Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011

Dead Space 2

9.4 out of 10

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There’s a moment early on in this game that truly defines Dead Space 2 as the leader of the “Survival Horror” genre. It happens right after our hero, Isaac, wakes up and watches the man who saved him suddenly mutate into one of the monsters (called “Necromorphs”). Isaac kicks the creature away and manages to exit his cell, still bound by his straight jacket, at which point the player takes control and all hell truly breaks loose. Necromorphs are everywhere and it’s the player’s job to guide Isaac to safety while simultaneously praying the poor shlub doesn’t fall down.

But as heart-pounding a moment as this is (and what a great way to start the game!), it’s not the moment I’m talking about. That moment happens a few minutes later, after Isaac finally frees himself from his straight jacket and is armed with little more than a flashlight, making his way through a mysterious hospital in God-knows-where. He reaches a sanitation room and it’s dark, too dark to see anything beyond the beam, and suddenly there’s a loud scream and the light in front of the beam begins to blur. You spin around, hoping to see your killer before he strikes, only to find that one of the showerheads nearby has been turned on.

Eventually, it shuts off, but the damage is done. You’re on the edge of your seat, terrified of every corner, and you haven’t even killed one of these bastards yet. But don’t worry—you will. If the first Dead Space was a solitary investigation of a grisly murder scene, the sequel takes it up a notch and drops you right into the murder as it’s taking place. You’re stuck on a space station and the necromorphs are back. You’ve been there for three years but you don’t remember much of anything. Some people want your help, some want to kill you.

Everywhere, people are dying. The necromorphs—terrifying mutated humans notorious for the sharp arms-for-blades—are everywhere and so is the Marker, a religious symbol responsible for the necromorphs and generally loved for some reason by religious fanatics. I guess space gets boring sometimes and praying to a massive monument helps pass the time.

Everything great about the first game still works here, and the crisp storyline makes it a lot of fun. Expect to die. In fact, expect to die a lot. The designers put a lot of time into all of the creative ways Isaac can die and they want to show you. Isaac talks this time around, too, which helps add depth to the story. There are more monsters, creepy ones that you won’t forget. Sometimes, they’ll pop out of nowhere, which can get frustrating—this is called a “Monster closet” because it can get annoying from time to time, and Dead Space 2 is no exception.

But that’s a little gripe. So are the little nicks in the storyline. It’s hard to care. Really. This is a fantastic, scary game that needs to be played in the dead of night.

Creepy Scene You’ll Remember:
You’re in a massive, abandoned cathedral. You hear something scurrying. You hear something moaning and you spin around, looking for it. Something moves ahead. You aim your flashlight over the pillars and then you see it, poking its head out, staring at you. Suddenly you get this creepy feeling and think: Why does this seem so familiar?

Learn From My Mistake: During a lot of the cutscenes, you’ll be expected to take control over Isaac, even though you’re not prompted. If you don’t act quick enough, whatever is attacking you is going to kill you. Brutally. Here’s a helpful tip: if you see a yellow sack of pulsating goo, always shoot it.

Casually Checked out: The multiplayer. It’s cool, nothing super memorable. But it doesn’t feel like the designers squeezed it in at the expense of the overall game, so it’s kind of like icing on top of icing on a cake.

You’ll Play This For:
10-12 hours, or more depending on how often you die. Then you can keep your weapons and money and go through it again on a harder difficulty. Cool!
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