Dead Space 2 is easily one of the scariest games I’ve ever played, possibly only surpassed by the original and perhaps more recently by ZombiU. I really did have to turn all of the lights on when playing it one night – it creeped the hell out of me. I think it’s the sound effects that conjure up the scary atmosphere so successfully – the clanks, moans and unexplained noises that regularly pop up as background ambiance do wonders at sending your imagination into overdrive, so every door is opened with bated breath and an itchy trigger finger.
Special mention has to go to the opening scene, which is probably the best I’ve ever witnessed in a game. The first 15 minutes is a non-stop rollercoaster ride that draws you into the game convincingly and lays down the gauntlet in terms of creating immersion while teaching you how to play. Brilliant stuff.
I also like the way that the designers have chosen to give Isaac Clarke a voice in this one: in the original Dead Space, Isaac was mute, á la Gordon Freeman in Half-Life. I can see the reasons for doing this, in the sense that having a mute character allows the player to imprint their own personality on the avatar they’re controlling, but I also think it’s quite limiting in terms of developing that character’s story. I think giving Isaac a voice really brings the character alive in this sequel, and it leads to some memorable scenes with a few other characters who are introduced along the way.
Another big improvement is the zero gravity sections, which have been beefed up considerably to allow much more freedom of movement. These sections were a particular highlight of the original, and they’re even better here.
I’m still not entirely sure about the plot though: I’m as big a fan of an obtuse and nonsensical sci-fi/horror drama as the next man, but I’m still not quite convinced that any human would willingly unleash the carnage seen in this game deliberately, no matter how crazy the religion they belong to. Is there something I’m missing? Do write in and let me know if I’m being thick here…
Anyway, apart from my slight misgivings about the plot, my only gripe with Dead Space 2 is the sudden massive increase in difficulty in the final act. The game is far from easy at the best of times, but at the end it suddenly goes completely bananas, throwing every enemy under the sun in your direction, including a Nemesis-style baddie that can’t be killed. After many, many restarts I finally got to the final boss, only to die again and again and again and again… Part of the problem was that I’d been upgrading my suit over my weapons for most of the game, so killing the final evil dude proved a little tricky with my underpowered peashooters, but even taking that out of the equation it was a pretty irritating and frustratingly difficult confrontation.
Eventually, after fifteen (fifteen!) attempts at finishing off the final boss, I did the unthinkable – I gave up and just watched the ending on YouTube.
Yes, I can already feel the scorn from your accusing eyes on my ashamed face, but sometimes you’ve just got to cut your losses and move on with the rest of your life. And at least I don’t have to listen to the noise of those scary ghost children chasing me round in circles any more. Brr.
[As penned in anguish by a visibly shaken Lucius Merriweather.]