I’ve become so jaded with today’s attempts at creating a horror game of any kind that anytime one anywhere remotely interesting slaps me in the face, I crave more, usually only to find it’s not much of a horror game, even by 90s’ standards. Dead Space was a rare exception and the sequel, being insurmountably better, is easily recommendable by yours truly.
Available For: PC (reviewed), PS3, X Box 360
Developer(s): Visceral Games
Publisher(s): Electronic Arts
Release Date: 2011
Archetype(s): Action, Adventure, Horror, Shooter
The space marine. Usually when we think about space combat of any kind, we think Doom or Quake. The unlikely sci-fi hero. Often when we envision this character it’s either something out of Star Ocean or Gordon Freeman. But what happens when you envision both? Well usually…nothing. But you SHOULD be thinking Isaac Clarke, engineer/ship system specialist and all around badass motherfucker.
First we’re going to go over what the original Dead Space did, then we’ll go over significant improvements. Why? Well, as this is primarily an action game with a survival horror theme (which I’ll also go into), it’s very hard for me to actually pump out several paragraph’s worth of commentary, despite it being a great game with many great features.
The original Dead Space took survival horror to a new level by introducing several new elements to the fray, though at times it really did feel like Resident Evil 4 in space. The camera is tight and close, but not to the point of blocking out too much of the view and you can swivel it around super quick to get a view of everything around you. It was also graphically impressive and featured a wide variety of excellent visual effects.
There were a shit ton of different guns, ammo types, and all sorts of upgradable stuff including your armor. You also had the constant choice of either saving your power nodes for upgrades or using them to override certain locks that could lead you to some really cool supply caches. Monsters were also very different and varied offering several attack patterns, overall gruesomeness, and simple, but effective AI.
You can’t kill most monsters simply by headshots either. Most of the time you need to tear them limb from limb to make them stop moving, forcing you to concentrate on limbs rather than obvious weakpoints so as to conserve ammo, stop them quickly, etc. There were several sections where you’d have to do spacewalks and have to keep an eye on your oxygen meter or play around with the gravity and much more.
One of the most interesting aspects I found was how many different and utterly cruel ways Isaac could instantly die. See, a lot of survival horror games, even older ones, try to put your hero up on this pedestal while still trying to convince you that you’re weak and frail, but never quite reach that point because…well, this asshole just tore into you with giant claws, but there you are, perfectly fine.
Not Dead Space. There were so many monsters that could instantly decapitate you, doors that could cut you in half, and all kinds of environmental hazards that really your own lack of attention could cause a death more immediate than most enemies. Visceral didn’t fuck around in this category. Sure, you’ve got the quick ass health kits and whatever, but goddamn.
But you know, the one major flaw with the original Dead Space is it was a one trick pony. They would use the same jump scares over and over to the point that you shot and stomped every “dead body” that was lying around, anticipated air vents to come flying at you, and after a while, nothing was a mystery or scary anymore; just adrenaline pumping.
Needless to say I was surprised when DS2 took this to a new level by offering not only an interesting beginning sequence that threw you smack into the action but completely unable to fight (yeah, dick move there), but also gave you no explanation whatsoever…and in a good way. I’m pleased to say that dead bodies have come at me once or twice, but usually after I put them down and knew they weren’t dead yet.
Air vents are nary a problem as they mostly deal with creep factors, subliminal shit, and blindsiding your automaton. Let me explain that last bit. So let’s say a typical animation for when you open a door is you open the door, walk through, then turn around a close it. Let’s say you’ve been doing this about 20 times or so and you know the spiel. So this time you open a door, walk through, then turn around to-MOTHERFUCKER BUSTS THROUGH THE DOOR AND HAS YOU ON THE GROUND.
Yeah, THAT. DS2 likes to mess around with what you expect vs. what you get. In fact, they do it a LOT. Plus, they get away with this because you’re fucked up by some sort of space madness, so on top of all the crazy shit you already get to deal with, you also get to deal with stuff that may or may not be happening and you never really know what to expect next.
I know we like to believe that sequels often don’t live up to the originals, but trust me, if you even remotely liked or wanted to try the original Dead Space, there is absolutely no excuse to pass this up. It’s super cheap on Steam and I’m sure you can get a console version pretty cheap, too. It’s no Silent Hill 2, but then again, nothing is quite that to level of brilliance in the survival horror world…maybe.