For those of you who were big fans of number one, you know just how difficult a task it was for Electronic Arts to step it up to another level when designing Dead Space 2. Not only was the gameplay extremely enjoyable from the previous release, but so many questions were left unanswered by the time you had finished the game. Patiently, fans - much like myself - eagerly awaited the early-2011 release with much anticipation. A sequel can be a very daunting task for designers - an anti-climatic sequel can completely alienate fans from a franchise, and that's without taking into account how much money a sequel might have cost - when gamers expect so much more after an impressive first game. However, the daunting task was certainly overcome, and this much is evident after just 30 minutes of gameplay on Dead Space 2.
So, what happened again?
Let's recap a little bit, shall we? It's the year 2058. Isaac Clarke - the game's very own protagonist - and his crew have been selected to board the Kellion and investigate a distress call on board of the Ishimura. However, things don't go to plan as the Kellion's voyage is cut short by a meteor, leaving Clarke, Hammond and Kendra Daniels isolated on the dock of the Ishimura. Whilst trying to find time to repair their starship, they are visited by many various alien-like creatures known as Necromorphs. When you're off-course, and looking for parts to repair your ship on another space shuttle over-run with Necromorphs, you know you're not in for a pleasant time. Anyway, on his voyage, Clarke finds a various amount of audio/text logs which explain to him what was going on before he arrived on the Ishimura. Piecing everything together, we understand that the objective of the Ishimura's crew - a religious cult - was to retrieve their most valuable religious relic, known as the "Marker". With moments of complete insanity and flashbacks from his dead girlfriend, Isaac finds himself taking orders from Ms. Daniels to escort this Marker to said location. After being betrayed, Isaac destroys the Marker and it seems things are deemed okay for now.
Now we're plummeting into Dead Space 2, and guess what? The Necromorphs that were originally found on board the Ishimura? They've now escaped and are roaming around in any nearby space station they can find. And the Marker you destroyed from number 1? There's now an even bigger and more powerful Marker which surrounds the main plot once again. You've been taken by scientists and they've done all sorts of tests on you. However, none of these tests are explained until you crawl deeper through the story. As you dig deep and try to recall the events of what happened after you left Ishimura, you find another patient - Nolan Stross - who was experimented on, just like yourself. Choosing to trust Stross, you battle your way through space in order to unlock the puzzle pieces that have been locked tight since the beginning of Dead Space.
Wow, I can move!
The very first thing I noticed about Dead Space 2 was how freely you can move compared to the former game. Turning is no longer such a difficult task, as it became very annoying on the previous game to turn around and attack a Necromorph who's digging his arms through your ribs! The controls are essentially the same. There is still no HUD but instead a bar located on the back of your suit indicating your health, and various amounts of holographic screens showing you your inventory, guns, text/audio logs or whatever else necessary. Your ever-present Plasma Cutter is much the same, only it has been given a new special ability once you've fully upgraded using power nodes. The new ability allows you to set your Necromorph nemesis on fire, and is only ever evident after every 3 or 4 bullet has been fired. Your suits remain virtually unchanged, but changes in other features become evident after a short period of time. For example; Isaac actually speaks now! This makes the game a lot more realistic - and it should have been deemed a necessity in the first game anyway. You now get to hear the insight into Isaac's opinion, feelings, dementia and whatever else might be on show. Unlike its predecessor, there is no major repetition evident in Dead Space 2.
If you're familiar with the previous game (I'm assuming you are if you're reading this), your objective in every chapter was to get off of a train shuttle, complete an objective or two, kill a lot of Necromorphs - maybe even a boss - and return back to the same train shuttle to go the next station and do the exact same thing again. Dull! However, you very rarely visit the same location twice in Dead Space 2, and the chapters are introduced in a much more exciting way than beforehand. However, if you preferred the repetition of number 1 and its locations, you take a trip back to Ishimura in one of the later chapters. If 3 years ago can be considered a nostalgic trip, then there you have it!
Isaac being tormented by what's known as, a Spitter
More variety, less repetition
In the previous game, I believe there were only about 6 weapons to choose from along with about 6 types of Necromorph enemies (excluding boss battles). And as aforementioned, every location in the game looked all too similar. In Dead Space 2, you will find the previous guns back - some even having a different alternate fire - along with 6 new weapons. There are also a heap load more if you purchase any downloadable content available. From this new list you'll find a Rivet gun, deploying hot rivets most powerful in zero-gravity; a Seeker Rifle, which is essentially a space sniper rifle; a Detonator, exploding Necromorphs who cross its sensor beam; a Javelin gun, firing spikes into Necromorphs and proving to be one of the most powerful weapons on the game; and the great Hand Cannon; I'll let you look that one up for yourself!
Much like weapons, there is a large variety of new enemies to fight. But for now, I'll only focus on two - I'll allow you to discover the rest for yourselves:
Get off o' me!
These guys may not look too tough, and they may not be so difficult to kill either. But they come in overwhelming numbers, and because they're so small, you're not always sure where they are! If you can get yourself a safe distance from them without being attacked from behind, then you should be okay. If you're being surrounded by them and are just endlessly swinging, expect death - and I mean gruesome death.
What the Dickens is that!?
As the name suggests, these guys are creepy as hell. Not only are they extremely quick, but they are tough to slow down. Shooting them with your Plasma Cutter? Yeah, I wouldn't recommend that. They'll still pounce on you. I'm not sure what's most terrifying about these guys; how the look, how fast they sprint at you, the sound of one pouncing, or just them popping their heads around corners, staring endlessly at you!
What was that noise!?
Familiar as I am with the first release, I recall how the audio played a huge part in terrifying you throughout the story. If you're roaming through a dark hallway, full of dead bodies and so much blood, the last thing you wanna hear is a creepy woman whispering/singing "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star". Luckily, they haven't added that nightmare into this game. But they have however added a lot more. Sometimes you'll enter a room, and the atmosphere will be built up by the frightening music in the background - the only problem is, the music makes it impossible to know when a Necromorph will pounce. Each Necromorph has a distinctive sound, some more terrifying than others. Two of the most scary-sounding Necromorphs are the Stalkers and the Exploders. The Stalkers are particularly scary because when you've experienced a Stalker battle, you'll know exactly when the next one will pop up. The audio plays its toll, and when a Stalker makes a run at you, the sound of it attacking is nothing short of threatening. What becomes a bit of a nightmare is when the Exploders are present. Electronic Arts have made them much more daunting this time 'round; they are now much quicker, so it's tough to run from one that is just behind you without one exploding all over you; their distinctive sound remains the same, only it's done in a way that you never know where they are. A lot of the time that they're around, you'll hear them before you see them. And when you're in a cramped area, it can be a growing worry on your mind as to where they are - until BOOM! It's right behind you, and you're dead.
Audio doesn't just play a key role in Necromorph scenes however. Sometimes it can be even more frightening when there are no enemies around. The sounds of what you thought were something behind you; the gruesome whispers of "Isaac" by both male and female voices; the rolling of a canister just in front/behind you and the screaming of many helpless humans being annihilated by the Slashers' scissor arms - they all play a huge role in giving you a mini heart attack throughout the game.
Sharing the experience with friends
Unlike its predecessor, Dead Space 2 offers us a multiplayer mode. This essentially gives it more replay value than the previous release. Much like Left 4 Dead 1 or 2, multiplayer on here gives you an insight of how Necromorphs work. You can play as good or evil, but playing as evil has a much more enjoyable role. After all, if you're playing as the guys in the armored suits, it's not a lot different from playing your campaign. Playing as a Necromorph, it's something you've never had the opportunity to do before and you'll quickly learn the pros and cons of each enemy. Though don't get over-excited - if you want to be good as either a Necromorph or a human, you're going to have to rank up and unlock the ability to improve weapons and damage. Here's a rather lengthy video that'll show you just what it's like to play as various Necromorph online.
Dead Space 2 is a two-disc game, which tells you that the campaign is longer than the first one - the first time I completed it, it took about 9 hours of gameplay. And even when I completed it again, knowing exactly what I had to do, it ranged around 6 or 7 hours. Not only is it longer, but it's much more enjoyable and doesn't grow old as quick as it did before. It'll take you 3 or 4 playthroughs to fully upgrade all of your weapons, RIG and stasis anyway so it's certainly worth putting the time into. Each weapon will feel like a royalty as it's so distinctive to the last. And each Necromorph will be disadvantaged by certain weapons also. Only playing Dead Space 2 made me realise how many flaws the first game had. Don't get me wrong, the first one is excellent. But the second just gives you everything you wish the first had given you originally. A lengthier campaign, no repetition, less isolation throughout gameplay, a thicker plot with more questions answered and a larger variety of weapons/Necromorphs. If you were a fan of the first, or are just a fan of survival horror games, you'd be silly not to check this game out as it's rather cheap at this stage. I mean, if Electronic Arts can release a game this enjoyable and it isn't sport-related, it's got to go on my shelf.