Customer Review

61 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rich sequel to a modern classic, January 28, 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dead Space 2 - PC (DVD-ROM)
After 5 hours in the game and having just completed chapter 6, my initial impressions are very positive. Dead Space 2 takes protagonist Isaac Clarke out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. The best things about the first game have been improved, resulting in a streamlined and linear experience. Although 'linear' may evoke negative connotations, I am personally blown away by how well-crafted the linear path is.

As the other reviewers have pointed out - beware of the fangled and draconian security measures that come with the PC version of this product. However, I think it's highly unfair to give the overall game a single star because of something that the publisher decided - most probably with little, if any input from the actual game developers. This is a review of the game, not a critique on access control technology. Take it for what it is.

ATMOSPHERE:
So lets jump right into the `fear' aspect. The frights are genuine and the stakes are seemingly higher. Yet I personally think I was more petrified in the first game - the sense of dread is not as deep (at least not through Chapter 6). I think the main reason for this is that Dead Space 2 has a faster pace than its predecessor. Everything from the layout of the levels, to the improvements in Isaac's locomotion play a role in this. Still, there were a couple of occasions where I felt as if I was doused with a bucket of cold water. And besides, I'm only starting Chapter 7 - maybe I'll be unpleasantly surprised with something truly horrific, before the game is over.

The game also has a strongly unified design philosophy. This design philosopohy extends to everything from Isaac's various suits to the architecture. Speaking of which, the environments are very well designed and, despite the overall linear sense of progression, there is a different scene awaiting you in each section. You may be traipsing through an apartment complex one moment and a sinister Unitology church the next. Much of DS1's levels worked with the same color palettes. I'm not knocking on the excellent level design in the first game, but I applaud the developers' decision to expand into different environments with a greater variation of colors.

In the first game we were exposed to a very industrial & corporate environment. In fact you got a strong sense of how mankind had progressed in those areas - be it from what you read on the logs or what you saw on the posters. In DS2, you get a more elaborate view of other aspects of human culture in the 26th century. The feeling is similar to what gamers experienced while exploring Rapture in Bioshock.

GRAPHICS:
Visually it's a step in the right direction, though it won't completely blow you away. As a `PC-first' gamer, I pay close attention to all the bells and whistles. I find it irksome that the anti-aliasing is practically worthless - so be ready for lots of jaggy lines. The strongest features are the lighting effects, the facial animations and the character models. I'm willing to forgive the occasionally sub-par texture-work because of everything else that the game has going on for it (hey if I could play through the rubbish textures in Fallout3/New Vegas, I can play through anything).

The most impressive visual sequences come in the form of action-packed cut-scenes. It's too bad there isn't a quicksave/quickload to enjoy these sequences over and over again.

SOUND:
As an audiophile, I am blown away by the incredible sound-design. I'd say 70% of the scares come from the sounds you hear. Barring the occasional fleeting shadow, or flickering light source, the creepy sounds are what builds up tension. Throw in a BAFTA-winning composer and you have a very cinematic experience in store. Of the few genuine scares I have had thus far, one of them was because of the sound design - could feel a nerve between my ear and the back of my neck go ice cold. Hope you've got a good speaker or headphones for this one.

The voice-acting is also quite good. I remember a time when silent protagonists were in vogue.
Developers like Valve defended Gordon Freeman's silence as a blank-slate upon which gamers could impress their own personalities. Over the years I feel that this approach has lost its appeal. Games like Mass Effect and The Witcher (or even Halo) have proven that having a voice-over for the main character adds much more depth to a game. The person they cast for Isaac in DS2 does his job well - he doesn't sound heroic and he doesn't have anything particularly memorable about his voice. And that's a good thing since Isaac is meant to be an average Joe caught up in a nightmare.

GAMEPLAY:
DS2 retains most of the core mechanics. Importantly, strategic dismemberment makes a bloody glorious return - its easily the most fun to be had this side of VATS! Isaac's movements have been refined so that its smoother and more responsive. This was a welcome improvement as there are certainly more enemies to handle in certain areas. The way Isaac navigates in zero-G has also been overhauled significantly - it can be a little disorienting at first, but its definitely more realistic. The weapons feel much like they did before - and I'm glad they didn't tinker with them too much. My favorite weapon so far is the Javelin gun, which packs a heck of a punch.

On normal, DS2 is a bit more challenging than the first game. You can get swarmed pretty quickly if you're not slow and steady in your exploration. Also, keep an eye on that ammo counter. Not a big deal on `normal', but I hear that on `hard' you have to make every single shot count (can't wait for my second playthrough!) There were a couple of cheap deaths - but nothing frustrating so far. The camera went unexpectedly wonky in one particularly cramped space - which didn't kill me but it did cause a lot of hurt.

Be warned that there is an obligatory and rather mundane hacking mini-game. IMHO, this gaming mechanic needs to be permanently abolished.
One thing that DS2 handles particularly well is the seamless integration of chapters. Unlike the first game where you knew the chapter would end every time you hopped on the rail, here there is a simple text that floats up on the bottom right of the screen, with the chapter number. Its non-intrusive, and honestly I've only noticed that text a couple of times. In most cases its not until a save station that I realize I'm into the next chapter.

BOTTOM LINE:
With better pacing and improvements on almost all aspects of the first game, Dead Space 2 is the first must-buy game of 2011. The scares aren't necessarily as intense, but they are still there. I'm not done with the game and have no idea on how it ends. However, if the developers continue to treat the material with genuine care and not treat it as a cash cow, I would love to see the franchise continue well into the future.

EDIT 2/1/11:
Finally finished the game after a marathon 5 hour session. Whats more, I launched a new game and played for another 2 hours after I was done. It really is that good. Wouldn't change a thing about my review - well maybe I'll just add that yes, one particular level took me back to the pure horror of the first game...
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 28, 2011 10:09:41 AM PST
Shanghaied says:
Great review. This seems like a genuinely great game, as I've been hearing from others who've played it.

How important is it to play the first one in terms of immersion?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 28, 2011 12:26:16 PM PST
Schwe1nehund says:
Thank you for the comment. The story has a strong sense of continuity so I think you'll be in for a richer experience if you play through the first game.

Posted on Jan 28, 2011 4:47:46 PM PST
C. Boeshaar says:
A review that doesn't focus on the DRM, thank god.

I want to get this game so badly considering how much I loved the first but I think I'm going to hold out for a price drop, hopefully that comes sooner rather than later..

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2011 9:24:45 AM PST
J. Schwarz says:
Does this game use DRM? I would like to know before the DRM messes up my expensive computer. I don't need no stinkin rootkit.

Posted on Jan 30, 2011 6:03:27 PM PST
Gullah Geek says:
Thanks for a thorough review. I still think I'll be waiting for a price drop before purchasing though.

Posted on Jan 31, 2011 6:21:01 AM PST
Dan Thomas says:
Is the keyboard re-mappable?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2011 6:43:09 PM PST
Schwe1nehund says:
Thanks! Good call - its not a very long game :S

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2011 6:43:27 PM PST
Schwe1nehund says:
Yes the keyboard is re-mappable.

Posted on Apr 16, 2011 11:15:39 AM PDT
Edward Green says:
if you are going to buy it used then drm would make a big difference

Posted on Mar 23, 2012 1:48:09 AM PDT
pyroguy says:
Did they get rid of that ridiculous ADS cannon part for this game, that was in the original "Dead Space"? As much as I loved the first game, the 1st ADS cannon part on the 4th Chapter is the only portion that I absolutely hate.
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