Just a few months back we sat down to dissect Dead Space, arguably one of the best horror games to launch on PS3 and Xbox 360. In short, it was a breath of fresh air, not to mention a much-needed revival of the stalling horror genre at that time. Yet, Dead Space 2 came as somewhat of a surprise to many of us. Even though Visceral’s original sold well and manage to garner a solid following, EA’s announcement of a sequel came out of the blue.
That’s not to say we weren’t excited. The prospect of continuing Isaac’s crusade against the Necromoprh horde was tantalising, as was the game’s debut trailer. Taking place immediately after the events of Dead Space, the series’ once-silent protagonist had found his voice as well as finding himself in the confines of sci-fi mental asylum.
Queue a smidgen of eerie foreshadowing and, bam, things reverted to normal and it wasn’t long before players found themselves tearing apart wave after wave of space zombies.
This is perhaps my biggest gripe with Dead Space 2. Though there were plenty of new toys to mess around with, it just felt too similar. “Duh,” you’re probably thinking to yourself, “it is a sequel, after all.”
While that may be true, the likeness between both games was a bit on the nose, right down to narrative structure. The sluggish pacing also carried over with players moving from one specifically-themed part of the space station to the next, just as in the original.
Though still a solid survival horror title, Dead Space 2 also lacked a sense of surprise. There was just something so refreshing when first trawling the Ishimura back in 2008 that really stuck with me and though much bigger and more detailed, Isaac’s romp through the sprawl just didn’t have the same effect. By and large, the sequel felt like a reskin and one EA was all too eager to rush straight into.
The publisher did exactly the same thing with last year’s Dead Space 3 (currently available on PlayStation Plus). Where the series could have done with a hiatus, EA wanted to round off the trilogy instead, something which didn’t go too well for them. The snowbound sequel picked up average scores across the board and was lampooned by fans for its lean towards action heavy gameplay and, of course, those micro-transactions…
Fatigue doesn’t affect everyone, however, and there will surely be those who uphold Dead Space 2 as a masterpiece. The game may have carried over the same template, but it’s a strong one nonetheless. Visceral’s blend of exploration, combat, and puzzles served up plenty of variety, with a slew of custom upgrades to tweak player performance.
It’s still a deep, intuitive web of mechanics and one that is bolstered by Dead Space 2’s peerless sense of atmosphere. Though there are plenty of jump scares scattered throughout, the sequel also began to probe into the haunted mind of Isaac while fleshing out a backstory for the church of Unitology.
Dead Space 2 also looked rather stunning back in the day and still holds up nicely. There’s plenty of clever lighting at play with darkness often used to signify impending danger. Audio also came to forefront once again and it was used to paint a clearer image of the Sprawl than the game’s visuals alone could manage.
For Visceral Games, lightning didn’t strike twice. As a sequel, Dead Space 2 didn’t hit the highs of the first game, though that isn’t to say it isn’t worth playing. For those who want to explore the Dead Space universe further, it’s an ideal extension to the first game with arguably just enough nuance to keep you strapped in for its 8-10 hour duration.
Though not ideal, it could also be a decent entry point for newcomers. Though you won’t understand a number of references, encountering the Necromorphs for the first time is still a sublime video game experience.