The player controls Isaac Clarke from a third-person perspective, looking over the character's right shoulder. As in the previous game, the game uses the Resource Integration Gear (RIG) suit, an in-world HUD system that uses holograms projected from Issac's suit and weapons to show information such as messages and ammunition count, respectively. In cases where oxygen is cut off, a timer appears on Isaac's right shoulder, counting how much oxygen his suit has before he suffocates. The RIG also uses gauges on Isaac's back to display his health and stasis module levels.
The player acquires two modules: a "stasis" module, which allows Isaac to slow down enemies and objects, slowing down otherwise-impassable moving obstacles (e.g. active heavy machinery) to allow Isaac to pass through safely; and the "kinesis" module, which allows Isaac to carry and fire objects telekinetically; this can also be used to pull the blades off Necromorphs to impale them. The player may upgrade their weapons and armor at work benches, using power nodes found throughout the game. There are also automated stores, where the player can buy and sell various items and gain new weapons and suits through acquiring schematics found throughout the Sprawl. The player also encounters zero-G environments, where Isaac is capable of maneuvering with thrusters attached to his suit. Both normal and zero-G environments may be in areas within the vacuum of outer space; in these situations, Isaac must refill his limited oxygen supply via oxygen dispensers.
Much like in the first game, Isaac must fight hordes of Necromorphs, organisms that mutate and take control of human corpses. To take down Necromorphs, the player must use "strategic dismemberment": slicing off limbs or sections of the Necromorphs' bodies. For example, shooting a Slasher Necromorph in the head will, like many other types, have little effect; however, they can be stopped by shooting its arms off. Depending on how they are wounded, Necromorphs can adopt new stances and tactics, even sprouting new limbs or giving birth to new enemies in the process.
Dead Space 2's main campaign offers five difficulty levels (listed in order of difficulty): Casual, Normal, Survivalist, Zealot and Hard Core. Hard Core is unlocked once the game has been completed on any other difficulty. Playable only from a fresh start, Hard Core mode limits the player to three saves in the entire story. Additionally, pickups and credits are very difficult to find, enemies are very challenging, and checkpoints are absent.
Multiplayer mode pits two four-player teams of Humans and Necromorphs against each other. Each playable human character has two weapons in their arsenal. New weapons and improvements can be unlocked through level progression, along with different colored suits for the humans. The Necromorphs, on the other hand, unlock improvements to their current abilities, as well as bonuses to health or damage.
The game begins in a lunatic asylum on the Sprawl, a densely-populated space station surrounding a shard of Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Currently, the Sprawl is now host to a new Marker, which has led to another Necromorph outbreak. Isaac Clarke has no memory of the past three years, having just been awoken by Franco Delille (protagonist of Dead Space Ignition); however, Franco is killed by an Infector Necromorph and immediately mutates into a monster himself, leaving Isaac to escape on his own. He is later contacted by Daina Le Guin, a woman claiming to have a cure for his "condition". He is also contacted by fellow patient Nolan Stross (a main character from Dead Space: Aftermath), who endured a treatment similar to Isaac's. Daina explains that Hans Tiedemann, the Sprawl's administrator, forced them both to rebuild the Marker after finding Isaac adrift in space near Aegis VII. She further divulges that a self-replicating signal was imprinted on Isaac's mind by his previous encounter with the Marker, putting his life in grave danger, which left Tiedemann no choice but to keep in check by the use of potent memory suppressants. Ignoring Stross, Isaac fights his way through the city (still filled with survivors trying to escape the Necromorphs) to reach Daina. Along the way, Isaac experiences hallucinations of Nicole, which become more vivid as "she" tries to deter him from his task. Upon his arrival, Daina, a Unitologist agent, has Isaac restrained, claiming that they need him to build more Markers to spread Convergeance, an event foretold in Unitology, across the universe; before they can leave, however, a Sprawl gunship kills Daina and her associates, allowing Isaac to escape.
Stross contacts Isaac again, claiming that they can destroy the Marker, telling him its location in the Sprawl's Government Sector; left with no choice, Isaac reluctantly decides to trust Stross. As he makes his way there, Isaac comes across Ellie Langford, a CEC pilot who eventually joins their mission. As they travel through the Sprawl, they encounter several obstacles caused by Tiedemann and the Necromorphs. Later, Stross' dementia worsens, causing him to stab Ellie's eye out with a screwdriver; she survives, while Isaac is later forced to kill Stross in self-defense. After further verbal assaults from "Nicole", Isaac comes to accept the guilt of being unable to prevent Nicole's death, causing the visions to become benign.
Upon reaching the Government Sector, Isaac sends a protesting Ellie away alone on a gunship, saying "I couldn't save Nicole, but I can save you, Ellie." Once inside, he sets the Necromorphs onto Tiedemann's forces near the Marker chamber. When Isaac reaches the Marker, he finds it surrounded by Necromorphs, which triggers Convergence. With "Nicole" guiding him, he comes upon the NoonLight Diagnostic Machine (which activates the Marker-affected parts of one's brain, and was used on him and Stross prior to the events of the game) which "Nicole" claims will help him. He then fights his way to the Marker, where he encounters and kills a nearly-defaced Tiedemann. As Isaac approaches the Marker, "Nicole" suddenly pulls him into his own mind, revealing that the only way to make the Marker "whole" is to absorb the body and mind of the one who created it—in this case, Isaac himself. Infuriated and betrayed, Isaac destroys "Nicole" and the Marker codes in his mind in a grueling battle, destroying the Marker in the process.
Waking up, Isaac slumps to the ground, ready to accept his fate. The damage caused to the Sprawl by the massive release of energy from the Marker's destruction, along with all the other damage it had sustained, destabilized the station's reactors, causing a meltdown. Suddenly, Isaac receives a call from Ellie, who crashes the gunship through the ceiling. As the room collapses, Isaac makes his way onto the gunship, and they escape from the Sprawl as it explodes. On board the gunship, Isaac, sensing a repetition of the previous game's ending, turns to see Ellie, who asks, "What?"
In a post-credits scene, an audio transmission is heard between two people: an unknown subordinate and his ranking superior (known only as "the Overseer" from one of the text logs that can be collected during the course of the game). The subordinate relays that Titan Station (which was Marker Site 12) and the Site 12 Marker have been destroyed. The Overseer replies that the other sites will then have to "pick up the pieces".
[icon] This section requires expansion. (April 2012)
See also: Dead Space 2 Original Videogame Score
The game's creative director, Wright Bagwell, said that Dead Space was very similar to Resident Evil: "There's an interesting story from Dead Space and Dead Space 2, which is that when we started building Dead Space, we basically started with a mechanic set that was really similar to Resident Evil 4. The [people on the] team were really huge fans of that game."
The game's art director, Ian Milham, commented about the multiplayer of Dead Space 2: "Other games are fine[,] but this is different. It's the kind of multiplayer that could only exist in a Dead Space type world."
A closed multiplayer beta began on September 23, 2010. A playable demo was released for the Xbox Live Marketplace worldwide and PlayStation Network on December 21, 2010 in North America and on December 22, 2010 in Europe.
As part of a build up campaign to Dead Space 2's release, Visceral Games ran a competition via Facebook to get your face in the game by creating a piece of text, video or artwork detailing a melee kill by Isaac Clarke. The winner, chosen from ten finalists, had their face put on a character, who will meet a rather violent end in the game.
A downloadable game was released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Marketplace prior to the release of Dead Space 2. Titled Dead Space Ignition, it comprises three minigames: Hardware Crack, Trace Route, and System Override. Dead Space Ignition has four endings and obtaining each ending unlocks a piece of equipment for use in Dead Space 2. The creator of the Dead Space comic book series Antony Johnston wrote the story for Dead Space: Ignition. The game was also available as a free pre-order bonus with the standard and collectors edition.
EA announced that the multiplayer component of the game would be receiving two new multiplayer maps. The "Outbreak Map Pack" which includes The Academy and The Concourse, will send players back to survive multiplayer evisceration in The Sprawl on May 31 and June 3 for Xbox 360 and PS3, respectively.
The Collector's Edition of Dead Space 2 features a copy of the game, replica plasma cutter, CD soundtrack, DLC voucher (for access to the Unitology Suit and Force Gun) and artwork. In North America, all three system versions comes with the plasma cutter. In Europe, however, only the Xbox 360 and PC versions come with the plasma cutter. The PlayStation 3 version forgoes the replica gun and comes with Dead Space: Extraction, and a DLC voucher for access to the Rivet Gun. It is the HD version of Extraction which supports PlayStation Move, features co-op gameplay options, and has been updated to include full trophy support.
Three downloadable content packages were available at launch: the Hazard pack, the Supernova pack and the Martial Law pack for consoles. Each include multiple new suits and weapons. The PC version included the DLC free as part of a later patch. The Outbreak Map Pack containing three free multiplayer maps was released in March 2011 for consoles.
The first post-launch downloadable content package, titled Dead Space 2: Severed, was announced on January 25, 2011. It features characters previously seen in Dead Space: Extraction contained in a standalone two chapter single-player campaign with Gabe Weller as the protagonist. It was released on March 1, 2011 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 only.
For the advertising campaign, 200 women were selected for their conservative values and lack of familiarity with video games. Their reactions to a screening of the game were featured in EA's web and TV advertisements with the campaign slogan called "Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2".
The campaign was criticized as sexist and reinforcing stereotypes against female and older gamers. As the game is M rated and only 17+ can purchase it, others thought the advertisements were pointless and would hurt market share. Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon.com wrote: "The video game's campaign hinges on a unique premise – one that ignores how much the culture of gaming has changed." The Approval Matrix published by New York Magazine placed the campaign in the Lowbrow but Brilliant quadrant.
On the other hand, notable voices in the video game industry defended the campaign. Kotaku's Brian Crecente asked "Are that many people really taking the Dead Space 2's moms campaign that literally? When did gamers become so humorless?" Steven Hodson of The Inquisitr wrote, "Granted it took a lot of guts for EA to even go down this road but the idea of pulling in 200 middle-aged moms into an individual focus group situation to evaluate a new game – title unknown – was awesome." Some people even went as far as to say the campaign was sheer genius. Game designer Cliff Bleszinski suggested that the EA marketing team deserved a raise. The programmers of the Adult Swim animation block on Cartoon Network also demonstrated their approval by creating a pre-cartoon segment bumper that aired around this time stating that "the best marketing idea of 2011 already goes to Electronic Arts for their Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2 campaign". Electronic Arts won the Mi6 Game Marketing award for 2011 Outstanding Overall Marketing Campaign of the Year.