My survival horror games just keep getting complicated. Initially, all I ever had to do was shoot a zombie in the brain. You know what? That was stressful and incentive enough for me to get from first to last level, because if I didn’t shoot that zombie in the head, I understood the consequences. The gravitas of a situation involving very few severed spinal columns, if you will, is never lost on me. What are those consequences you ask? If you have to ask, You, then you are not prepared, and you’ll need more than a can-opener to make that hill of beans that’s supposed to amount to how much of a shit I give.
Then again, I can’t turn my nose up to the layered, complicated survival horror that I have to peel back like a mind-wrenching blooming onion that induces me with nightmares instead of… complicated potty time. One of the best things about horror – especially survival horror – is you get to peek into the psyche of “man” involved in these extreme instances. What would man do given the chance to do x? When faced with y? Or even tempted by z? It’s just that an excellent survival horror game is when my skin feels too tight for my body, my hands clench, and my heart thunders in my ears, all of which make for a terrible plot point receptacle.
But if that’s one of the only problems I have with Dead Space 2? That I was too fucking scared to absorb all of the plot points being thrown in between spasms of frenzied survival? I’ll take it.
Visceral Games brings back Isaac Clark; engineer, sexy older man, pottery hobbyist, and destroyer of… whatever the flying fuck this is.
Dead Space 2 is the latest chapter in Visceral Games’ Dead Space universe. I am still playing the Wii rail shooter, and I am hunting down the DVD because holy crap, there are just a few things I maaaaaay have missed in the interim. Taking the game as it is, without the additional media, gang, I feel like I may have wandered into a movie, and have several too many questions.
But, man, did I eat the opening up. Confined to a straight jacket, weaponless, and bombarded by familiar nasties, my heart was in my throat instantly. I was terrified, and the tension never let up. Visceral Games really explores the space on this installment of survival horror. The environment is a little more useful than before; you can still draw your enemies into harmful rays, but a nice touch is also having the option of shooting out windows to jet them into the void of space. Of course, if you don’t close the emergency hatch, you’re going right out there with them. I even noticed that there is an invisibility cloak around every elevator; once I stepped on any form of lift or elevator, my enemies immediately abandoned me!
Okay, so that last one was a bug. Still, very helpful.
The game is set on Sprawl, a city built on a remnant of Saturn’s Titan moon. The city competes closely with Bioshock’s Rapture; every portion of the station has a personality, but there is consistency with the architecture at the structural heart of each unique design. A few more puzzles take place outside, as well, which was something I – in retrospect – had missed in the first game; the outdoor puzzles were teasing, brief adventures, but in the sequel, I have found satisfaction in the form of boss fights, mini-games/sequences, puzzles, and then some.
Isaac Clarke’s character design and performance is further explored. The player sees more of his face in this game, and he expresses more character quirks when in the presence of other characters. There were double the power nodes in this game, as well, which meant I could customize his arsenal much more thoroughly. The suit designs were fantastic, especially the vintage piece. There were also more puzzles in this game that had Isaac Clarke putting his engineering degree to the test, as opposed to his brawn.
The creatures are back, and they are uglier and deadlier than ever. There is no safe haven from these things in this game; they will always find a way to get to you (unless you’re on an elev-AGH!). I’m not complaining, the threat is real, very real, and in a survival horror game, I should never for a second doubt it.
I have to say, though, there was something cracking me up a bit. I think the creator(s) of Dead Space/Dead Space 2 have some major commitment issues that need to be hashed out. Let’s just look at the first game, it’s tame enough: you have your girlfriend/ex-girlfriend helping you out, and occasionally you get attacked by an evil baby with tentacles coming out of its split open back. Normal enough, one might even say healthy.
Okay, in this game, guys? In this game. In this game, first of all, your ex-girlfriend trying to give you a heart attack at every turn as she attacks you with mental trips that would put some of Syd Barret’s visions to shame.
Furthermore, in this installment, you are no longer being attacked by one baby monster, but three! The first baby is the original one, the one with all the spines sticking out of its back. The second baby is a crawler that can explode if you come anywhere near it. The third baby is actually a toddler with long arms and spindly claws that’s always trying to grab you. I’m just saying, there are other ways to drop a hint to that not-so-special someone that you ain’t quite ready, other than making a best-selling game, Visceral.
All that dime value psychology aside, if you’re a fan of the series, I think you’ll like this one. If you’ve never played a Dead Space game before, you might be up plot creek without a plasma cutter, but that’s okay, you know why? Because that means you get to go back and play the first one and enjoy my badass Planet Cracker Fried Chicken while you’re at it. Nothing better than a slippery controller, heyo.
Gameplay & Mechanics 2
Total: 8 psychologically damaging babies out of 10
Weapons with new personalities will help you cut a path to the heart of the matter – and well-designed world – when it comes to navigating the okay plot of Dead Space 2. The urge to go back through and own face a little better kicks in instantly after the first play through, for everything else there is a multiplayer option that harkens back to predecessors Left4Dead and Left4Dead2 where you are the hunter or hunted. Although this game does not surpass its original, it’s consistent as it tells the player its continuing story of Isaac Clarke. I strongly recommend playing this franchise from the beginning, and check out all the media in between. You will not be disappointed.
Coming up, the dish inspired by the game.