Dead Space 2 Review

Horror Evolved

Everything impressive about Dead Space is improved upon in Dead Space 2

Players will notice a shocking difference from the start of Dead Space 2: Issac speaks! Issac’s next journey is more cinematic than ever, with a voice of his own and improved graphics. The scares are worse, the enemies are more intelligent, and the universe feels absolute in Dead Space 2.

Dead Space 2 manages to keep itself well-grounded in visceral horror in a world where zombie alien monsters exist. Capitalizing on every kind of scare in the book Dead Space 2 proves itself a lasting franchise. More so than plenty of B-grade, hack-n-slash horror flicks out there. With the unstable and unreliable Issac as the game’s protagonist and narrator, the player will never quite know if what they’re seeing is real or a figment of Issac’s broken mind. The constant questioning and the constant bombardment of enemies combine to make any player feel unsafe from the title screen onward.

Story

The story of Dead Space 2 picks up 3 years after the events of the first Dead Space. The ending of Dead Space left many fans with more than heart palpitations; it left them with burning questions. What happened to Issac? What happened to Nicole? And just what the heck is up with these Markers?! Dead Space 2, much like the first in the series, is steeped in mystery.

The game begins with Issac Clarke waking up in a padded room, strapped into a straight jacket. A nurse is urging him awake. Behind the nurse, Issac can see a familiar sight; blood-soaked hallways, dead bodies, and plenty of mutilated limbs. Necromorphs. The nurse tells Issac that even though he’s in great danger, everything is going to be–and he’s dead. The nurse is stabbed from behind, and Issac is left to bust his way out of his holding cell and sprint to safety.

Set on Titan Station, a space station orbiting Saturn’s largest moon, Dead Space 2 is a story of Issac piecing together the missing parts of his memory over the past 3 years. All while putting down yet another necromorph outbreak. With the help of a fellow patient/inmate, Straus, and a fellow C.E.C. employee, Elle, Issac will once again explore the depths of horror, paranoia, and madness. And we get to go along for the ride. Hooray.

Dead Space 2 - Gazing at a City Scape

Graphics

Dead Space 2 is truly a beautiful game to wander through in terror, with its crisp and vibrant visuals. The game’s details are sharp and fine-tuned, even in the dark corridors of a space station. And the lighting is beautiful and smooth as it renders on-screen.

Dead Space kept most of its gameplay confined to the U.S.G. Ishimura, except for a few spacewalks. Dead Space 2 is a much more expansive game, taking liberties to explore different ships, satellites, escape pods, and the darkness of space itself. 

In those liberties is the chance to show off their stunning graphics. At every window and viewscreen, players can stop and marvel at the space station around them. They can even pick out the jets of distant ships going about their business.

Dead Space 2 - Combat in the Dark

Dead Space 2 is a pretty game. Whether you’re plunking along darkened corridors or exploring the bright medical wing, you’ll find yourself immersed and impressed with each chapter you complete.

Sound and atmosphere

Much like in the first of the series, Dead Space 2 shines in its deployment of wickedly mastered audio.

Every metal ping, every distant rumble grabs your attention as a potential danger. You are prey exploring a predator’s hunting grounds, and the sounds you hear are an essential weapon you have to keep yourself alive.

Hear that growl in the ceiling? Maybe expect a new friend to pop out of the nearby air vent if you get too close. Hear that dripping noise? It might be a slobbering enemy waiting around the corner. Notice that heavy breathing? That’s because there’s something right behind you!

Dead Space 2 - Close up of Isaac

Dead Space 2 builds upon the horrific atmosphere first encountered in Dead Space. Since Issac is well past his sanity and fully gripped by a new kind of psychosis, the game presents the atmosphere as such. Glitches will constantly plague Issac throughout the environment, moments where his mind plays tricks on him.

Players will constantly be questioning themselves as they play Issac’s story. Is Nicole spinning that toy, or is it turning itself? Is it spinning at all? Wait, there was a body there a second ago. Where did it go? Hang on, those messages weren’t scrawled on the wall when I first came this way. Is somewhere writing these, or are they all in my mind?

As Issac’s mind continues to degrade, we, the player, are brought on a trippy ride of schizophrenic paranoia and PTSD. And the sound design captures that ride; the atmosphere reflects that degradation. So much so that you’ll be relieved to go back to your real-world problems when the game is over.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Dead Space 2 is quite similar to its predecessor in just about all ways. There are more guns, more enemies, and more items throughout the environment to use kinesis on. But the beauty of Dead Space 2 is its ability to communicate different kinds of horror to the player through several types of gameplay.

There are environmental enemies and suicidal enemies, and enemies only in your head. Some enemies only appear a few times in the story, but they’re so haunting that you’ll find yourself pausing to prepare mentally before every encounter.

Dead Space 2 - Isaac Escape the Hospital

And there aren’t just more guns to unlock and upgrade. Each weapon’s secondary fire gets a noticeable buff in Dead Space 2. It encourages players to experiment with their playstyle and never fall into a habit for too long.

This game will flip you upside down and expect you to survive wave after wave of necromorphs. It will pit you against monstrosities that belong in a Resident Evil documentary. It will do its absolute best throughout gameplay to make you feel Issac’s plight more than any other video game character’s.

The variety of Issac’s space suits, weapons, and upgrades make the game a different enough experience from the first to feel fresh. There are new puzzles and mechanics to master, genuinely pushing the player to feel like a sci-fi mechanic. 

And instead of the far and few in-between boss fights of its predecessor, Dead Space 2 has boss fights galore. Issac will find himself facing more than just the stalking creatures of the Ishimura. With Titan Station’s larger population comes enlarged amalgamations of body horror to contend with.

Replay value

Dead Space 2 has a higher replay value than the original Dead Space, but some will say it’s a one-and-done story. Dead Space 2 is refined horror and distilled fear; playing through it once will be enough for many people out there. For those players who rise to the challenge of a zombie alien monster invasion in space, Dead Space 2 is a game to jump into time and again. 

The higher difficulty levels dial up the survival element to the extreme, making every bullet precious. And similarly to the first installment, the first time around Dead Space 2 is such a shock to the system that one can hardly plumb its depths for treasures and easter eggs. 

Dead Space 2 - Isaas Using the Riglink

It’s only during subsequent playthroughs that we can hold back our paranoia and expect half of the scares that ruined us the first time around. That made exploring areas much more manageable, which led us to far more items and secrets of the Dead Space universe.

After multiple playthroughs, players can only unlock some secrets in the game, which bumps up the replay value a bit. The only way to get the best suit in the game is to beat it on the hardest difficulty setting. Subsequently, the only way to unlock Issac’s engineering suit is to win the game on the nightmare difficulty setting.

Final thoughts on Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2 is a raw, gut-punch of horror. It’s not a cooky or charming story like other survival titles like Don’t Starve. It contains macabre twists and turns that don’t just follow horror tropes; they reforge them. It has enough originality to last among the A.A.A. survival-horror titles that gaming has produced. Issac Clarke, a tortured hero in every sense of the word, is a protagonist who is easy to root for and relatable.

The cast of curious survivors that join in his journey broaden Dead Space 2 into something more than just Issac’s struggle. As you move through the space station, you see the effects of tragedy in so many ways it can be overwhelming. You see it in families fleeing with loved ones left behind, and you hear it in people’s words broken by trauma.

Dead Space 2 isn’t just a good game. It’s a story about human tenacity and a deep dive into paranoia. It acts as a study into human trauma and how our minds strive to cope with it. It’s a groundbreaking work in horror that will undoubtedly influence the genre for years to come.

It’s an experience you aren’t likely to forget.

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About Victor

Writer. Gamer. Outdoorsman. Victor has written across multiple mediums, with some of his work appearing in anthologies, magazines, and websites like Nerdist.com, SFFWorld.com, and CBR.com. When not writing, he is usually gaining inspiration for writing from the library of video games he owns. If he's not indoors, Victor is outdoors climbing mountains, hiking forests, or otherwise conquering nature.

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