Published Mar 01, 2011Horror games, much like horror films, appeal to a small, but hardcore, niche. Which is why aliens or zombies ― or, in the case of Dead Space, alien-zombies ― provide a nice entry point for the less horrifically inclined.
The first Dead Space became a cult classic, if not quite a commercial smash, and EA banked on its critical reputation as a masterpiece of fright-gaming to catapult the sequel into the black. Our third-person protagonist, Isaac Clarke (an engineer not so subtly named after sci-fi legends Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke) finds himself once again trapped amidst a maze of alien-zombie-infested corridors.
The original's use of these design elements felt scary as hell, despite the fact that it was, ultimately, an alien-zombie hybrid itself, built out of old pop culture nuggets like early '90s PC classic DOOM and seminal sci-fi flick Alien. That boldness couldn't help but be diminished by a second go-around, so Dead Space 2 upped the already red-level intensity to make a more action-oriented game while also creating a more in-depth dystopia reminiscent of BioShock.
Set in a Saturn-orbiting space complex aptly called the Sprawl about three years after the first game, you awaken in an insane asylum, afflicted by amnesia, dementia and bound in a straightjacket. Oh, and your girlfriend's angry ghost. Suddenly the hallways become blood-spattered, as everyone is attacked by the franchise's familiar "necromorph" monsters, which reanimate your fallen comrades. As ever, the way to win is better living through dismemberment ― and the gore, both visual and aural, keeps you cringing even as you aim and fire your weaponry.
A lot of icky love went into making this freaky, atmospheric game. Its production values are as good as any and there are new features, most notably Isaac's voice, improved zero gravity environments, a javelin gun and, yep, baby Necromorphs! Everything here is bigger and grosser ― developer Visceral Games is well named. But there's no getting around the fact that this return to Dead Space lacks horror's most important quality: fear of the unknown. (Visceral Games/EA)