Dead Space 2 revived

“It’s everything you love in a game… and your mom is going to hate it.”

Never have I heard of a marketing slogan that so accurately summarizes what you were getting yourself into with Dead Space 2, an action-survival-horror video game  released on January 25. Don’t let the action part of its description make you shy away from the survival-horror aspect of the game; while Dead Space 2 is action-packed, it does a great job at keeping the tension high and never letting the player feel safe.

Dead Space 2 picks up three years after the events of the original game, in the middle of a Necromorph outbreak. In the sequel we’re not entirely sure how the Necromorph outbreak reaches the Sprawl, a space station located on one of Jupiter’s moons, or why protagonist Isaac is flawed. Isaac has been infected with a unique strand of dementia that, if left untreated, will kill him.

The story for the original Dead Space goes like this: Isaac Clarke, the main character and protagonist, arrives on a ship on a mission to find Nicole, his girlfriend of two years. When he arrives on the ship, he is ambushed by Necromorphs, which are the zombies of the Dead Space universe. As the story continues, Isaac encounters Nicole and she tells him about the Marker—the symbol of the church of Unitology that believes that Necromorphs are proof of life after death. By the end of the game, Isaac destroys the Marker and finds out that the girlfriend he came to save has been dead the whole time, and the “Nicole” he saw was nothing more than the Marker playing with his mind.

The dementia causes Isaac to have multiple hallucinations of Nicole. He sees her patronizing him and sees symbols of the Marker around him, but the worst part is that these seemingly harmless hallucinations have the ability to kill him if ever he loses grip on reality.

The gameplay for the sequel is almost the same as the originals (save for some new and welcomed differences): You navigate Isaac through the Sprawl in a Third-Person perspective, and are ambushed by Necromorphs as you traverse the Spraw.

The sequal implements some new features that add to the feel and gameplay. For starters, Isaac is much more agile and more efficient in his fight against the Necromorphs. His mêlée, stomp, kinesis, and stasis abilities have been amped up from clunky and weak to responsive and efficient, making them a good alternative to taking out the enemy and saving ammo. Also, stasis – which allows Isaac to slow down enemies — has been improved; it has better aim and recharges over time.

Another added feature for the sequel is that now Isaac can speak. In the first game he was portrayed as the silent hero, which worked in the context of the story because he was just an engineer who followed the orders of officials more powerful than him. But this time around, Isaac is more experienced and can now react to the many things around him and interact with more characters… and he isn’t just spitting one-liners. The fact that he is able to speak allows Isaac as a character to visibly develop as he deals with the events around him and his hallucinations.

But one of the best things about the game is its sound. Much like the original Dead Space, the game would not be the same if you played it with your television or computer muted, because all the fear and tension is built up through the score and sound effects. You can hear Necromorphs as they skitter across the walls behind, beside, and in front of you. The fantastic thing about the music is that it builds with where you are in relation to the Necromorphs. For example: If you reach the end of a hallway and unknowingly approach a Necromorph, the music will build up, subtly, so it’s not all that much of a warning. But if you back up, the music lowers in volume. Sometimes you’ll be standing still and the music will just build up on its own, alarming you that this time the Necromorph is approaching you, and you can rest assured they won’t back up out of fear of you.

From the very beginning, the pleas for help, the haunting yells of the Necromorphs, and the blaring alarm all mix in well together and you lose yourself within the game; the sound of the chaos surrounding Isaac brings the player in and never lets him go, even in sections of pure, dead silence. The faintest of sounds will make you feel like they’re coming from somewhere in your house, and the loudest of sounds will make you jump off your seat out of fear and surprise. 

The game is filled with dismemberment, bodily fluids, blood, gore, mutated hmans-turned-monsters, and brutal cringe-inducing executions–it’s no surprise your mom will hate this game. But apart from all the characterisitcs that make for a bad slasher flick, this game has a protaganist people can relate to: a mere man with no proper military experience who has a real job  and is losing his sanity because of his dead girlfriend. He’s not super-powered so players will feel just as vulnerable as Isaac feels. The game also has a good story that will keep a player’s interest up until the climactic end.

One last thing the sequel has is Online Multiplayer, but all you really need to know that it takes the Left 4 Dead formula and makes it work—but the single-player campaign is really where this game shines. You don’t necessarily need to buy the first Dead Space to understand the events of Dead Space 2, but it doesn’t hurt. Dead Space 2 has taken the assets of its predecessor and improved them greatly. In my opinion, this game is my first choice for Game of the Year. It is available on PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, and PC.