In the sequel to 2008’s sleeper hit, engineer-turned-hero Isaac Clarke has found his voice, and so has the franchise. Dead Space 2
is a louder, bolder and more gruesome sequel that transcends its survival-horror roots in favor of blockbuster pacing.
In the original Dead Space
, Clarke trekked through the halls of space shuttle Ishimura as he laid waste to an alien race known as necromorphs. With his face hidden by his helmet, Clarke never spoke. The silence was deafening. It impacted the horror, but it had a way of making Clarke look like a monster himself. Often to humorous effect, he watched powerless, as his crewmates and girlfriend were murdered before him and shook his head.
Much like James Cameron
did for the Alien
franchise, Visceral Games has turned down the horror and ramped up the intensity. Constant chatter between Clarke and others, colorful environments and a faster pace builds on the horror of the first game and makes nerve-racking action its first priority.
Despite the faster pace and lighter atmosphere, Visceral Games
has found ways to keep the player on edge. An alarm clock will ring from a corner in an empty room, a light at the end of a hallway will go out and an elevator will arrive with a vicious visitor inside. A good jump scare isn’t the only thing the developer has mastered this time around.
The list of games that the original Dead Space
borrowed from — Resident Evil 4
, and Half-Life
— is as prestigious as it is long. The novel additions and unique setting the game brought have set the sequel apart from its influences. Its sequel looks to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
for inspiration, replicating their cinematic voice and breakneck pacing without abandoning the unsettling, calm moments of exploration and survivalist item management of the original.
The game has no qualms about throwing impossible foes at you in a controlled scenario for cinematic effect. In an early scene you find yourself gliding in space to catch a subway car, crashing into it, then stuck hanging upside down shooting an onslaught of aliens and, at last thrown into a cutscene of running from the resulting explosion. Moments like these are spread throughout, serving as action highlights within the game’s languid exploration.
The camaraderie between Clarke and his allies is believable and gives the game a level of emotion rare in this genre — it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t visibly haunted. Clarke’s visions of his dead girlfriend are standard horror fare, but the game finds the time to build relationships that make key scenes bittersweet and effective.Dead Space
has done more for building the visual means of storytelling in games than any release since Half-Life 2
. The transitions between control and cutscenes are seamless, and camera placement is impressive. As with the original, all information is shown within the game world via Clarke’s gear. For example, an in-game display shows you how much ammunition you have.
Publisher Electronic Arts
isn’t willing to gamble on single-player only games these days, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Dead Space 2
has a multiplayer component to it that borrows from other online successes such as Left 4 Dead
and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
. The real surprise is that it’s a worthwhile distraction. Its unique take on objective-based 4-on-4 combat captures the tension and claustrophobia of the story mode, while offering unlockable rewards and a leveling system that could form the basis for an unhealthy addiction.Dead Space
was a game that stood on the shoulders of the medium’s biggest successes, but its sequel has proven it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with more successful franchises.