaking terror. Thereís no sneaking. Thereís no calm before the storm. Thereís just storm."

The problem with writing about Dead Space 2 is that nothing really sticks out enough for me to focus on. Iíll get my fanboyish dribbling out of the way early; the first Dead Space was a masterclass in ambient horror. The creaking and groaning that surrounded you at almost all times was probably only the suffering spacecraft you travelled within, but it could be something else. It could be a reanimated corpse, dripping venomous salvia and sporting deadly bone spurs, skittering inside the walls or along the ceilings. It could be a rotting mass of tendrils congealed against a wall and spitting out vicious mutants. It could be a survivorís last desperate seconds of life. Or, it could be nothing. Mostly, it was nothing, until you regained your confidence. Then something tried to claw your face off.

Thatís how Dead Space rolled. It was an unnerving trek into the unknown, and Dead Space 2 was right in many ways to not try to reuse the same trick twice. Found floating adrift in space after the ordeals of the first game, Isaacís rescue is short lived as heís doped to the gills, thrown in an insane asylum and interrogated around the clock. And then, mere seconds in, heís boned. A would-be rescuer is turned necromorph before his eyes and heís forced to charge, bound by a straight-jacket, through hordes of undead monstrosities all looking to kill him in as horrific a manner as possible. Welcome, then, to Dead Space 2. Leave your subtlety at the door, please.

While the first Dead Space answered the question of ďWill there be anything nasty just around the corner?Ē with a sly ďmaybe!Ē, Dead Space 2 virtually guarantees it. It becomes what James Cameron's Aliens was to Ridley Scottís original film, and itís not an awful direction to go in. The monster, as it were, has been revealed, and pretending that the gamer will be surprised by this again would make for redundant scaring. So, instead, the game is much more in-your-face. The lurking terrors are revised (ham-fisted in some concepts. Mutant exploding babies!? Really, Visceral?) but, mainly, their numbers are dialled up and they charge at you headfirst more.

As such, while Aliens was the better film in that franchise (it was! -- donít judge me!), Dead Space 2ís choice to highlight action over ambience presents obstacles for the game to get inside your head. Isaac is no longer a humble engineer unravelling the surreal and the macabre; he's a battle-hardened nut job. Heís insane, sure; an interesting new dynamic has him suffering from dementia which often warps on-screen reality into a strobe-tinted vision of his muddled mind, but itís no longer about creeping down corridors, cutting off the limbs of surreal monstrosities. Very early in the game, you come across a razed arcade. For the first time in a while, things are quiet, and youíre immediately suspicious. Because things in Dead Space 2 never stay quiet for long enough to sucker you in. If thereís a pause, thereís a trap.

On cue, small silvery necromorphs drop from the wall vents. Once upon a time, enemies could only be killed successfully by lopping off limbs as they made their way towards you. The hook was in the panic: you had time, and with each limb blown off, you took away from the threat, but it kept coming at you. Miss a shot or two, and youíd probably still be all right, but it was easy to give into panic fire; easy to jerk the trigger and hope.

In Dead Space 2Ďs broken arcade, the little 'morph's limbs need no dismembering. Try to plot out your shots patiently and calmly, and youíll be overrun and killed. In seconds.

As such, weapons most people didnít bother with last game suddenly find a lot more relevance. All I needed in Dead Space was my trusty plasma cutter to dismember and dissuade; the second game sees more use of other guns, such as the pulse rifle, which slaughtered the little silver bastards with ease thanks to its rapid fire. Find a choke point, aim at choke point, pull trigger, and forget about it.

Iím not going to pretend that I didnít enjoy my time as a heavily armed space marine stomping through Visceralís sci-fi world of nightmares, because I did. I remember standing on the deserted stage of a childrenís pantomime and being scared by a huge colourful sun falling more or less on my head before four million and seven assorted beasties ran out from where the audience would normally sit in a spirited attempt to disembowel me. The new direction allows the game to employ a macabre sense of humour, dropping sly nods at returning gamers who can see where Isaacís hallucinations are headed, but find themselves completely unable to stop his folly. It allows us to be the Hudson or Hicks to the panicked Ripley; not cowering and praying for survival, but trying to take the evil on level terms.


In doing so, Iím no longer afraid of what lies behind the next door, because I already know. Itíll be loud, fast and numerous and Iím going to have to shoot it a lot and then move on to the next set piece. Sometimes these contain sneaky rotting mutants that dart from places of cover and peek out of the shadows before charging at you with suicidal recklessness, but, sometimes, it also contains exploding babies. Thereís no sneaking terror. Thereís no sneaking. Thereís no calm before the storm.

Thereís just storm.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 28, 2011)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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overdrive posted July 29, 2011:

Good review. Kinda makes me think of a more pronounced version of the difference between The Suffering and Ties That Bind. Both were action-shooter games with survival horror influence, but the first did a great job of creating a creepy Silent Hill-like vibe. While the second one concentrated more on big battles and forcing you into monster mode, as some monsters only could be beat by you as a monster, and had much less awesome imagery.

Overall, it was more adrenalizing combat-wise, but the end result was a lesser game.
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wolfqueen001 posted July 29, 2011:

Hey, great review. It's interesting how this one stacks up to its predacessor, and how you still think it's playable, even if not as good.

Also, I'm most pleased you seemed to actually proof it. In fact, the only thing I found might not be an error at all.

becomes what Ridely Scottís Aliens

Is that how the name is spelled ir is ot Ridley? Or even Ripley? (I ask about Ripley because you cite that name towards the end of the review, and I'm not sure whether you were referring to this guy or someone else)
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Masters posted July 29, 2011:

It is Ridley.
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Masters posted July 29, 2011:

By the way, nice review. I had heard that this game was too in-your-face to be much fun, and you communicate that fact very well.
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bloomer posted August 01, 2011:

The error is that Ridley Scott didn't direct Aliens ;) ... James Cameron did.
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Masters posted August 01, 2011:

Well now, that's an error too!
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EmP posted August 01, 2011:

That's embarrassing as hell.

Now to edit and pretend it never happened!

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