The Hard Core experience is notably different from any other difficulty setting as checkpoints are disabled and the player is entitled to only three game saves for the entire game in Dead Space 2, whereas Dead Space 3's hardcore mode allows for infinite saving but forces a replay of the entire game upon death.
Difficulty-wise, Necromorphs encountered on Hard Core are around Survivalist mode in terms of durability and damage output, while item drops are the same size as Zealot mode. To beat Hard Core mode, a player must be conservative, enduring, patient, and skilled.
New Game + saves do not transfer over, forcing the player to start from scratch.
Dead Space 2
- Hardcore mode is unlocked after beating the game on any difficulty so a player must play through the game at least once.
- It is recommended to play through the game while noting possible Save Stations and item pickups before attempting Hardcore.
- The player should plan out where each of his/her three saves will be, remembering that there are some extremely difficult areas in the game that the player will likely die in.
DLC like the Supernova Pack can help by giving a high-quality suit like the Forged Engineering Suit at the first Store.
- To really prepare yourself, play through the game on Zealot difficulty and select "Restart from Checkpoint" each time you get hit, until you can get through most areas without taking damage. Also, try restarting a room if you think you could've been a lot more ammo-efficient. This will force you to learn important details about each major encounter (such as where/which enemies spawn and when, as well as the safest spots to engage enemies from) and develop a good strategy that you can carry over to your Hardcore run.
- You can sidestep the scarce resource problems inherent to a New Game by using the Detonator exploit. This is how it works: you need to have at least one of the DLC Detonators (preferably both). Go to the nearest Store and buy them for free, like all DLC weapons. Launch all the Mines and use alt-fire to deactivate said Mines. When you pick up the Mines they go into your inventory slots, not back into the Detonators. Be careful not to launch the Mines too close to yourself or each other. Also, don't reload after you've collected the inactive Mines. Sell the Detonators and the Mines back to the Store and buy back the Detonators to start the process all over again. If you have both DLC Detonators, you can make 1,200 credits at a time; but if you full upgrade the capacity circuits, you will make 2,800 credits. If you're quick enough, you can make over $10,000 in five minutes or less. This method is tedious and time-consuming, but you could theoretically have a fully upgraded RIG, Stasis Module, Kinesis Module, one maxed-out gun and enough Ammo and Health Packs to last you until the next Store. Having an infinite supply of Credits in Hard Core mode really helps. Note: this also works for Dead Space 2: Severed.
- Considering the enemies are at Survivalist durability, one could train by playing a new game in that setting. However, to replicate Zealot ammo drops do not open boxes or lockers; instead, rely only on enemy supply drops.
- The player should focus on which weapons to use prior to attempting Hardcore.
- The Plasma Cutter is an all-around useful weapon as it is extremely accurate and powerful when upgraded. In fact, Players who have completed the One Gun achievement may feel very comfortable using only the Plasma Cutter and one other weapon to maximize Power Node slots quicker.
- The Pack are extremely dangerous and encountered many times throughout. A rapid-fire weapon like the Pulse Rifle or Flamethrower is recommended. Alternatively, the Ripper is also useful for the Pack and doubles up as a useful stopping weapon against Enhanced Slashers that may not be stopped by the Plasma Cutter. All of the above can also help ensure that a skillful user gets every item drop from the aforementioned Necromorphs for little cost, especially if using the Ripper.
- The Contact Beam is extremely useful in Dead Space 2. It is a one hit kill against every Enhanced Necromorph apart from an Enhanced Brute, which takes three or four shots. Its special upgrade allows a Stasis burst after each alternate fire is used which is very useful in the final fight and in confined spaces with many Necromorphs.
- The Detonator is also extremely useful when used correctly; not only can it almost guarantee survival of the Stalker sections, but a player can kill most Necromorphs (including most Enhanced Necromorphs) with the correct tactics.
- Stasis is vital in Hard Core as many enemies will sprint at the player. Stasis will slow enemies down, giving the player time to be strategic. The first Tripod is extremely difficult without Stasis. Many players recommend upgrading your Stasis Module first.
- Although this can be altered for personal taste, a very good weapon set (although it requires some of the DLC) is the Forged Plasma Cutter, Forged Ripper, Heavy Duty Contact Beam, and EarthGov Pulse Rifle. The Plasma Cutter is for general-purpose combat, the Ripper is great due to its high-kill/ammo-use ratio, the Contact Beam can annihilate Stalkers, Tripods, Enhanced Slashers, and the final boss, and the Pulse Rifle's high rate of fire is great for general-purpose combat, along with fighting Swarmers and the Pack. The chosen DLC's all are aimed at maximizing damage, so as to make best use of scarce ammo.
- A well-upgraded Force Gun and Seeker Rifle combination can be a ridiculously useful combination during the final boss fight; the Force Gun against "Nicole" and the Seeker Rifle against the "Heart" can end the fight in your favor in under 30 seconds.
- Alternatively, you can focus on only the Plasma Cutter, Force Gun and Contact Beam. An upgraded Force Gun will make the later part of the game a lot safer, and ammunition is also cheap. Max the Force Gun out as soon as you can. Though, strategic use of Alt-Fire and primary firing mode is still needed to conserve ammo and not blowing drops away. The Contact Beam will make any fight with big enemies very short. The final battle can be ended in under 8 seconds with a fully upgraded Damage for the Contact Beam; Alt-Fire and reloading won't be needed in this setup, so you should only upgrade Charge and Capacity (req. 13 Power Nodes to max out). Contact Beam ammunition is also the most valuable, so save some to fight big enemies and sell the rest to buy Force Gun ammo and other upgrades.
- A good idea is, if you have the Refurbished Plasma Cutter, then buy it. The upgrade of one Plasma Cutter will affect both and it will give you 20 additional shots. Which will be helpful during the game, especially at the beginning.
- One of the best combinations to use (no DLC required) for players new to this mode is the Pulse Rifle and The Seeker Rifle. Each weapon has a high drop rate of ammo (The Pulse Rifle drops 12.5 shots, so it can be 12 or 13, and the Seeker Rifle drops 2.5, so it can be 2 or 3.) Both weapons also have pretty cheap ammo at the store and with proper upgrades, these two weapons will be all one needs for any situation. The Pulse Rifle can handle mobs, and the Seeker Rifle can as well with well placed shots. One of the most important aspects of these two weapons is their inventory space (100 Pulse Rounds per space/ 15 Seeker Shells). One could potentially end up with massive amounts of ammo with these two weapons. Last, but not least, both upgrade trees are easy to maximize.
- Conserve ammo. Using Kinesis a player can do large amounts of damage by picking up poles or Necromorph blades and throwing them at the Necromorphs. Kinesis can be used to throw explosive tanks and stasis tanks at enemies. In other words, Kinesis is your best friend since it has been buffed from the first game. However objects such as crates still won't do very much damage.
- As the Dead Space 2 Hard Core mode only reserve 3 save games across the entire game, it is wise to plan out when and where it is most beneficial to save. As Hard Core mode is basically Survivalist mode with extremely rare ammo drops, one should attempt a full Survivalist run while making as few saves as possible. Saves should be reserved for those battles where death is hard to avoid.
- The first save should be made in the church, before going up to the rendezvouz point with Daina.
- The second save is to be made when Isaac first enters the Ishimura, at the first Station encountered, as the fights on board the Ishimura can be very restrictive in tight corners.
- The final save should only be reserved for the final Save Station before the Marker boss battle, as Isaac won't have to fight his way up to it again should he dies in the fight (which could very easily happen, depending on how good the player is at resource management).
- Remember that you can get free ammo from upgrading capacity. If you are out of ammo for a gun, or your clip is nearly empty, you can upgrade its capacity to get a full clip for that weapon including the bullets given from upgrading. But this is not worth getting killed over, don't go out of your way to get free ammo. The same principle applies for upgrading health and stasis energy, but again, it is not worth getting murdered over.
- Note that you use Kinesis as a weapon before you get a Plasma Cutter. In this time, using Kinesis to throw a sharp object will kill a Necromorph in one hit, but after you get the Plasma Cutter, it takes two Kinesis hits.
- Always remember that backtracking is an option; should you fail to conserve ammo and/or Med Packs and find yourself in need of them, you should consider turning around and heading back to the last Store (even if it means sacrificing weapons or ammo to buy other essentials). Also, take note that even if you've cleared an entire area, one or two enemies might still spawn on the way, so don't assume backtracking means safety.
- Another method to conserve ammo is to shoot the legs off enemies and then stomp them. With the more rapid stomping in Dead Space 2, you can quickly kill a downed Slasher, save ammo, and get the drops while being in a safer position. However, if you do choose to stomp them, you must act quickly. Move in as soon as the leg goes off; if you waste time, especially against Enhanced Slashers, you'll miss your window. Also, the type of Necromorph that makes this strategy very selective against is Slashers, except those with leg armor. Those with leg armor, you are better off going for the arms. With Stalkers, if it has charged close, stomp it, but don't go out of your way to attack one; you'll be a sitting duck. With Pukers, the method is out completely; stomping it will only hurt you and leave you open to more attacks. Against Leapers, stasis may be necessary as they tend to move around a lot. Stomping Lurkers can be very effective as they generally have low health, but they usually run if you get too close, so stasis may be necessary.
- Have at least one method of crowd control, one heavy damage weapon, and a quick-fire weapon as this will improve your chance of survival in the different Necromorph attacks.
- The Force Gun can easily close the emergency doors without much aiming, or knock enemies off platforms like elevators or top of the drill machine in Chapter 12.
- The Cyst can be killed by its own projectile. By grabbing its projectile with Kinesis it is possible to throw it back and kill it. Alternatively, a player can throw bodies at Cysts which will cause them to shoot out a projectile and kill themselves.
- A Cyst is not always bad. They can be useful in that: One, they will also also kill any Necromorphs that wander too close, if you stay mindful of where they are you can use them as personal landmines. Two, although sometimes risky, Cysts are also an infinite supply of "organic bombs," which can be used to do massive damage to enemies while conserving ammo. The easiest way to use these bombs is to Stasis them first then walk up to them and catch the slow moving bomb.
- Every Necromorph apart from the Puker will certainly die if it has lost both arms. Aim appropriately.
- The Puker's long-range puke attack can be caught with Kinesis and thrown back, instantly killing it. It will also kill any other Necromorph if it's thrown at it with the bile bomb.
- Use the quick heal button while in combat. Enemies do a lot of damage and therefore waiting to exit combat before healing will cause death, and trying to access Med Packs through your RIG will only obscure your vision and leave you more open to attacks.
- Stomp or use Kinesis to throw random objects to hit dead Necromorphs; this will ensure them to drop ammo or other supporting items.
- If you're not sure if a Necrmorph on the floor is dead or not use Kinesis. If it is dead it will pick part of it up, if it's alive nothing will happen. This will help protect you from taking damage in grapple scenes.
- Use everything in the environment to your advantage, even if it does little harm to a Necromorph. Corpses can be used to knock back charging enemies such as the Stalker, use Stasis or explosive canisters wisely and to your advantage, and use blades or claws from dead Necromorphs to weaken an enemy. Just remember that it is advised not to kill Necromorphs with Kinesis objects that won't impale them, as it takes multiple hits to kill them.
- Remember that, whilst Nodes can't be directly sold, you can use them in other ways too. For example, one way to use Power Nodes is to sell an upgraded weapon and buy it back; you will lose the Nodes and can only get a small fraction of their actual value, but it can be useful to do so when in need of emergency money. If you're willing to spend a few thousand Credits to remove Nodes from an empty weapon, you can then use the reacquired Nodes to upgrade a weaker weapon with cheaper or plentiful ammo.
- New Game+ saves cannot be transferred to Hard Core so prepare to start from fresh.
- If you have beaten Dead Space 2: Severed, the Patrol Suit and matching Seeker Rifle will be available in the first Store, both for free. It's a better choice than the Engineering Suit, giving 15% damage resistance instead of 5%, and 15 inventory slots instead of 10. It also gives a damage boost to the matching Seeker Rifle which, when zoomed, can shoot the arms of the first Tripod with one round.
- If you have an injury greater than a Medium Med Pack will cover, it is economical to go to a Bench, and respect your RIG's health. Exit the RIG, and you will see you health increase slightly (as even though you have low health, you lost your total health, increasing the overall percentage... i.e. 50 hp is 50% of 100 hp, while 50 hp is only 25% of 200 hp). Once you re-upgrade the RIG, your health will be refilled (as with ammo upgrades, health upgrades fully replenish health).
- It is never necessary to use a Large Med Pack, one should use only Medium Med Packs at most and sell any Large ones for credits. However, if the player is being overly careful, or simply gets hit too much for safety, one to two Large Med Pack should be reserved.
- Your health is restored from buying a new RIG, but not from changing to a previously purchased RIG.
- The downloadable content is really helpful in this mode. Each DLC suit restores entirely your health for free when equipped for the first time (but not the second time), what means all the same a max of 11 free full healing with the total content; and each DLC weapon can be freely reloaded by selling and rebuying it for 0 credit at the store. Since the upgrade of any weapon applies to the other variants, you don't even have to give up upgrading your weapons for this trick as long as you have downloaded the matching variant(s). You must just take care to keep always one copy at least (preferably the standard costing weapon), on Isaac or in the safe, to not sell accidentally the upgrades when performing the trick at the store.
- If you are going to use explosives, such as explosive tanks or explosive parts from Necromorphs, be especially careful around Necromorphs that have a ranged attack. They can destroy the explosive you're carrying and take away a lot of health.
- The only items you should ever sell on Hard Core mode are Semiconductors and ammo to guns you don't use. If you're ever overstocked in Med Packs, put them in storage (or sell a few if you're confident in your abilities not to lose health) because then you can avoid purchasing overpriced Med Packs at the Store.
- When you receive it, switching to the Vintage Suit just for shopping purposes is a good way to conserve money, considering the 10% discount it gives. Switching to a better, more combat-oriented suit can be done after all shopping is complete. If possible however, it is best to use the Elite Vintage Suit.
- Now more than ever, Kinesis is extremely invaluable to survival. Whatever you can find to damage a Necromorph or push it back, use it to give you time to place effective shots, or just kill enemies with Kinesis alone if you are skilled with it. Remember that you can kill a Slasher and you will have two throw-able weapons to use against other enemies. Killing a Leaper yields it's tail, and Kinesis homes in on throw-able items over anything else, so you don't have to search for one in a pile of bodies.
- Remember to be especially cautious during Chapter 9 after your encounter with a Divider; after taking the next elevator up, you will be in a small room with a decompression window, an Exploder, an Enhanced Slasher and little room to maneuver. As such, either practice completing said room or save beforehand to minimize chance of death. Fortunately, the Force Gun can save you if you shoot it anywhere in/near the decompression window.
- That being said, be extremely cautious around ALL decompression windows, as a stray bullet can rupture the windows and suck Isaac out, forcing a replay of a very long section. Explosives and weapons that strikes a large area are likewise ill-advised.
- In Chapter 13, you will eventually come across a Power Node door opposite a Bench; be extremely careful in choosing to use it or not, as entering the room will yield 2 Power Nodes and possibly a Ruby Semiconductor, but will spawn a Divider. As such, decide whether you desire a Node and a little cash at the expense of ammo and health, as there is no store for until near Chapter 14 and you may regret trading vital supplies at such a late time in the game for a small prize.
- Be wary of decompression windows; they can be used to kill multiple Necromorphs but can also kill you if you're not fast enough at closing the emergency doors. When around a decompression window, be careful of how you use Kinesis, and especially when shooting or throwing an Exploder's pustule or using an explosive tank.
- Remember during the Tripod Nest fight, the explosive canisters can be a good way to deal damage and get drops without using ammo. Be wary, however, for the Tripods will not hesitate to attack. And staying in the area for too long after destroying the tank on the floor will cause you to die, so leave ASAP.
- When in Zero-G areas, be wary of moving parts that will kill you, and be on the lookout for Enhanced Lurkers, which are very hard to see due to the dark environment.
- A good tip for getting through the NoonTech Diagnostic Machine (eye needle section), is to bring the needle down very carefully. Isaac's heart-rate and the needle distance are visible on the screen inside the machine. Bring the needle down to about the 0.1-0.2 distance, make sure Isaac isn't feeling panicked, then wait until the light is staying consistently blue and Isaac's eye is still before you bring it down.
- Once you reach the beginning of Chapter 14, and you have used up all of your saves, do NOT be shy to run, since this is the period where you will encounter the Ubermorph. Dismember it efficiently and move on as fast as possible, its very easy to become overwhelmed by the countless enhanced Necromorphs that appear in its aid, so be alert and be aware.
- DO NOT use the boosting for the very last section of the game where Isaac has to get abroad the gunship to escape, this makes it tedious and difficult to see where the debris is and how to maneuver into space; be aware of your movement and space.
- It is recommended not to focus on achievements/trophies on Hard Core and to save those for easier difficulties as many of these could result in death.
- When fighting against the Swarm, when finishing/killing them, give them an extra shot so they can give you their drop as after killing 3 or 4 and then a fifth or more spawns, the first ones you killed will disappear missing any drop they would have with them. (PS3 version).
Xbox 360 Disc Change
The Xbox 360 version of Dead Space 2 comes on two separate discs. It is required that the player switch from the first disc to the second halfway through the game. At this disc change, the player is given a checkpoint, as without this checkpoint, being brought to the previous save due to death could potentially require the player the change back to the first disc. Players of the Xbox 360 version can exploit this as a checkpoint, and it could potentially open up a save use for elsewhere, since Chapter 7: Power From The Sun is a popular chapter to use a save in on Hardcore
Dead Space 3
Hardcore Mode returns in Dead Space 3, but at a much more extreme level of challenge: while saving and checkpoint resets are allowed indefinitely, dying on Hardcore will force a restart of the entire game.
For those who aren't interested in this ludicrous challenge and just want the related Achievement/Trophy, it's highly recommended they use the following "exploit": players can backup their save on a USB device or external hard-drive regardless of the console they are playing on (on PS3, players can even copy saved data to other accounts, so this can be done without an external device), so if they die and their save is automatically wiped, they can transfer the save from the external device back to the console/game. To do this, players will have to quit out of the game. This is generally recommended before any instant-kill parts.
- Checkpoint Restart is disabled, and the game will delete the player's save the instant they die. However, one can exit the game before they die and then reload at the last checkpoint.
- Don't waste time on side missions; the rewards aren't worth the risk and they add too much time.
- Never risk getting too low on health - always stay above 70% if possible, and carry at least 5-10 Medium Med Packs.
- The game is fairly generous when it comes to Med Packs and ammo, so don't worry about spending or saving them too much. Never be risky.
- Completing the game on Pure Survival mode will unlock a modest amount of resources that can help set the player up early in the game.
- More importantly, they also provide alternative Mk-II variants for every frame and tip, so (together with the resources) the player can build whatever weapon they want from their first Bench.
- Just to reiterate, one should seriously consider backing up their save every now and then - yes, it goes against the spirit of the mode, but permadeath in an 8-10 hour long game with instant-kill areas, increasingly aggressive enemies, and unskippable cutscenes is a little absurd when compared to Dead Space 2's Hard Core mode.
- The Hand Cannon and the Soldier Suit are unlocked by completing Hardcore mode.
- The achievements "Hard to the Core" in Dead Space 2 and "Aren't You Thankful" in Dead Space 3 are unlocked upon completing Hard Core mode.
- There was a glitch on the PC version of Dead Space 2, in which saving a Hard Core game, exiting and then re-entering would reset the save count to 3, allowing PC users to abuse this and get an easy pass through Hard Core. This glitch was fixed upon the release of the first Dead Space 2 patch.