If it's crap ... We'll tell you
The horror genre has been one of those unfortunately left behind in this recent generation. The majority of video game players no longer have the patience for scares from those slower paced games back in the PS2 era . The good people over at Visceral Games apparently felt the same way and ventured off into making Dead Space - a game that combined elements of modern-day action games with terrific atmosphere . When a sequel was announced, people were hesitant when they found out that it would contain more aspects of action and worried the idea of fear being thrown out the windo. Fortunately, that's not the case. People unfairly compare this to the movie Aliens; while from the outside it looks true (continuing the sci-fi horror story with more action elements), in actuality, it surpasses that notion and delivers an epic roller-coaster with amazingly developed characters and a story that delves into one man's struggle with sanity.
Isaac Clarke is in deep shit. The first Dead Space ended with him escaping from an alien artifact called, "The Marker." Along with surviving the ordeal, he now is haunted with visions of his dead girlfriend, Nicole. After being picked up, he's transported to The Sprawl, a space station on Saturn's moon, Titan. Unfortunately, nothing can ever be easy for the simple engineer, and he soon finds himself in the middle of another necromorph infestation. With a slew of new characters with questionable motives, it's up to Isaac to discover the source of the infestation and find a way off The Sprawl.
I love games that keep me immersed throughout the entire experience, and Dead Space 2 is definitely one of them since there are no loading screens or breaks in the game. Isaac Clarke has gone from mute protagonist (an archetype I hate with a passion these days in video games) to a fully fleshed out character - and damn, is he a good one. From the very start of the game, Isaac is a survivor. Relying on instinct and focusing purely on escaping, his only interests are to get rid of the haunting hallucinations of his dead girlfriend. However, as the narrative progresses Clarke not only works with fellow survivors, but actually becomes attached to them and relearns how to integrate with his fellow man. More importantly, seeing firsthand what The Marker does to individuals, he's left with two options: succumb to madness or pony up and kick ass. Isaac chooses the latter. What I love about the story is that Isaac isn't just a straight-up bad-ass from the get go. He's just a guy barely escaping each encounter before heading off to the next objective. It's only when he realizes how personally he's been negatively affected by the marker that he decides to get pissed off and ready to shoot something. Throughout the story, he comes to terms with himself, his mistakes, and his guilt concerning his past, and his arc is one that I'll remember.
One thing I love about the game are the multitude of little touches throughout the entire narrative. Balloons popping, usable metal detectors, random holograms playing and countless of other trivial, but fascinating, elements in the game show you how much the creators went through to make this world appear interesting around every corner. Dead Space 2 continues to run on the same engine as the first game, but it's the minor tweaks that make the game look amazing. Necromorphs look even more sickening (if that's even possible), the suits are more detailed, and the character models are expressive which is important in a game about people pushed to the edge of violence and horror. Even compared to the first game, Dead Space 2 has a plethora of different environments that make you feel The Sprawl is a sprawling environment (no bad pun intended). Audiologues and written portions fill in some of the backstory for the universe and help flesh out characters even more. Also, there are some pretty disturbing images and scenes, so this game is not for the squeamish.
The audio is perhaps just as critical in this game as the visual presentation. All voice actors are convincing and great in their roles with a special mention to Gunner Wright as Isaac Clarke who gives a world-weary sensibility to the rather battered protagonist. Gentle clinking sounds in the background will startle you making you question every movement you see and simple objects such as an alarm clock going off will send you over the edge in terms of being scared shitless. The gameplay is a 3rd person action game with elements of puzzle solving. The shooting mechanics are all around awesome, so I won't spend any time with that facet of the game. The puzzle solving is intriguing; while some puzzles may have you scratching your head, they never make you stop the game out of anger.
The necromorphs are back and there's a whole lot more of them. I think I can safely say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the stalkers (imagine velociraptors that creepily watch you from behind corners before running straight at you to chomp your nose off) are one of the scariest creatures I've ever encountered in a video game. Along with a plethora of weapons and suits to unlock, replayability is a definite factor in the game. The only gripe I have about the game is the multiplayer. While it looks like the guys and gals at Visceral games attempted to make the multiplayer special (by having Engineers vs. Necromorphs), it doesn't really peter out that well. The hit detection with the necromorphs is spotty at best and they unfortunately follow the Modern Warfare perk system, meaning that you'll have to grind your way through the levels to get that new armor or weapon. What a shame. It could have been a really cool and interesting multiplayer like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. Besides the dissapointment that is the multiplayer, this game is just flat out amazing and should be an immediate buy for action and horror fans alike.
I love the fact that your waypoint can now make curved lines! Yes, I am a dork.