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Review: Dead Space 2

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: M - Mature Audiences
My Rating: Adults - 18+
Genre: Third Person Shooter
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2011
Review Published On: September 28th, 2018
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Origin, Steam

Save System:

In order to save your game, you'll need to locate a save point. These are fairly common, so you won't have much trouble finding them.

If you need to pause the game, use ESC to bring up the game's menu.

Viewing your inventory, using a store, or using a bench does not pause the game.

Summary of
Major Issues:

Since this game is about zombies in space, there's a lot of graphic violence, blood, and foul language -- even moreso than what was present in the first Dead Space. Additionally, some of the zombies were created using children and infants; a detail that probably crosses a line for some players.

Of course, there's also the fictional cult that a fair amount of the game's story revolves around. In particular, it's shown to be exploiting its members, much like dangerous cults are known to do in real life.


[view screenshot]
They're coming for your lunch money

[view screenshot]
Another day, another necromorph

[view screenshot]
How did they get OSHA to overlook THAT?!

Game Overview

Dead Space 2 continues the story of Isaac Clarke, one of the unluckiest engineers in video game history. When we first met him in the original Dead Space, he was hoping to visit his girlfriend while he on a mission to the USG Ishimura to do some repair work. Instead, he discovered the ship was in the later stages of a space zombie apocalypse; a disaster that Clarke almost didn't escape.

When we first meet Isaac in this sequel, he's confined to a straitjacket and kept locked away in a psychiatric unit on board the Titan Space Station. While most video game protagonists live through the events of their games with little more than some cool selfies and maybe a neat scar, this series opted for the realistic approach. After his brush with the necromorphs and the Marker that spawned these cosmic horrors, Isaac's suffering from distressing hallucinations and severe post traumatic stress disorder. The fact that another outbreak is about to occur probably isn't going to help matters.

Story aside, this game also plays much like the first game, though there are some tweaks to the formula. It's still a science fiction themed Third Person Shooter, but this time around you'll also need to interact with various objects and parts of the station. In other words, Isaac will actually be doing some engineering during the course of the game. None of this is really much of a puzzle, nor do I think it was meant to be challenging. In my opinion, these new elements are there to make the game more immersive, and they do a good job of it!

Many of those tasks are done using your kinesis module, which can now be used to do more than just lift heavy objects. Specifically, it can be used as a makeshift weapon by using it to fling sharp or explosive objects at nearby monsters. This includes the sharp and explosive bits of other monsters you've already dispatched.

On a side note, this game does a better job of trying to be a horror game than the original. With Isaac's violent and disorienting hallucinations interrupting the game at seemingly random points and the fact that the player witnesses the necromorph outbreak from its very start, there's plenty of things to make you uncomfortable. There's still a ton of ammo lying around, and a plethora of ways to kill the monsters with ridiculous ease, so I'd still consider this more of an action game than a horror game. This is just a far better attempt at embracing the terror of a zombie plague than the previous entry in the series.

Again, fans of science fiction and zombies will probably enjoy this title, especially if they enjoyed the first game. However, keep in mind that there's an awful lot of bad stuff here, and that may be a problem for some gamers.

Points of Interest

Better engine
A common complaint with the first Dead Space was that the controls felt laggy or delayed, regardless of what you did in the game's settings. The developers certainly heard these complaints, as Dead Space 2's gameplay is much more responsive and fluid. Surprisingly, they've also managed to improve the game's graphics while making these improvements. Now the monsters look less like clay models and more like people that have been twisted beyond belief.

On top of this, there are a lot of dramatic and involved cutscenes this time around. At times, it almost feels like you're playing through a Hollywood blockbuster rather than a game.
Balance improvements
One of the massive improvements in this game is that you now have a reason to try out and utilize the various weapons that are available. Earlier, the plasma cutter was the only weapon that was really useful, making the rest of the equipment a significant downgrade. Here, each weapon is just as effective as the plasma cutter (if not more so), allowing you to experiment with different playstyles. Another change has to do with your wardrobe: you can now select from a range of armored suits, each of which provides special benefits on top of protecting Isaac from the various dangers out there.
New monsters and new challenges
Considering all of the changes that were made to make Isaac's equipment more effective and the gameplay more exciting, it's not a big surprise to find that the challenges he'll be facing have also become more dire. While the monsters from the first game reappear in this one, they've been tweaked to be more of a threat, and there are a number of new types of necromorphs for Isaac to worry about. Each of these variations on the generic space zombie feature their own unique attacks, and thus you'll need to come up with some new strategies to fend them off.

Additionally, since this game takes place on a space station instead of a space ship, the environment is more interactive. Isaac will need to do things like crawl through vents and hack into various computer systems. Not only is there more to see and play with, the environment can also be quite dangerous. For example, one new hazard you'll encounter are glass doors designed to temporarily seal off areas of the station that are under construction. It doesn't take much to break them, and when they go, everything in the room is violently sucked out into space. If you don't get the safety doors closed in time, it's an instant game over.
New Game Plus benefits
Once you clear Dead Space 2 on any difficulty, you unlock the ability to start a New Game Plus. While you can choose a different difficulty for your new game, this time you'll retain all of the items and upgrades you collected during your first playthrough. Even better: these New Game Plus saves also stack, meaning that you can keep going through the game with better and better gear, becoming the ultimate anti-necromorph engineer!

Also, it seems that once you unlock items in the store, they remain unlocked permanently, regardless of whether or not you're playing a New Game Plus. This means it's a good idea to root around for those schematics during one of your playthroughs.
Adjustable difficulty
At first, you can choose between Casual, Normal, and Hard difficulty. The differences between them revolve around how much damage you give and receive, and how much ammo can be found throughout the adventure. Once you beat the game on any difficulty, you gain the ability to play on Hardcore difficulty. This special mode makes the monsters incredibly powerful, and limits you to just three saves for the entire game. If you can beat this mode, you'll unlock a special weapon that just might be worth the effort.
Requires an EA account
Even if you're playing this game through Steam, you'll still need to sign in to your EA account to access many of the game's features. For those of us with both an Origin and Steam account, this is pretty trivial, but a lot of people don't like the fact that Origin exists, and refuse to deal with anything related to it. Thus, this can be a deal breaker.
Don't expect much from the online multiplayer feature
Dead Space 2 is fairly old, having originally launched in 2011. By this point, most of the people that would have enjoyed the online multiplayer games have moved on to other titles, leaving the game's lobbies empty. Having this feature rely on Origin probably didn't help, and from what I can find, the idea for the multiplayer mode was rather similar to what the Left 4 Dead series had already done successfully. Considering that Left 4 Dead 2 still has thousands of fans running from safe room to safe room, you might prefer playing that game with your friends instead of trying to get this game's dusty servers to work.

Concerns and Issues

Dismemberment is still the name of the game
Unlike most video games, in the Dead Space franchise, you don't just shoot something until it falls over. Instead, the primary method for killing a necromorph is to sever its limbs. This makes close combat a lot less desirable than in other games, as you need room to aim your shots. While gamers can treat this mechanic as another case of shooting an enemy's weak point, this method of dispatching the zombie hordes has garnered criticism for being more graphic and violent than usual.

Of course, there are situations where dismemberment isn't needed. Some necromorphs have glowing yellow pustules on their bodies. These pus-filled sacs are essentially organic bombs, as they'll explode when struck or shot. Another option that has been added in Dead Space 2 is the ability to impale the monsters using nearby objects or even sharp pieces of other monsters. It doesn't always work, but it can help you save on ammo.
Bloodier and gorier than the first game
One of the downsides of having a better engine is that the monsters can be more detailed and realistic looking. Many of the necromorphs feature rotting flesh, gangrenous tissue, and some varieties even dribble fluids everywhere. On top of this, several of the new monsters were created when multiple human corpses fused into a new, bizarre form.

Since it's vitally important to dismember these monsters, Isaac can stomp down hard on anything immediately nearby. This stomping attack is strong enough to sever limbs, and it results in quite a large splash of blood when his foot lands on something organic (which is probably exactly what you'll be trying to crush underfoot).

Speaking of blood, there's also a fair amount splattered over the walls and floors, as the space zombies aren't exactly neat about their business.
Eye trauma
Out of everything violent and horrifying that happens in Dead Space 2, there's one thing that stands far above the rest. To make a long story short, part of the procedure that Isaac and Stross have undergone (and will need to repeat towards the finale) involves stabbing their own eyeball with a surgical needle. Stross can't remember the details correctly, and ends up believing that a screwdriver would work just as well. As you can probably guess, it doesn't.

Also, when it's time for Isaac to poke himself with the needle, you have full control, sort of like you're playing a gruesome minigame. Mess up, and the needle goes straight through his eye, into his brain, and he dies screaming while blood spurts all over. Scariest part of the game, in my opinion.
Zombie children
In the first game, the medical bay was shown growing what appeared to be fetuses in special chambers. Although the reason for this wasn't made clear, it was implied that these were clones grown to provide replacement parts when someone lost a limb or needed an organ transplant. Naturally, they became necromorphs, and were the closest thing to a zombie child the first game had to offer.

Dead Space 2 however, takes place on a space station with a large residential area, so there were more than a few children who died during the outbreak. Thus, we now have actual zombie children. The primary example of these monsters is known as the Pack, which is a loosely organized group of what appear to be zombie elementary school children. Zombie babies also appear, as some infants have been turned into crawling suicide bombers.
Considering the chaos going on, the multiple setbacks encountered, and constant life or death decisions being made, it's not very surprising that people in this game are venting their frustrations with some colorful language. Isaac tends to use profanity the most, and since this is the second time he's had to deal with a necromorph outbreak, he's rather vocal about it.
Heavy cult involvement
It wouldn't be a Dead Space game without the presence of the Unitologests, a cult that, on the surface, seeks for unity and tranquility. Under that pleasant exterior is a group that literally worships the necromorphs, the Markers that create them, and explicitly exploits their members' money and resources. During this game, you'll need travel through one of their "recruitment centers", and as you explore the off-limits areas, you'll discover how corrupt the cult has become.

There are rumors that this fictional religion is loosely based on a real religion, but the developers won't confirm or deny this detail. Either way, it doesn't make religion in general look good.