Dead Space as a series is a sci-fi thriller themed third person shooter. You play the role of Isaac Clarke as he deals with the Necromorph outbreak and the mysterious marker that seems to be the cause of all his problems.  Sure, Dead Space 3 just came out a few weeks ago. But today I’m taking a look at Dead Space 2,  as it can be found for under twenty bucks.

So let’s pull Dead Space 2 out of the bargain bin and see if it’s worth twenty bucks, and worth playing.

Gameplay

It’s a third person shooter, you shoot thing to advance. It’s pretty straightforward there, with competent controls and a nice variety of weapons you can buy and upgrade. I like that they tried to change things up by making the weak points on the necromorphs limbs. To defeat a necromorph (think of them in a way as a space zombie, but they are really much more than that) you have to break off their arms, legs, and other extremities. It’s a nice break from relying on head shots for maximum damage. It also makes you develop different strategies for your different enemies.

This probably isn't how Isaac wanted to start his day.

Like one of the necromorphs will hide behind a corner, peering out at you before charging. If you can blow it’s legs off  it stumbles towards you giving you more time to try and break off an arm or two to kill it. Figuring out which enemies to hit legs first or arms first, or if they have another weak point is part of the fun of this shooter. It’s like a small puzzle element.

Speaking of puzzle elements, there really isn’t much to them in this title. Move a power core into a different slot. Slow down a fast moving thing with kinesis. Find a body to let you past a DNA scanner. But this isn’t a puzzle game, and having hard puzzles would ruin the excellent pace of the game.

Dead Space is a pretty linear experience. You walk down hallways that rarely branch, and if they do one end is usually a dead end. But that means the team at Visceral Games was able to craft a really tense, thought out, experience. This is a series about things going wrong for Isaac, and things go horribly wrong. But the pacing and thrills of those things flow really well into one another. I kept having the feeling of “I’ll just play one more hallway”.

Graphics

The graphics in Dead Space 2 are really good. The lighting effects, the facial animations, the environments, it’s a pretty game to look at. Everything felt smooth and I never noticed any screen tearing or slow texture loading. I have nothing to complain about graphically in this game.

Dead Space 2 ish

The art style is also extremely well done. From the vistas of the Sprawl to the promotional posters in the hallways, everything looks nice and futuristic. It makes me want to be able to explore the areas pre-necromorph outbreak to see how clean and bright this future could have been.

I like the graphics and art style in this game so much I ordered the Art of Dead Space book that just came out.

Audio

The music in Dead Space has some good range to it, from the credits song thats more rock, to some of the slower somber string parts that drive the emotion in the game. All of it fits beautifully.

The sound effects are very fitting and sometimes horribly disturbing in the way they should be. The necromorphs have their own cries and you get used to hearing them before you see them. And you start cursing when you hear the ones you hate. There’s also the sound effect of you stomping their corpses (a good way to get credits and ammo) that is so satisfyingly gross that my wife asked me if I had to stomp everything.

Story

Dead Space 2 picks up  a few years after Dead Space 1, so there is some backstory you may feel you missed out on. It’s not too bad as most of the characters in this game are new. I don’t feel you’ll miss too much story wise if you skip Dead Space one, and there is a short video “Previously in Dead Space” to help you catch up that does an ok job.

Dead Space 2 text log

The story in Dead Space 2 is well told, well paced, and satisfying. The events that happen are horrible for Isaac and the people on the Sprawl, but they make for a really thrilling storyline. Even though the save points are fairly plentiful, I felt a nice amount of tension as I fought through the Sprawl.

Worth

I played through the single player campaign in about 8 hours and 23 minutes. That was on normal difficulty. When I beat it I unlocked New Game +, and a hard core mode. If you want a difficult game, try hard core mode: when you die you load from your last save and you only can save three times.

There’s a multiplayer component as well, which I didn’t even try. I’m sure a large portion of the community has moved onto Dead Space 3, and multiplayer might be a bit empty. So I’m writing this section based solely on the single player campaign.

And I think it’s worth it. For less than twenty bucks you get a tight, thrilling eight hour single player storyline. Sure, eight hours sounds short, but it’s a decent length for an action game. And this story has almost no backtracking or padding. And if you enjoy once through, there’s more difficulties, new game +, and the hard core mode to try out.

Overall

I really enjoyed Dead Space 2. I don’t always tend to like horror games, but this one was fantastic. The story was engaging, the gameplay was tight, and I just really enjoyed myself as I played through it. Sure, Dead Space 3 is out and it has co-op and multiplayer and probably some gameplay refinements. But Dead Space 2 is still an awesome game, and finding it for a third of the price or less than Dead Space 3 makes it a great low cost entry to the series.

Game Info

Dead Space 2 is developed by Visceral Games and published by EA. It’s available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.  The console versions can be found new for $20 or less, and the PC version can be found for even cheaper.

I played through single player in 8 hours and 23 minutes, but didn’t touch multiplayer at all. I stomped a bunch of gooey necromorph parts and my wife told me this game was “horribly disturbing”. But then she watched me play about 50% of it.

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