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Review: Dead Space 2 - PC, Xbox 360, PS3

by Steven Williamson on 17 February 2011, 16:44 4.6

Tags: Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), FPS

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What the hell is that freak?

The stars of the show are the Necromorphs, who cemented their place in videogame history in the first game as some of the most evil creatures you’ll ever encounter. For the sequel however, Visceral Games has pushed the boundaries even further by designing a bunch of freakish corpses and big bosses that take the gore factor to new heights for this particular genre. Take the Pukers, for instance, who disgustingly projectile vomit all over you, or the Guardians who stick to the ceiling with their tentacles dangling horrifically out of their wide-open stomachs. These new creatures and others work in perfect disharmony with some familiar old faces, like the infected babies that screech like Banshees and grab you with their trio of tentacles as they savagely rip away at your flesh; or the horrific-looking, lightning-quick Leapers who sport human heads, yet possess massive in-human jaws that house their repulsive razer sharp fangs. Their ability to shock and frighten with their array of inhuman attacks is impressive, but Visceral Games has also pulled out all the stops in terms of the overall production, with some spectacular set-pieces which will undoubtedly help to see it on its way to scooping up some awards come year end.

The gameplay too is deeply satisfying, thanks largely to the return of the dismemberment mechanic that was so popular in the first game. The natural reaction each time you see a Necromorph is to back off and keep back-peddling as you furiously blast away – you can’t help but be intimidated by these aggressive beasts – but despite the panic that these beasts cause you need to remain composed to be able to kill them quickly. The Necromorphs can appear out of nowhere, often in groups, and they attack quickly, barely giving you pause for thought. Like the previous game, head-shots don’t kill these creatures. Instead, you have to destroy – more often than not - three limbs until they can move no longer. Knowing that you have to be so accurate and quick to take them down before they get too close adds significantly to the excitement of the hunt. Visually too, combat and creature animation is spectacular as you blow heads and limbs clean off, execute finishing moves, and dramatically tap away on your control pad to prize off any Necromorph that grabs you.

The weapons on offer, from the Plasma Cutter and Pulse Rifle to the brilliant Flamethrower, handle well, and offer a good degree of tactical opportunity against an array of creatures that all have their own strengths and weaknesses. The upgrade feature, which allows you to change rate of fire, clip size etc., is still fairly unspectacular and lacking in depth, but rarely does shredding Necromorphs get boring. There’s also a range of special powers that add some variety away from combat, such as Telekenisis. You can do some impressive things with these powers, such as pick a limb off the floor and impale it directly through a Necromorph’s body, and you also use it for some environment-based puzzles to progress, like slotting fuses into boxes to open a door. Similarly, the Stasis ability is excellent for slowing creatures down – something you’ll need to do often to stop the onslaught.

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