Dead Space 2 Review: Visceral Games Ups the Ante for Survial Horror Once Again

When I came into the first Dead Space game, I was hot off the heels of playing Resident Evil 5.  I have long been a devoted RE fan and I was saddened that the newest installment to the series lacked the frightening gameplay that made the franchise one of my favorite. On a whim, I randomly picked up Dead Space and was immediately floored by the game’s heart pounding scare tactics. To this day, it is still one of the most frightening games I’ve ever played.

Fast forward 3 years later; Visceral Games is no longer EA Redwood Shores, but the team still has the same drive to scare the shit out of any gamer who dares to walk in the shoes of Isaac Clarke. Dead Space 2 starts 3 years after the events of the first game. Isaac Clarke awakes only to find himself running for his life once again. While struggling with his sanity, he must navigate the infested Sprawl station to uncover why he is reliving the nightmare he went through on the USG Ishimura.

All of your favorite Necromorphs are back, along with a couple of new foes. By far the most interesting are the Stalkers.  These Necromorph’s Velociraptor-like actions make them one of the most terrifying additions to the series.  They hunt in packs and they hide in plain sight in an attempt to draw you out. I couldn’t help but laugh at Visceral’s homage to Jurassic Park when I unlocked the achievement “Clever Girls,” for surviving my first encounter with the Stalkers. The Pack and Crawlers add a new found creepiness to the Necromorphs.  I don’t know what it is but there is just something about creepy children that always gets me. I still can’t get that image of the Crawler (baby looking necromorph) blowing up that woman in the nursery level.

A nice addition to the gameplay is how fragile the windows are on the Sprawl. In the first game they were never even an afterthought. Now, you must be mindful of exploding canisters near windows or you may find yourself being sucked out into the vacuum of space. Hacking locked doors is also another great addition, especially when a regenerating Necromorph is breathing down your neck and you have to scramble to get the next door open.  These elements make for great intense gameplay, but by far the best addition to the game is Isaac Clarke. The once faceless and voiceless man is now fully represented in a way that fans and gamers can relate to as he goes through these horrific events.

Visceral has tossed its hat into the Multiplayer bin, but it offers nothing we haven’t already seen in games like Left 4 Dead. I only hope that with the next installment, we might get a Co-Op Campaign. The real meat of Dead Space 2 resides on the single player and that is where it delivers on all levels. From the story, to the graphics, to the gameplay, Dead Space 2 is most certainly the first great game of 2011. Visceral definitely set a high bar with the first game and you don’t even realized until you feel the amount of dread when the the second game tells you that you need to climb back aboard the Ishimura.

Grade: A+

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