So using all of the above, you can turn yourself into one bad mutha in Dead Space 2. But jeez, whatta they got in there? King Kong?
Well they might as well since you're going to have to face a metric ton of alien monstrosities of all shapes and sizes including the usual suspects from the original game such as Slashers, Leapers and Lurkers (oh my!)
You'll also be facing some new kids on the block which will give all but the iron-nerved a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Notable among these are mini-Slashers which I like to call the Screaming Claw Children each of which can be taken down with a single Plasma Cutter shot. This would be all good and well except they typically attack you in large packs while screaming maniacally and if one of them gets close enough, it will climb all over you triggering a quick time event forcing you to fight it off. Of course once you do, it's pretty much too late as all the rest of them will have had time to swarm around you and will lather, rinse and repeat you into a dribbling pile of goo on the floor. The first time I faced a band of these evil little brats (I won't spoil it and say where) was one of the most unnerving video game experiences I ever had.
Elsewhere in the game you'll get introduced to some sweat breakers officially known as Stalkers each of which resembles a kind of alien velociraptor. These are usually found areas which contain a lot of cover behind which they can dart suspensefully to and fro biding their time waiting to the right moment to come at you at a breakneck speed. Dealing with a warehouse full of these murderous bipeds is an equally hair raising experience as you realize to your horror that these buggers simply won't come out and fight fair and will gladly wage a hit-and-run war of attrition waiting for that one moment where you slip up.
Other newbies in the monster department include little piles of pulsating goop called Cysts which are found sticking to walls in especially dark areas. These act like traps since they are well camouflaged and usually make their presence known only after you managed to blunder your way right up close and personal with them at which point they'll spit out an explosive blob that deftly knocks you on your keester. Players soon learn to walk softly and carry a big stick (read: Plasma Cutter) whenever their sickly telltale moans are heard.
You'll also encounter some other party poopers called Pukers whose projectile vomit can drench you with last night's supper, the effect of which temporarily slows your movements to a crawl. Wait. What? The aliens have a stasis attack now? (*gulp*)...
- Zero-G jumping is no longer simply launching from one surface and sticking to another. Now you can actually free float in space and fly around wherever you like. Very, very cool.
- Game chapters (i.e., levels) are no longer bookended by tram rides. Instead chapters are defined simply by a text heading silently appearing in the bottom right corner of the game screen announcing the new chapter. This looks really slick but unfortunately amidst everything else that is going on, it's easy to overlook that you've begun a new chapter. (Not sure I like this but what-the-hey.)
- There is no more map. Although since you still have the locator tool —which draws a line on the floor pointing you in the direction of your objective— some might consider having a map redundant. The Dead Space 2 locator tool can also be configured to point you in the direction of the nearest store, bench or save station. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed using the 3D holographic multi-level map in the original game so this is something I will sorely miss.
- Isaac now talks which gives him a distinct personality you can really invest in. By the way, the voice acting and the script in Dead Space 2 are both superb.
- The new game+ mode, where you can start a new game using all the upgraded weapons and resources acquired in a previous playthrough, now allows you to play on a higher difficulty level which is, in fact, the way it should have been handled in Dead Space 1 which forced you to play a new game+ in the same difficulty setting of your original playthrough. Big thumbs up for this, Visceral.
- After completing the game, you unlock Hardcore mode, a Survivalist/Zealot hybrid difficulty setting designed for the criminally insane who believe they can complete the game using only 3 saves (meaning you must complete the game in no more than four sittings). You're also completely derived of checkpoint restarts. When you die, that's it, that's all. Start over from your last save game. Holy crap, Batman.
- Dead Space 2 now has a multiplayer mode.. (*face palm*) Why, oh why, is everyone and their monkey's uncle jumping on this bandwagon? Anyway, now you can experience Dead Space in multiplayer mode by joining a team of other players online pitting their skills against another. You can play as a human or a necromorph, earn experience points and level up into a force to be reckoned with (or into a source of amusement for others depending on your abilities).
All in all, despite any criticisms I may have, I think Dead Space 2 is a fabulously slick production that will take you on a white knuckly action hero scare trek rivalling that of Ripley's journey in Aliens. The graphics are gorgeous, the award winning sound is back with all its dripping, clanging and shrieking, the gameplay is spectacular and it's got replay value up the ying-yang with new game+ and hardcore modes.
Alright, so enough with the analysis. Buy Dead Space 2, you may ask?
YES. Absolutely. Best $60 I spent on gaming in the past 12 months. Seriously.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play through it again.
~ Major Slack