Spoilers ahead, because we’re dead in spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!
When I played Dead Space back in 2008, my first thought was “Wow, this is Doom 3 with a stronger story.” Now before we go any further, understand that unlike some I actually enjoyed Doom 3 to a point. I didn’t enjoy the fact that monster spawning patterns became obvious and predictable after a while, nor did I really approve of “shadow = pitch black” being a viable lighting choice (but to be fair, few others have actually done a unified lighting engine since Doom 3, most game engines are combinations of dynamic lights and lightmapping, while D3 has zero lightmapping), and after a while the game was the same thing again and again. Doom 3 was also really long, which actually doesn’t help when the game grows stale. Then you get to Hell and go “Oh wow cool this is different!” before it’s back to the Delta Labs and into the same thing. D3 had some pacing issues, but hey, it’s Doom, and I’m a sucker for Doom games.
Dead Space reminded me of all the bad things in Doom 3, except every weapon at least has a flashlight to mitigate against the darkness. The storyline was interesting, but after the first few levels, you can easily guess where the next sting moment will be, and it stops being scary after a while. Even the environments started to look the same, so it lost that sense of tension which is what can make a game scary without it even attempting cheap “Boo!” moments. Dead Space was fairly cramped, it had a decent length, it was the same thing over and over again, and it had quick time elements and boss fights with specific weakness points. The two other elements that broke it up were the use of kinesis and stasis (which was frustrating at times) and the zero-gravity gameplay, which was a frustrating exercise that went something like “Can I jump there? Oh, nope. Um… what about there? Oh shit spikes, wish I’d seen that earlier, if they weren’t all brown like everything else.” Seriously the colour pallet might as well just been the colours of turds, pretty much everything was brown. But I’m not here to rant about Dead Space, I’m here to rant about its sequel, because after all Dead Space’s story was at least somewhat entertaining.
If I wanted to be an arsehole (or alternatively, if I wanted to be lazy) I’d just say that this is Dead Space, except the storyline is slightly different and every setting is a church instead of a mining complex. That wouldn’t be overly accurate, but that’s what I’d use as a one-line summary. A significant portion of the game is spent wandering around a Unitologist church, but there are other places to go. The game takes place on a station around Titan, or what’s left of it after a planet cracking operation. Isaac Clarke is here in a hospital undergoing psychiatric treatment when, out of nowhere, Necromorphs turn up. Just like that. One minute you’re asleep, then shit hits the fan. It’s like “I’m going to get a pie, BRB OMFG MOON BEAST ATTACK HELP.” Clarke is being treated for a mental illness caused by The Marker from the first game. It’s 3 years after we left Clarke, and he remembers nothing apparently. He suffers from disturbing visions, and is haunted by his dead girlfriend Nicole from the first game. Then there’s this chick called Daina who is helping Clarke to escape, and then there’s this patient called Stross who wants Clarke to help destroy The Marker or something…
Spoiler warning: Daina is bad. Christ, BIG SURPRISE! Pretty much anybody could see that coming from a mile away; Daina insists on meeting up with Clarke, but when you get there, she’s a Unitologist. I’m pretty sure we all knew that Daina would either be dead/an illusion when we got there, or she’d be a bad guy. Then she dies. This starts an epic space sequence where Clarke gets blown out an airlock, fights some weird monster while clinging to a gunship in space, and then being flung into a previous section of the game. All in about 2 minutes. Talk about confusing, it’s just a bunch of shit going on. It’s not even really epic, it’s one big quicktime event with the occasional aiming exercise with the mouse speed turned down. Give me a break, guys!
Beyond that the gameplay is exactly the same as before, more or less. You dismember Necromorphs, the end. There are a few new ones, including child-like Necromorphs… actually let’s talk about that for a second. Child-like necromorphs? You mean like the Cherubs from Doom 3? Exactly what game am I playing again? Sorry, but I’m seeing too many similarities here. Oh whatever, moving on, apart from that the only other major change is in zero G gameplay, which is fortunately improved. It’s basically free-form movement now as opposed to that ridiculous jumping mechanic where you’d point at surfaces and hope that you could jump there. Big improvement. Apart from that though things are pretty much the same. You walk through dark corridors, shoot at Necromorphs which appear from predictable areas, and every so often get interrupted by a cutscene or radio transmissions or whatever. The storyline is enough to keep you interested, but the gameplay is pretty much everything we saw before, and that’s not necessarily a good thing, because it was pretty stale to begin with.
Even the menu system and power node thing is the same. Hell most of the weapons are the same, minus a few modifications and new additions. The plasma cutter is the same as its always been for example. You still hunt for power nodes and stick them into your suit in that upgrade tree fashion. You still look for schematics and buy them from the store, though the suit upgrade treadmill doesn’t seem quite so bad. You still open the inventory menu, go “Oh shit I’m too close to the wall to see it properly!” and back up and play with the camera to get it right. Yawn. Really if the storyline wasn’t entertaining, I wouldn’t be playing. That said the storyline isn’t exactly a fantastic sci-fi epic either. It’s no Mass Effect but it’s at least got enough substance to be interesting. I’d say you’d get more out of it by reading the Dead Space wiki. Fortunately the game includes a “Previously on Dead Space” video which runs through what happened in Dead Space. This is good, because I completely forgot about most of the storyline, and I had zero reason to really care, so at least now I knew enough to play through DS2.
Graphically the game is fine. The textures are all fairly solid and the game looks good. Performance was fine, but turn off V-Sync if you’re playing the PC version to avoid a slow cursor and slow mouse aiming. The game is fairly dark in places, and it all starts to look the same after a while. Sound is good. Voice acting is good, and the environmental sounds are faily decent. Gameplay is okay. This is almost exactly like Dead Space, and the only thing that carries it is the storyline. The rest of it is tedious. Also a hell of a lot of it repeats itself, and since so much is the same when compared with Dead Space, I really wonder why it took them from 2008 until now to make this thing? The lifespan is fairly poor; once you’ve played it through once there’s not much incentive to do it again, too much of it is repetitive to be of much entertainment value.
– Art direction
– Voice acting
– Poor lifespan
– Not much has changed
– What the hell were you doing in the 2 or so years it took to make this?
If you really love Dead Space and play it again and again and sleep with the box, then this is a no-brainer. But otherwise this is pretty much Dead Space with a different storyline bolted on. Not much has changed. It’s not a total snore-fest but it’s getting a bit repetitive, and it’s not scary. After the first 2 minutes you can guess where the next sting moment will appear. All that really carries this game is the storyline, and even then I wonder whether or not it’s worth it.