2008’s Dead Space was a lovely addition to the survival horror genre that was badly in need of a zombie bite to the arm after being dominated for so long by the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series. Not that either series is bad, just that both series are becoming a stale and new blood is needed to keep the sub-genre from being a forgotten favorite like FMV shooting games and poker games. Dead Space was a gruesome and brutal newcomer that gave survival horror a zombie-like resurrection, and developer Visceral Games hopes to keep the momentum going with Dead Space 2. There will be some slight spoiler warnings, so consider yourself warned.
Taking place 3 years after the events in the original game, Dead Space 2 follows Issac Clarke, engineer nerd turned monster-killing badass and Gordon Freeman wannabe. Issac is still trying to recover from the horrors he saw on the Ishimura. By recovering, I mean he’s a locked up patient in the crazy ward of the Sprawl. It appears that man has once again tried to mess with forces that they simply do not comprehend, repeated the same mistakes, and unleashed a plague of Necromorphs onto the base. Issac will have to once again face evil in the form of disgusting, revived dead bodies and give them a big stomp to the head.
Sublety is Everything – Dead Space 2 makes use of the same interface and gameplay of the original. A simple over-the-shoulder view with all menus (aside from the start menu) being transparent and in real time while all interfaces with the environment are attached to the environment itself. In other words, there’s no HUD that clogs up the screen with info nor does the action stop or turn away. It’s all right there in front of you, and you’d better watch what you’re doing because enemies will not wait around for you to go into your inventory. All the info you would normally need on a game is there such as health, weapons, stasis (power to freeze enemies and objects), and remaining ammo is right on Issac himself. This allows for more immersion into the game giving the it more of a movie feel to it.
I Don’t Wanna Hold Your Hand – There are no glaring hints or indicators on how to complete objectives. Instead it’s a simple line that you can make appear to tell you where to go, and various other background indicators that give you hints on what to do. All the info you need to proceed is there in front of you, but rather than holding your hand, Visceral Games provides just enough information for you to figure things out on your own.
Fear is a Factor – Most survival horror games will have their scares be simple “jump” scares. A good survival horror games will let your mind to do the scaring for it by creating a world that you’re afraid to be in with every step you take. You’re never sure when you’ve reached a safe point in the game. Some places seem safe as there are save points, item boxes, and a store to buy items and equipment, but they’re not safe. It’s then when you drop your guard that you’re attacked in what you formerly thought was a safe haven. Nothing puts fear in your mind than the realization that nowhere is safe.
Terrifying Beauty – I’m always appreciative to developers that come up with monsters that are really disgusting to look at. After years of playing survival horror games, making me squirm a little when seeing an enemy up close is quite a feat. The gore and the violence in Dead Space 2 is a spectacle because it’s so more than the simple biting that zombies do in most survival horror games. You want to turn away because of how horrifying it looks, yet you still watch because of how amazing the detail is. Dead Space 2 also keeps the gorgeous views of outer space that the original had. Most gamers will stop and spend time looking at the beauty of space.
Frightening Cinematics – During the story, the action changes viewpoints here and there. In a few cases, you’re put in the same view point that was used in God of War 3, with Issac falling at incredible speed with you needing to maneuver yourself through obstacles. With the subteltly of the gameplay along it makes transitions in and out of the cinematics an absolute treat because it’s not expected.
Reliving the Horror – Each time you beat dead space 2 on a difficulty, you unlock something that makes it truly worth the effort. For example, the hardcore reward is a foam finger that’s a gun. That alone has made plenty of people take on the hardcore challenge. Add that replay value on top of the 12 hours of game time needed to beat the game, and you have a game with some great replay value.
Glitch Space – There were reports of glitches in Dead Space 1 that stopped players from finishing the game. I wasn’t one of those players, but sure enough, I got hit by the glitch monster in Dead Space 2. For me, it happened in Chapter 13 when a power box did not load. It was obvious where the power box was supposed to be, but it simply wasn’t there. After multiple restarts, I knew something was wrong and checked some forums. Apparently, I wasn’t the only victim of this particular glitch. I followed a few of the suggestions posted, but none of them worked causing me to restart the game since I didn’t do multiple game saves (what can I say, I don’t bother with them). Normally, these glitches are not a big deal. However this and other glitches have affected many gamers preventing what I saw from being an isolated incident. It’s a shame because nothing kills the flow of a great survival horror game than some external factor causing you to restart the game before finishing the first time around.
A Little Too Much of the Same – Early part of the game has you traveling through the space station. Logically, many of the areas are going to look the same with the same layout, but as a player, it becomes a little aggravating after you’ve seen the area several times. Again, it’s logical that these levels would look the same, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not annoying.
Did He Really Have to Talk? – Part of the subtlety of the original Dead Space is that Issac Clarke didn’t speak. With the exception of a few grunts and yells of pain, the only way to tell what’s going on in Issac’s mind was to read the mission objectives along with the physical cues he displays. You don’t even see his face aside from a brief second in the beginning and at the end of the game allowing players to immerse themselves into the game even further. In Dead Space 2, Issac doesn’t shut up. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a bitch about voice acting because it’s not bad. My problem is with what Issac is actually saying. Instead of wondering how I would feel about being in this kind of apocalyptic situation, I get to hear what Issac thinks which can be pretty asinine, predictable, and takes me right out of the mood. Maybe the change was due to correspond to the shift with the storyline, but Visceral Games should have stuck to their guns by keeping Issac quiet.
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After spending a couple hours with Dead Space 2’s multiplayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that’s it’s actually a lot better than many have said—albeit quite different from any other multiplayer I’ve ever played.
The best way I can think to describe Dead Space 2’s multiplayer is to call it the illegitimate lovechild of Left 4 Dead and Black Ops. You have two teams of four: necromorphs vs. humans. On each map the humans have a timed objective they are attempting to achieve that is broken down into four or five steps—the necromophs’ object is to keep them from doing so by killing them repeatedly until the time runs out. Once a step is completed the humans receive a little more time. I like this mechanic as it prevents you from wasting a lot of time and frustration—if your team sucks, the round will be over in just a couple of minutes instead of fifteen. This also helps the game stay fast paced and more run-and-gun than some of the more strategic rounds of Left 4 Dead I’ve played.
At the end of each game points are tallied up from kills and rounds won. These points are then added as XP to your profile and as you level up you get you get stronger and unlock new weapons and suits. I’m a big fan of multiplayer games that have leveling like this. As my online skills are nowhere near today’s average 12-year-old, the ability to earn a little something even when I lose keeps me playing for a while longer before throwing things in anger—I went through three controllers in my Halo 3 days. This also kept me engaged.
One negative is that the controls are messy for the necromorphs. Each one of the four types you can play has different abilities—abilities that are far more varied than the different infected from L4D. It gets tricky to try to remember which necromorph does what and how, and you have to play a few times just to get the hang of it.
Another thing that takes getting used to is the fact that the necromorphs are incredibly weak until you level them up. If you don’t know how to use them properly you’ll get pwned every time without making a single scratch in your opponents. At best you’ll think your best bet is to get lucky when everyone else on your team is already done the bulk of the damage and you steal a kill. But if you stick with it, I think anyone can have a good time with this unorthodox multiplayer gorefest.
Dead Space 2 does what is supposed to be done when making a sequel to a highly praised game: take the good and make it better. They even added multiplayer to a survival horror title which is a rarity in videogames. If Visceral Games had only worked on these glitches and keeping Issac’s mouth shut, this game would have been nearly perfect. Nevertheless, Dead Space 2 will be a delight to fans of the original, survival horror fans, and gamers looking for a primal gaming experience.
- Collin Lucke