This amazing survival horror amps up the bloodbaths and the menacing necromorph variety from the original!

User Rating: 9.5 | Dead Space 2 PS3
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Contains: Strong Bloody Violence, Horror and Gory Images
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Dead Space 2 is a survival horror third-person shooter sequel set 3 years later from the events in Dead Space.

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STORY - 3/5
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Dead Space 2 begins on the Sprawl, a densely populated metropolis built on a shard of Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Isaac Clarke is suffering from dementia, having no memory of the last 3 years after waking from a coma. A character called Franco is just about to release Isaac's straitjacket after an interrogation when he suddenly gets attacked and transformed into a necromorph, leaving Isaac to escape on his own unarmed. Isaac gets contacted by 2 people after his lucky escape from the savage necromorph attack - A women named Daina who claims to be able to help him, and a mentally unstable patient called Nolan Stross claiming he and Isaac can destroy the Marker which is no doubt the whole reason for this next necromorph invasion. Aswell as this struggling decision, Isaac must battle his dementia, the government seeking to terminate him, and visions of his dead girlfriend which are growing increasingly hostile as he dominates a gruesome new necromorph onslaught.
An excellent, optional, introduction is available before starting the game, which details all of the events that occurred in the first Dead Space, allowing you to catch up on things you missed, or simply to remind yourself of the classic story you experienced a couple of years ago when Dead Space was released. The story of Dead Space 2 revolves around the mysterious man-made artefact known as the Marker which was the centre of attention in the plot of Dead Space, and it's presence makes everything turn grim and nightmarish yet again here. There is almost 2 stories here, which equally link to each other and constantly run parallel from start to finish. One is the primary objective to destroy the Marker, and the other involves the protagonist battling with dementia, the government and visions of Nicole as he slips ever closer to total emotional and mental collapse.
The story isn't as intriguing as the first game, and you must ensure that you are following closely to the plot developments and unravelling events because if you lose track of what's happening it could be difficult to regain understanding, and the thrill of the story could slip away from you.

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CHARACTERS - 3/5
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Space engineer Isaac Clarke, the protagonist of the first game, is all too familiar with the necromorphs, who infect and reanimate corpses into their own alien form. This time however, Isaac has been given a voice, and is no longer the silent protagonist taking orders from the first game. Understandably, the voice given to him is to give him some personality and some background as he battles his dementia and to tell a really personal story about a person who is scarred by the events around him aswell as giving him opportunities to make objectives of his own on the path for answers. The talking Isaac isn't really likeable, but you still feel for him throughout the game as he battles with himself, the tormenting visions that threaten to kill him if the Marker isn't destroyed, and the government, and you'll hope he completes his desired missions and inner battles nonetheless.
Other characters that get swept up in the terrifying events are largely uninteresting except for a few exceptions that prove important in their roles in the developing story, and each person you see has an actor/actress that provides the characters likeness and voice.

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GAMEPLAY - 5/5
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Dead Space 2 opens with a bloodthirsty and intense sequence that shows the commencing necromorph outbreak infecting the rest of the Sprawl, and you must quickly navigate out of the horror and violence which has unfortunately been injected into Isaac's unstable mental state, aswell as his ever-increasing sense of misfortune for predicaments yet again. An over-the-shoulder perspective, holographic menu, inventory and HUD display and an important emphasis on dismemberment tactics remain largely unaltered except for some minor tweaks and polish where possible. But technically, there wasn't any room for improvement for the innovative and grotesquely unique dismemberment gameplay, and so minor tweaks here and there simply add effect and polish to something already immensely satisfying, violent and technically efficient that never feels repetitive. Dismembering enemies also provides a lot more blood than before, spraying and splattering over surfaces and covering up the layers beneath. Plus this time necromorphs contain items of value once dead such as credits, ammo and medical packs, and to obtain these much needed items you are encouraged to stomp them to gain them which induces a lot of gore and dismembering into the gameplay even when the area is clear and you're free to proceed forward.
Kinesis and stasis return fixated into your suit, and kinesis, which was mainly used for environmental puzzles on Dead Space, proves a much more offensive ability here with the force to pin necromorphs to walls with their own limbs in a satisfying and ironic way. Stasis slows necromorphs very briefly and very effectively allowing you to precisely dismember limbs of your choice, and each of these offensive abilities can also be used defensively aswell as for puzzle-solving. All the repurposed mining tools-turned-dismemberment weapons and guns from Dead Space return along with some new limb cutting equipment, such as the familiar limb shredding Ripper for up-close attacks, and the handy plasma cutter, while new ones include a Javelin Gun that propels spears at enemies with extreme velocity that has enough power to pin them to walls at long distances and a Detonator gun that allows you to place trip-wire plasma beams that dismember anything that strays into the blue beam. Purchasing new suits, weapons, ammo and other items requires you to find and collect schematics that can then be downloaded at the store, and rare electronic components known as semi-conductors (that vary in rarity) can be sold for credits to purchase items to fill your inventory slots. Each suit upgrades Isaac's RIG inventory slots to hold more things while also introducing a unique grant to the wearer when the suit is in use. All weapons and your RIG functions can be upgraded with power nodes, and there are so many circuits to chain together with the nodes that you must carefully implant the nodes into the circuit so that you don't waste the weapon. Upgrades mostly influence dismemberment damage and ammo capacity, but some weapons have a special upgrade that is extremely unique and advantageous when the weapon is in use.
Dead Space 2 has some game changing improvements implemented to worthwhile effect that make the action feel less repetitive (not that dismembering necromorphs gruesomely ever becomes or feels tedious). The Sprawls pressurised environment offers instances to dramatically kill necromorphs where certain rooms have fragile glass that when shattered will suck everything within the room with extreme force towards the opening into the vacuum of space including you, and the only way to stop yourself from a suffocating death is to shoot a sensor that brings a metallic emergency door down over the gap allowing you to breathe fresh air and relax momentarily on your near-death experience. It's a risky and thrilling manoeuvre that splits up the primary action in thrilling style, and is often too difficult to pass up such an awesome scripted sequence once you notice the presence of the opportunity. The other big change to gameplay is the control of Isaac in zero gravity. Rather than jumping from surface to surface and encountering that disorientating sensation, in Dead Space 2 you have 360 degree movement and control, making some of the puzzles out in the vast galaxy memorable and a false sense of being huge in scale since you know that you can't escape out there.

Your powerful arsenal of weapons isn't enough to ensure your safety on your travels around the Sprawl, and the horror aspect that sustains tension threatens you with terrifying danger around every corner of every environment. While the game is scary with much credit to the audio and the visuals, Dead Space 2 fails to feel extremely frightening like the first game, and that is mainly because most of the environments you traverse are free of darkness and illuminated by enough light to guide yourself through. This is not bad at all, since the level design is so good and allows you to catch a glimpse of all the gory imagery and environmental details there to see, but it does have an unfortunate effect on the horror aspect as each scenario slightly filters the scare factor as you can almost guarantee you'll see the psychological scare or physical presence coming. The game becomes progressively difficult throughout each chapter, where health and ammo are limited and you must fire all your ammo sparingly to avoid devastating moments of relying on melee attacks which almost certainly means a gory death, but with the option to change the difficulty as you play, you can enjoy moments of panic and then free yourself by changing down the difficulty briefly to avoid frustrating moments when you die suddenly in one swift necromorph attack where they advance on you without warning.

Dead Space 2 offers more action orientated scripted events than Dead Space with added emphasis on survival and dramatic shooting, but all the while constantly maintains a creepy feeling that is both bone-chilling and perfectly replicates what you got menaced with before. More gore and more thrills with extra weapons and slight gameplay advances keep everything from feeling repetitive and dismembering necromorphs has never been more satisfying and gruesome where you are encouraged to cut off every limb and paint the Sprawl blood red.

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GRAPHICS - 5/5
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Each location of the Sprawl is visually stunning, both artistically in terms of level design and detail, and technically in terms of how smooth the framerate is with no screen tearing ever becoming apparent. As you are aboard a space city (once) populated by everyday people, there are many more varied places that you spill blood within rather than the confined engineering and medical decks on board a planet-cracker such as the USG Ishimura. You'll tread through locales including a derelict shopping mall, a colourful school and nursery and also traipse through a hotel styled area where the necromorph invasion is still occurring with innocent people being doomed into a brutal transformation before your very eyes. The graphics are just sensationally impressive conveying across all the gruesome events with gore and disturbing images in stomach-churning detail that you'll witness throughout with intimidating but positive effect.
Holographic menu projections return, and the way the HUD is integrated into Isaac's suit is really well designed to keep you immersed in what's happening around you, and even when you bring up the inventory or pick up a text log, you are always vulnerable to attack making it crucial to pick the right moment when you want to see your current inventory stock.

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SOUND - 5/5
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Blood-curdling audio is always present, making the danger even more imposing with how nerve-wracking the composed piece of music is, directly influencing how much panic you'll feel resting on your shoulders as you cautiously move forwards, treading carefully as you trek across a necromorph infested space city dripping with gore and corpses, and an unrelenting threat that makes each scenario never feel safe (even the calmness of being in a claustrophobic lift can put you in a false state of feeling safe) as you can become attacked from just about anywhere with similar nervous effects to your confidence as you drive Isaac forward to battle through the story. Isaac may be bland as a character with no much personality to make him a truly likeable one, but the voice acting is solid and convincing for every character which you either see face to face on video holograms or hear over audio recordings from victims leaving their last remaining minutes.

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CONTROLS - 5/5
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The excellent over-the-shoulder perspective is the perfect choice for controlling Isaac yet again in this horror sequel, and with refined movement, Isaac is more agile to control during quick survival escape sequences. All the controls are perfectly laid out, slightly different from Dead Space so they may take a while if you make the transition from that game directly to the sequel, but all the same are tight and consistently responsive.

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ATMOSPHERE - 5/5
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One of the most important aspects of this survival horror game is the atmosphere, and while I previously mentioned the game is slightly less scary than it's predecessor, the atmosphere generated is still a remarkable achievement and nothing short of a masterpiece in game design. Wandering through a location resembling the Church of Unitology early on in the game is creepy and haunting, and as you've played Dead Space, you'll know all about their obsession with the Marker and how it is "divine" and how it links to the story. Most areas, even the school, have music that generates that nervous tension to perfection, inducing occasional scares with bloody imagery to keep you on the edge of your seat. Visions of Isaac's dead girlfriend have a great effect on the psychological aspect of the horror, as you know what you are seeing isn't real, but the menacing visions that create a creepy visual effect force you to rethink otherwise. All the bloodthirsty events are intense, with added gore and brutality to further enhance the intensity, and the fact the necromorphs are so relentless makes for pulse pounding moments.

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ENEMY AI - 5/5
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The polymorphic, virus-like, alien infestation that transforms and reanimates corpses into terrifying necromorphs are the villainous alien race again on board the Sprawl, and more varieties question your ability to adapt as quickly and as efficiently as possible to prevent yourself from becoming the next meal out of many as once again the human race could be threatened. The standard slasher necromorphs are the most common, sprinting at you, gargling words with spine-tingling motivation that makes no sense, but their efforts and expressions are clear if they become within proximity as they grab you in a finishing move hold and look to spill your entrails across the floor. Every single necromorph type is terrifying in appearance, and the fact that each type can adapt to dismembered limbs differently, produce new ones or simply make use of the ones left, make them a constant danger and imposing threat on your progress. Stalling necromorphs by blasting off certain limbs only aggravates them into a more fearful rage. Typically, necromorphs attack in waves, and their intelligence is beyond what their appearance suggests. They frequently use the ventilation systems to make their way around the Sprawl, attacking suddenly and violently, leaving you in a predicament you'd dare run away from. They spawn anywhere, and unfortunately unexpected attacks can happen behind you making some tasks of eliminating all the enemies in the area a bit of a struggle, but this intelligence of flanking is made more prudent with the new types of necromorph. Stalkers show signs of increased intelligence you don't expect from the necromorph race, and their take-cover procedures and flanking tactics make them an alien force to be reckoned with and can even be compared to the dinosaur Velociraptor for their intelligent stalking methods. Another variety is the Pack, which are weak individually, but are extremely life threatening and dangerous when they attack in large numbers, and if these toddler-like aliens latch onto with their claws, you'll have to gruesomely dispatch of them before more close in on you.
Some enemies will prove an irritation, but their presence always proves meaningful as you undertake handfuls of different varieties in one brief attack where you must quickly engage your senses to suss out and subsequently exploit their weaknesses to eliminate them entirely from the necromorph onslaught, and the irritation is solely because of how well the enemies utilise their attacks to lose your focus on everything else around you, and so when a Puker spits acid at you which slows you down, you understand the method used makes you more vulnerable for faster necromorphs in a team-based effort to eat you alive.

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LENGTH - 5/5
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The single player campaign of Dead Space 2 extends to a very satisfactory length of about 13 hours if you make full use of exploring for hidden items within each area, and despite how threatening the environments feel and how nervous you may possibly be, exploring and uncovering secret valuables is something you daren't miss if you want to progress and advance quicker and become a more aggressive protagonist with even more powerful equipment to dispatch hordes of menacing necromorphs.

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REPLAY VALUE - 5/5
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Replaying Dead Space 2 is worthwhile for many reasons you'll consider after completing Isaac's haunting ordeal and journey to destroy the very thing responsible for the unfolding events. A new game plus option is available upon completing the game on any difficulty, where all your credits, upgrades and inventory items are carried over to the next playthrough, no doubt making things slightly easier, but all the while making you even more powerful. Upgrading all equipment and weapons would take at least 3 or 4 playthroughs of thoroughly collecting power nodes, and changing the difficulty to balance out your authority of increased dealing of damage is appropriate to sustain that survival aspect and keep the enjoyment factor high.
Get invested with Isaac's terrible inner battle, and dismember limb by bloody limb from the threatening necromorph race as you strive to end the nightmarish ordeal that inexplicably involves you to overcome the devastating aftermath that the Marker leaves when active. Isaac survived the events on the USG Ishimura, but his mind is no longer safe... for the Marker changes all...

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OVERALL SUMMARY - 9.5/10
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Good Points: Lots of menacing and intelligent necromorph types that require you to adapt differently, Stunning graphics and environment designs, Creepy audio and sound effects create a nerve-wracking atmosphere, Constantly gory and intense with plenty of disturbing imagery, Dismembering necromorphs limb by limb is just as thrilling and gruesome as before.

Bad Points: Story and characters aren't as intriguing as you'd like, Many enemy spawns trigger behind you.
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