So here we are, second month of the year, and already the second game I can say will definitely make it on to my list of the top five games of the year.
For those of you new to the franchise, Dead Space is a horror third person shooter series from Electronic Arts set in space. In the first one, you played as Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent with a team to investigate a distress signal sent by a mining ship in deep space. Of course, once you get there, all hell breaks loose and you have to fight again creatures known as Necromorphs which are actually human corpses reanimated by some unknown alien entity. Now, this description does no justice to the plot of the game, but that’s a rough idea of what it’s about. Apart from possibly being the scariest game I have ever played, the major thing that set this apart from other games was that you had to dismember the creatures in order to destroy them, so every shot had to be a well placed shot. The other cool thing about that the game was the absence of a heads up display. All health information and menu screens were displayed either on your armor or as an extension of your armor. Of course there were also cool weapons, the ability to use telekinesis, and the ability to use stasis to freeze enemies and slow down moving obstacles.
Anyway, it was a really great game. Definitely one of the scariest games I’ve ever played if not the scariest, but designed in such a way with such great atmosphere that it made me want to be scared. I even bought a set of surround sound headphones just to play the game, but then after wearing them once to play this game, it made it so much scarier that I decided no to use them after all, heh. This game also single handedly revived my interest in gaming (especially first/third person shooters). For quite a while before playing this, I hadn’t really been playing much of anything, but after playing this, I just couldn’t get enough and went back to play games that I had decided to skip over, like Uncharted and Bioshock (which have since become some of my favorite games as well). For anyone who hasn’t played the first Dead Space and may be interested in playing it in the least, stop reading this, and go play (I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible though).
With my love of the first game, I was super excited to play the new one and got it the day it came out. And without discussing anything about the game, I can say that I wasn’t disappointed. There are definitely some things I like better and some things I don’t like as much, but this game was definitely at least as good as the first one.
This time around, you once again play as Isaac Clarke as he wakes up on the Sprawl, a huge city on one of Saturn’s moons. With no memory of the past three years, you once again find yourself amongst hordes of Necromorphs and it’s up to you to make things right. Again, this is very vague, but I really don’t want to give away any of the plot, especially this time, because I think the plot of Dead Space 2 is better than the first one. In Dead Space 2, you really get to know Isaac and what he’s feeling and it’s less about random exploration and escape and more about a mission with an end goal (although there is a fair bit of wandering).
This game is a bit less of a survival horror game and more of an action game. While there are definitely still tense moments and spots where you get surprised by the Necromorphs, there are a lot more big battles with wave after wave of enemy coming after you. Nice this is, there’s a bit more variety in the enemies this time, bringing back the creatures from the first game, but adding quick leaping creatures and some that spit acid that slow your movement down to a crawl, among others.
Now before you think that this takes away from the horror, let me assure you this game is just as scary, but in more of a Japanese horror type way. That is to say, this game screws with your head, big time. One thing I forgot to mention is that Isaac is suffering a serious break from reality and occasionally begins seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. This adds quite a bit to the level of horror in this game. Also, the settings this time get pretty creepy. In fact, for those who have played Bioshock, certain areas of the game, like the empty living quarters area and the abandoned school area, reminded me quite a bit of that game, from the colors used to the overall style and feel of creepy abandoned locations. And of course the atmospheric sounds were just as creepy and scary as the first Dead Space.
The biggest change in this game from the second game was the zero gravity areas. In the original Dead Space, in zero gravity you would target the spot you wanted to go and press a button. In Dead Space 2, you press a button to activate or deactivate your gravity boots. Once deactivated you have full control and can fly around the space freely. This adds a nice exploration to these parts of the game and allows for some cool puzzles to be created. Also, there are some fun zero gravity sections where your character is automatically propelled into the screen (whether falling or chasing something) and you need to steer around and through incoming objects. One thing I did notice though was that there were quite a few less enemies in the zero gravity areas in this game than there were in the first one.
The other thing that has of course been upgraded from the first game to the second is abilities and weapons. This time, your telekinesis power can be used for more than just puzzle solving (although there is still quite a bit of that). On top of the usual exploding canisters you could pick up and throw in the first game, there are now what look like blue lanterns that you can throw for stasis power without using any of your stasis reserve. Also, once an enemy is killed, you can use your telekinesis to remove the spiked limbs from certain creatures and then use them to kill other enemies. The stasis in the game is roughly the same as last time, only this time it slowly refills on its own through time.
I’d love to go into more detail about the new guns, but unfortunately I pretty much only used the same three guns I used last time. First, the plasma cutter is identical in all but physical appearance to the first game. As before, you can fire both vertically and horizontally to help dismember enemies. The line gun is also exactly the same, with a great wide and powerful horizontal beam as well as a timed mine. The last of my favorite three guns is the pulse rifle. Just like the first game, it fires much like a machine gun in other games, but this time the secondary fire is something like a grenade launcher which is pretty effective. The only new weapon that I spent any time with was the seeker rifle. This functions much like a sniper rifle in other games with high accuracy and decent power. It’s secondary fire is just a zoom function. There are many other weapons in the game, javelin gun, flamethrower, saw blade gun, force gun, but I didn’t spend any time using them, so can’t really comment on them.
The other cool new feature in this game is multiplayer. One bad thing, though, is it uses the new EA activation code system. If you’ve bought the game new, no problem. But if you rent the game or buy it used, chances are someone already used the included activation code. If that is the case, you will need to pay $10-15 for a new code to play online. You do get a free two day trial first though if you want to check it out first. Anyway, in multiplayer, one team plays as humans and one plays as the necromorphs. As a human, you are required to execute certain mission and get to certain checkpoints in a set amount of time. As a necromorph, you are trying to stop them. For the humans, you start with a plasma cutter and a pulse rifle, and from what I gather as you build experience points from playing you can unlock other weapons. As a necromorph, you get to select from different types of creature, spitters, quick jumpers, the little tentacled ones that shoot stuff and a few others, and you can change each time you die. Also, you get to use the ductwork to move from vent to vent, and can respawn from any vent opening. At the end of each round, the human team and necromorph team switch. The winners are decided at the end of several rounds.
Now for some negative things. The only real problem I had with the game was the lack of bosses and different gameplay types. In the first game there were a few huge boss type enemies, as well as fun gameplay twists like the shooting range, the zero gravity basketball, and the cannon turret sections (although these turret sections were a pain and I’m kinda glad they’re gone). Aside from the zero gravity stuff I talked about before and a couple small miniboss type enemies, there was nothing like this in Dead Space 2. The other thing people have complained about, but I don’t necessarily dislike, is the ability to explore in the game. Dead Space 2 is much more linear than the first game, but I think for the story to be the way it is, it kind of needs to be this way. It was nice to be able to explore the ship in the first game, and it gave a bit more of an open world feeling to it, but it also meant there was a lot of backtracking and repeating areas you had already seen.
Anyway, in the end Dead Space is a great game. Like I said before, better in some aspects, and a bit lacking in others. I tend to play games for story though, and I was more than satisfied here. I can’t comment on difficulty compared to the first game, because, as usual, I played on easy mode in both games.
One more thing to note, for those playing on PS3, you get a bit of a surprise. There is an HD port of the Wii on-rails shooter prequel Dead Space Extraction with full Playstation Move support, included for free on the disc. Having played it on the Wii, I didn’t play through, but based on my playthrough on the Wii, I can say it is a fun game and definitely worth a go.
For those not convinced, here is the trailer for Dead Space 2.