Review: Dead Space 2
When it comes to horror films, I’m a bit of a wuss. I try to avoid watching them late at night, or when I’m going to be alone for any length of time, mainly because it inevitably ends in nightmares at 3am. But I do it anyway.
Games are no different. And Dead Space 2 is possibly one of the eeriest games I’ve played in a long time.
Picking up a few years after the original Dead Space, Isaac Clarke has somehow survived and in the medical wing of the Sprawl, a colony on Titan. But that’s not all that’s still alive. The necromorphs are back, and have spread throughout the colony, mutating dead humans into monsters.
So you can see straight away how this is going to go. From the moment Isaac is woken by Franco, who has come to rescue him, you know this is never going to be an easy ride. Franco is killed by the necromorphs and Isaac is left to fight his way out. While strapped into a straitjacket. Fun times.
It’s as hard as you think. While the necromorphs can be defeated by cutting off their limbs, in the early stages you don’t have any weapons to hand. Or any free hands for that matter. Instead, all you can do is run like hell and try to avoid being nabbed by any of the monsters.
When you finally get free of the jacket, all you can do is pound the necromorphs into submission – fists and feet only. It’s a little while before you get your hands on any decent weapon, and an engineering suit, and then things start to get interesting.
As Isaac escapes through the facility with the help of the mysterious Daina guiding your way, the occasional intervention of fellow survivor Nolan Stross and later on Ellie Langford, you get to see just what the necromorphs have brought to the colony.
It’s like a scene from a horror film. There are abandoned suitcases everywhere, left behind by fleeing residents and victims of the necromorphs. There are also large numbers of dead bodies and blood everywhere, and necromorphs that have a habit of bursting out of walls and seemingly abandoned shops. Every time you make it through to a new section of the colony, you never know what to expect, and it stretches your nerves to breaking point.
But Isaac doesn’t only have the necromorphs to deal with; he’s also slowly losing his mind, which means lots of hallucinations at unexpected moments of his dead girlfriend, Nicole, who was aboard the USG Ishimura in the original Dead Space. Not only is Isaac is tortured with guilt because he encouraged her to take the post, he is also suffering from dementia caused by the presence of the Marker.
She pops up at the most inopportune times. Just when you think your nerves can’t take any more, the lift stops, plunging you into darkness and a horrifying Isaac’s dead girlfriend will appear in front of your eyes, streaming light from her eyes and mouth and generally being creepy. And just as suddenly, she’s gone.
I can honestly say I’ve never paused a game so much, just to freak out a little bit. On several occasions, I swore I wouldn’t pick it up again. But there’s something that drags you back in every time.
As a character, Isaac has developed in leaps and bounds from his original outing in Dead Space. You see what drives him, which just adds to the pull of this game.
And it’s not just the character development. The detail is incredible. The bloody handprints in the wall, the abandoned possessions; it’s armageddon stuff. There are moments when your hair really stands on end, as you wait for something to attack.
The soundtrack and sound effects add to the atmosphere. The residential levels of Titan Towers are home to a cacophony of panicked screams and shouts of survivors fleeing, the sounds of an abandoned metropolis and the terrifying screams of the necromorphs as they hunt down the remaining humans and kill them.
Destroying corpses and necromorphs by stomping on them not only reveals additional items such as ammo and credits, you also get a sickening “squish” and the dubious pleasure of watching dismembered limbs scattering everywhere.
And the graphics are that good, it’s sometimes difficult to tell when a cut scene has taken over and you are no longer in control.
Depending on the difficulty level, you get a number of save points. And you’ll need them. The necromorphs are relentless and numerous, and Isaac is only one man. The upgrades to the suit and different powers help a little, but ultimately you have to aim well, fire quickly and keep moving, or you’re a sitting duck. By the time you get to Hardcore, you have three saves for the entire game, and ammunition and other supplies are far more difficult to find. Not for the faint-hearted.
The stasis power is great for slowing down enemies, although you have to be quick about using it. It also provides a handy way to get through motion activated doors. Telekinesis, meanwhile, works for everything from removing panels from your escape route to picking up the dismembered necromorph limbs and impaling the rampaging monsters with them. It’s satisfying and horrifying in equal measures.
Ultimately, Isaac’s goal is to destroy the Marker, but you barely have a moment to think about it; you just get swept along and things happen so quickly it’s hard to think about anything but what’s happening right at that very moment.
Dead Space 2 is everything you hoped for and more. It’s eerie, fast-paced and addictive. Get it, play it, and even when you’ve made it to the end of the single player campaign, you’ll go back again to try it on the next difficulty up. It’s relentless.
Survival horror at its best.