Top critical review
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[2A + (-1.5 Sx)] x mRv/$' = dS2 ---> *See Translation Below
on January 30, 2011
*Twice as Much Action, Half the Scare Factor and Only Minor Revisions in a Large Budget Horror Sequel Equal a Slightly Disappointing 2nd Chapter for the Dead Space Series.
Little Big Planet 2, Uncharted 2, Killzone 2, Assassins Creed 2, and God of War 3. Whenever a sequel to a big name game is announced, people expect it to feature more than a few improvements over the original. These aforementioned games raise the benchmark by delivering on the promised experience. As my pre-order implied, I expected nothing less from the next installment of Dead Space. Yet through my 14 hour trek across the Sprawl, I found myself more often disappointed than inspired. Ultimately, my dissatisfaction with this game boils down to one issue: it feels rushed to market. After setting down the controller I found myself wondering which of the two games was better. Dead Space 2 features more enemies and environments, more streamlined action and slightly refined combat and telekinesis. The original Dead Space had a more convincing story, a more frenetic sense of urgency/survival, better enemy and item placement, and a darker ambiance. In effect, Dead Space 2 is like a Carnival Haunted House. It has predictable scares, confined corridors and a few cheap thrills. Most of why it feels scary is because of where you are, rather than what is actually going on. In the end, it feels like you paid a lot of money for an experience they rushed to build. My review places an emphasis on areas I feel could have been improved if more time was spent in development. I would still consider Dead Space 2 a good game, just not everything we expected from a large budget sequel.
For those of you who buy USED games BEWARE: Dead Space 2 has an online access code that you must enter to play multiplayer. If you buy the game used and the code has already been activated, you will have to purchase a new code before going online. Dead Space Extraction, included on the Limited Edition, is a very good port of the Wii game. The Move is much more accurate, video retains the grainy look of the Wii version but is much sharper, and sound has been radically overhauled. I recently purchased the Sharp Shooter for Killzone 3 and it works SUPERBLY for Extraction. My only complaint for controls is that the weapons must be cycled through with a button, or with left/right on the d-pad. The Wii version allowed you to map different guns to specific directions, so I wonder why this was not added to the analog stick or directional pad for PS3. On another note, the full game must be "downloaded" to your hard-drive from the Bluray then installed to play. It is a 3.5GB install, and will not play directly from the disc. To prevent you from letting your friends borrow the disc to get Extraction for free, you must also have the Dead Space 2 disc in the system to access the game (even though it was fully downloaded onto your system). It doesn't bother me, but I'm sure it would aggravate somebody with less hard-drive space.
GRAPHICS AND ENVIRONMENTS:
Graphics have not received any noticeable improvement. This comes at somewhat of a cost considering the limited facial animations and character movements hold back the terrific voice acting. Suit design is flawlessly executed whereas character models look like early release PS3 games. This juxtaposition carries on throughout other elements of the game. Newer enemy models are drastically split between being cleverly designed (ones modeled after Velociraptors named Stalkers) and very poorly animated (Yellow Necromorph Babies called Crawlers). There are multiple new settings, each of which is essentially a chapter or two within the story. The problem is that each environment features graphics or room design that is copied and pasted. It becomes rather tedious to pass the same storefront 3 times within a single mall, or to read the same messages (written in the same size and same font) across the walls of 5 Unitologist apartments. Banners and video messages also repeat every 5-25 seconds, so the longer you explore an area the more it feels contrived vs organic. Lighting is excellent. Set piece sequences feature some distinct visuals, but are usually over very rapidly and almost ALL of them were featured in the trailers for the game. A few areas offer some exciting eye candy (wood backdrops in a gym, flowing lights in a tunnel, duct-taped insulation, frozen storage) but ultimately these make me disappointed in what the game could have been. If more time was put into the game I'm sure a lot more of these visuals would have been implemented into the settings (instead of spaced apart every 2-3 hours to hold your interest).
Targeting can be changed between Centered (sight will be on middle of screen), or Classic (sight will follow path of weapon). I found myself using the Classic mode from the first game, because it kept throwing me off to have my left aligned character aim at a different angle than where he was pointing his weapon. Most of your arsenal operates exactly the same as in the original game, which is a good thing. You have to keep in mind that the ammo you find will primarily be from whatever you have equipped. Equipping a weapon you do not use often will result in finding less ammo for guns you do use! Several new members of the battery are quite helpful when upgraded, but must be utilized against certain enemies for full damage. The detonator is a proximity mine that is very effective against Stalkers when accurately placed. However, the game once again feels rushed with its detection coding. Rather than detonate based only on enemy movement, the mines will be set off if they touch anything of necromorph origin. The problem is that mines will continue to explode as you set them if the blue lasers touch any necromorph segment on the ground or wall. This can be troublesome if trying to set them in a hurry. The Javelin is functional, but much more difficult to aim against fast foes without stasis since it has a single point of impact and takes multiple hits to dismember or impale. The Rivet gun pre-order is virtually useless since it has a very small target zone and takes the most hits to dismember an enemy.
Zero gravity is far and away the best revision of the sequel, giving you the ability to fly in any direction and easily re-orient towards the ground. Sadly, most of these parts feature either very primitive puzzles or very basic action despite having the tools for much more. Some of the set piece sequences also place you in a position without immediate prompt. I sat on a train car for about 3 minutes once, looking at the city outside before I realized I had to progress to the next car for the train to get any closer to the station. The few action segments that try to break up the pacing are dispersed VERY far apart. One sequence involves riding on top of a mining vehicle, but ultimately plays out like any other "stuck in the elevator with enemies pouring in" section of the game. It would have been better if these sections featured unique gameplay and controls rather than simple backdrop exchanges. Remember that annoying enemy that couldn't be killed in the first game? He's back too, with an army of friends to push you through a series of corridors. The ending boss also feels like they ran out of ideas on how to implement Isaac's internal struggle with his external. Running in circles to find ammo and watching the same death sequence 40 times from recycled enemies was disheartening. At least the section afterwards offered a slight reprieve. Why were more sections like this flight sequence not offered in the rest of the game?
Ambient sound and voice acting is well executed. Isaac's character is believable even though not entirely unique or memorable. Most of the better lines in the script actually come towards the last 2 hours of the game when Isaac starts to express his frustration. The voice actor delivers these lines right on target. Some of the "startle effects" are impeccably used the first time you hear them, and then become cliche as you progress. For example, I almost jumped when a toilet flushed by itself as I explored a room. Following this, whenever I walked into any other bathroom in the Unitologist apartments the toilets would flush by themselves too. After the first time, "surprise" tactics lose their punch. These are used quite a bit although giving more examples would ruin that "first time" for you as well. To save production time, I believe certain objects were all programmed to behave the same way. The scrambled voice effect and lower sound mixing for the "dementia" scenes also made it very difficult to determine what was being said. Since the story is primarily driven by Isaac's state of confusion, it was disappointing that these moments become lost in the fray. Turning on subtitles helps, but the subtitles are not perfect and will fall behind the voice acting. Usually a subtitle will scroll slightly before audio, but this was not properly designed in DS 2.
From start to finish, Dead Space 2 really struggles to come up with a meaningful story. Isaac supposedly has progressive "dementia," but it doesn't manifest itself in his abilities in any way whatsoever. The "ghostly presence" of his dead girlfriend throughout the narrative sometimes comes across as either forced or unnecessary. It fails to convey a real sense of mental degradation. Remember that one scene in the trailer where he is struggling with himself and the needle? The brevity and placement of the scene ultimately fails to serve as the effective foreshadow it was meant to be. In short: It worked better for the trailer than it did in the game. The other characters really have no motivation aside from: we were here and need to get out, or I'm doing this because the person in command told me to. I found myself asking all of the same questions at the end of the game. So how did Isaac initially become the target of contesting factors? What are the real motivations for the Church of Unitology and what IS the joining the marker is used for? All of these questions and more have a nice little blanket thrown over them. You can make your own assumptions, but I was really hoping for the details. There was never any moment where I thought WOW, that was great storytelling! The worst part is that the story of the first game actually sets up the premise better than this sequel. I didn't really like the "Hey Isaac..now we need you to go here and rebuild/fix this" from the 1st game; however, it still seemed better than the "Hey somebody from an organization we just heard about is looking for you and the shuttle only goes here...get aboard!" from this game.
Aside from plot holes, certain inconsistencies screamed out to me as well. In a few scenes, main characters are disfigured or injured and seem helpless. In the following scene they're acting all bad ass and the injury doesn't affect them at all. The Dead Space fiction from DS1 also states that the Hive Mind was created by the Marker as an overseer to direct the actions of the Necromorphs aboard the Ishimura and Aegis 7. Random online sources speculate that the invincible enemies near the finale of DS2 are juvenile stages of hive minds because of minor visual similarities. The problem is that the story never alludes to the Hive Mind, or offer any continuity in regards to how the Sprawl became infected with Necromorphs. According to one journal, creating a "new Marker" on the Sprawl began to show signs of life returning to destroyed Necromorph "goo." However, nothing details the exact nature of this resurgence nor does it fit with the original model found on Aegis 7. Ultimately I just felt like I was constructing a detailed puzzle that was missing quite a few pieces out of the box. I would have been much more entertained by the narrative if I felt it added to the mystery of the Necromorph origin and motivations.
As I played the game all I could think about was how my review would differ from those I read online. In summation, it seemed like the game was quickly executed to follow up on the animated film Downfall and Wii's Extraction. Sadly enough, this game has more than enough opportunity to become an instant classic. It seems like an impressive storyboard was constructed for different enemies and environments, but then filled in between with just enough cover to release it on time.
Dead Space 2 is a fun ride, just be sure to get a cheaper ticket before you hop on board. (7.9/10)