Jeff Markiewicz On March 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Dead Space 2 Xbox 360 ReviewDead Space hit this generation back in the fall of 2008 and was an instant classic. The combination of great atmosphere and interesting gameplay allowed it to easily stand above the other titles in its genre. Not even industry staples like Resident Evil and Silent Hill could dethrone it from the king of the horror genre. The game was made by Visceral Games, who previously worked on some big properties like James Bond and The Godfather but couldn’t quite break free of just good games. But now, after the release of Dead Space, they’re on top. Expectations are high and everyone’s salivating to get their hands on the next chapter of this promising franchise. Can they engineer another classic or was Issac a one-trick pony?

The game is set several years after the first and you’re once again put in the shoes of Issac Clarke. Except this time, you’re awoken from stasis and have no idea where you are or what is going on, except that it appears that you’re in a straight jacket and there is a serious necromorph infestation. Soon some answers start to arrive but not all will be answered. The story ends up a bit worse than the first in the sense that sometimes you don’t really know what you’re doing or why, just moving forward. And at a turning point about a third of the way through leaves you without a real purpose to push you along. One of the new additions is that the mute protagonist Issac Clarke of the first game now speaks and will interact with the other characters. This new addition works quite well and doesn’t distract from the game at all but doesn’t really add much more to the existing character. The other characters are also not as fleshed out either but do a good job of helping to push everything along. In the end, the more important story is the one that the world tells through its atmosphere, graphics, and sound design. It’s a story of what happened at this place and makes you ask what the hell happened here and why. It would’ve been nice to have a stronger main story but what is here is worth checking out.

Dead Space 2 is very similar in form to its predecessor; it’s a third-person survival horror game with an emphasis on dismembering your enemies. Most of the weapons at your disposal are not weapons at all; they are tools of an engineer that you’ve managed to use against your foes. This means for the most part you’re not going to have machine guns, sniper rifles, or rocket launchers. You’re going to have weapons that are meant as tools. The starting weapon and the staple of this franchise is the plasma cutter. One of the cool things is that the game can be beaten in its entirety without getting another weapon. Each one of these weapons will have an alternate fire that will make them much more deadly in the right situations. Throughout the world you’ll find schematics to purchase these weapons and their ammo types at stores but they aren’t upgrades. Each weapon has pros and cons that will thrive in certain situations but not be useful in others. In addition to purchasing guns and ammo at stores, you’ll be able to find schematics for health, suits, and stasis packs. New suits will upgrade your armor, inventory space, and sometimes offer a special perk. Stasis packs are to fuel your stasis power. This allows you to slow down enemies and environmental set pieces, which is useful if you get surrounded or need to solve a puzzle. Your other power is telekinesis. You can pick up items dropped and debris out of your reach. Sharp objects are particularly effective in taking out enemies while saving precious ammo. When the necromorphs get too close, your last resort is melee. You can either elbow enemies or stomp on them. Stomping on them after they’ve been departed will typically net you some goodies. The enemies are largely the same as before but several new additions have been made that’ll challenge you to survive. The artificial intelligence powering them, especially the stalkers, is really good. It’s scary to see the stalkers peaking around and over cover until they jump out and charge you unexpectedly. A new addition to the gameplay is now freeform movement in zero gravity. Initially the integrated UI didn’t feel so well for this but after a couple goes it felt as right as the other UI choices. Moving in space is easy and enjoyable. You can easily lose your orientation but with a press of a button you can reorient to the ground. There are some puzzles along the way but they are quite simple. The last chapter will bother some people as the pace is quite different from the rest of the game but for the most part I felt it worked quite well since I was running for my life in a dire panic with low health. The only real issue was the last boss which was too easy, especially with a certain weapon you can buy. Thankfully for here and other parts, the game will help you slightly if you keep dying. Items in boxes are randomized and if you die a couple times, you might find yourself getting a large health pack or some crucial ammo that’s just enough to get to the next part. Unlike the first game where the first half you felt in danger and the second half to felt like you could handle any situation with ease, here (at least on the higher difficulty I played) I felt like I could die at any point and die several times but was never punished so severely that I had to revert to a previous save. There is always a way to around encounters if you’re light on health or ammo. Overall the gameplay is as stellar as the first and the fear factor has definitely been increased. You’re not so worried about one enemy coming to get you, you’re worried about getting swarmed from all sides and how you’ll deal with that while preserving your precious health and ammo.

The issue with single player titles is that they don’t typically have much longevity. Dead Space 2 clocks in a bit shorter than its predecessor but it’s still generous for the genre, especially when you consider NewGame+. A lot of developers are working around the issue by trying to increase replayability, adding cooperative play, and competitive multiplayer. For a lot of these titles, the last addition just doesn’t make much sense but some have had breakthroughs. Some great examples of these are Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow’s Spy vs Merc mode and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s Wanted mode. Unfortunately though, a lot don’t succeed. Dead Space 2’s foray into the multiplayer space pits humans against necromorphs. The humans will have a set of objectives and the necromorphs will have to try to stop them. Humans have a central spawn zone that will sometimes move depending on the progression in the map and the necromorphs can choose vents around the world to spawn at. Unfortunately the charm and atmosphere did not translate from the single player. Several examples of this type of asymmetric player matches exist today in the likes of Left 4 Dead and the popular Half-Life mod Natural Selection but here it just seems like the basic was done. Why have a Call of Duty type player progression and unlocks when single player already established a store and power nodes for upgrades? Why not give the Call of Duty leveling and unlocks to the necromorphs and the store to the humans. Right now as you play unlocks for both happen when leveling. Why can’t we bolt shut vents so the necromorphs can’t use it for a specified amount of time similar to World at War’s Zombie mode? Basically this multiplayer suffers from the same issues that Red Dead Redemption’s did, you hear the premise and within a second, your mind is filled with wondrous ideas and then you spend a couple minutes with the final product and none of them were done. This just leaves the multiplayer mode as a disappointing and entirely forgettable experience.

Dead Space 2 bumps up the graphics slightly from its predecessor which was already a top notch looker. The game is simply amazing graphically. The game oozes atmosphere and with the emphasis on more cinematic moments, you can be sure that you’ll see some awesome sights. The camera has been moved back slightly so for those who are claustrophobic can breathe a little easier this time around but it is short-lived with the amount of enemies on-screen. The first game gave a great sense that you were on a real ship. There were different decks and sometimes you even backtracked. One of the distractions of this title is that you’re supposedly on a massive space station but you never really get a picture in your head of what it looks like, where you are within it, and where you are going. You just keep moving forward. There is an issue with some locations being copy and pasted but they are always redecorated so unless you’re paying close attention, you’ll just get a weird feeling of déjà vu. In the end, the game looks fantastic. It works in tandem with the audio and just builds and builds glorious horrific atmosphere.

As for the audio, it’s Dead Space. If you ever played the first game, you’ll know what I am talking about. The sound design was some of the industry’s best and here the trend continues. Even when the action dies down you’re on the edge of your seat the entire time due to the moody and atmospheric sounds. You’ll hear people in distant parts of the complex screaming for their lives, something crawling through the vents nearby, the clank of your boot on the metal floor, and the faint sound of your own breathing. The one new addition that was scary from a design standpoint was the choice to give Issac a voice. He now speaks and interacts with other characters and for the most part the choice pays off. The voice actor for him and the other characters are great. The biggest issue is that being voiced didn’t add much to the character but it definitely doesn’t distract from the game though. The music takes a backseat most of the time and blends into the atmosphere and spikes when appropriate to heighten the events on screen. Overall, it’s Dead Space, enough said.

When Dead Space 1 came out, it blew away the horror genre forever. Even industry staples such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill could not compete with its incredible atmosphere or awesome game mechanics. When all the talk about the sequel started coming from the developer, I got a little worried. They claimed the first was too scary and were scaling it back, going to give people a breather here or there with places that feel safe. Nothing in Dead Space 2 feels safe. The game is almost as scary as the first and definitely has a lot more action. I forget who said it but someone said the difference between the first Dead Space and this one is akin to Alien and Aliens and they couldn’t be more right. The action factor has been taken up a couple notches but the fear still remains. . The story may not be as great as it should be but the story of the world and its events is the true tale and it’s still strong. The multiplayer is mediocre and forgettable. The graphics have been taken up a notch and the sound design is still at the top of the industry. Whereas Dead Space 1 felt like it was influenced by the horror of System Shock 2, Dead Space 2 feels like it was influenced by the action and cinematic moments of Call of Duty. It gives it a slightly different feel but it always feels like home. Dead Space 2 is a worthy follow up to one of the best games of this generation. Go and buy it.


Gameplay is as great as ever and the new cinematic focus gets the adrenaline pumping. The story may not be as great as it should be but the story of the world and its events is the true tale and it’s still strong. The multiplayer is mediocre and forgettable.


Some areas have been cut-and-pasted but with the awesome art design, great lighting, and still industry leader integrated UI this game comes out on top. The new emphasis on more cinematic moments is just icing on the cake.


Atmospheric and moody. The sound design is as great as it was for its predecessor, simply outstanding. Whether you’re listening to this game on a 5.1 surround sound or headphones, you’re in for a treat.


Dead Space 2 is everything you want it to be with a mediocre multiplayer package thrown in. The single player is still the king when it comes to atmosphere and survival horror. The sound design is amazing. Dead Space 2 is a worthy follow up to one of the best games of this generation. Go and buy it.

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One Response

  1. rain says:

    Awesome review, thanks!