Dead Space 2 Review
Somewhere near the halfway point of Dead Space 2, engineer-hero Isaac Clarke tiptoes through a ruined elementary school in the game’s new, scattered installation setting of The Sprawl. He comes across a window beyond which a woman is kneeling, her arms held wide as a baby drags itself awkwardly towards her. She’s oblivious to the fact that the baby’s body is an angry yellow drum of poison, and that its head sits obscenely backwards on its shoulders so that, when it climbs into her arms, it stares directly at Clarke, before exploding and bringing down on the scene a curtain of thick, textured red.
More than anything, this is blackly funny. A drawn-out, dare-you-to-watch, macabre kind of funny, but definitely humorous. Dead Space 2 has everything its predecessor had – a principal mix of sophistication and dread, underpinned by elegant survival horror mechanics and visual design that’s nothing short of brilliant. But what it offers as a sequel isn’t more of the same but louder, or more of the same with bigger bosses, but more of the same with a greater depth of personality.
Three years after the events aboard the USG Ishimura, Clarke awakes in a psychiatric ward in The Sprawl, a space station in orbit around Saturn’s moon, Titan. The setup is brief, and delivered in an opening level full of deep-end shocks and penetrating limbs: The Sprawl, learns a straitjacketed and vulnerable Clarke, has been overrun by the same reanimated horde of pointy Freudianisms he encountered before. It falls to him to pick at the scab of a government and Unitologist conspiracy that surrounds both this new infestation and the creation of a new Marker, the monolithic religious artefact at the centre of the original outbreak.
Past this breathless opener, it’s a relief to find the game not rationing weapons or abilities, as Clarke quickly regains both the core of his industrial arsenal (the forcefully functional plasma cutter and line gun) and his telekinesis and stasis powers. These abilities are particularly crucial, enabling Dead Space 2 to take the most advanced tactics and techniques from the original as a starting point. Only players who ventured into Dead Space’s hard and impossible difficulty levels came to realise how essential the necromorph-slowing stasis ability could be, or how launching objects and enemy carcasses at attackers could hold the key to ammo-less survival. Dead Space 2 is all the richer for pushing these skills from the start.