Dead Space 2

Dead Space 2 is a game of many emotions. For me, it was a 3 stage process.

Stage 1: Disappointment

Isaac awoke from his bed in a medical lab somewhere and was told to get running! Oh my, I don't remember these contols being so disorienting. If you break the display into 3 sections, Isaac is positioned right between the left and middle sections. Initially, this forces me to think that pushing directly up on the joystick will make Issac turn to the left slightly. So, I try to compensate by push up and right, which make him run forward to the right. I compensate by pulling back left, but then he doesn't move as far left I was thinking. ugh :(

Also, Isaac was in a straight jacket the whole time, so that might be why it was so disorienting. After an hour of running around, I was getting rather frustrated, so I put it down and went to bed. I picked it up the next day with my expectations realigned, and ready to continue the journey.

Stage 2: Delightment

Once I had become one with the controls, Dead Space's wonderful concept of immerson took center stage. I was no longer controlling Isaac, I WAS Isaac. Dead Space 2 is right at home with everything I loved about the first game, namely the environment and the sound.

The Moon!

While going through offices, homes, and stores in this mess of a space station or space ship or whatever, people kept referring to it as "Titan". I figured it was just the name of the place, until I entered a room with a complete view of the outside. It was Saturn! The planet Saturn! It hung so beautifully in the spacey sky. And I realized that by "Titan", they meant the MOON!

In Dead Space 1, they just made up some planet for the Ishimura to crack. I think it was called Aegis? Actually, seeing how Aegis is greek, there probably is a moon with that name in our Solar System, but no where near reknowned as Titan.

The Titan moon base continued with Dead Space's theme of an organic, yet synthetic environment, ala Alien Resurrection. And it's horrific display of gore and twisted ideals, ala Event Horizon. Unlike the Ishimura from the first game, the Titan moon base feels much more comfortable. Much of the environment feels dank because all the lights have been blown out and there's blood everywhere. Before all hell broke loose, I'm sure much the locations looked a lot like Star Trek, or Mass Effect. They just needed a fresh coat of blood to tear them down.

Now that we're running through a sustainable ecosystem, rather than an engineering vessel, there is much more variety. You find yourself going through residential units, a mall, a church, and an elementary school, before you get to the space station stuff.

Dead Space doesn't miss the opportunity to go creepy with the elementary school. There are now baby necromorphs and 5th grader necromorphs. I think the 5th graders are my favorite enemy in the game. 10 or 15 of them will appear from a doorway and attempt to swarm you, while keeping their distance.

Rather than shooting them down with my gun, I always go for melee.  It reminds me a lot of this website: How many five years olds could you take in a fight? The website is purely theoretical, and this was my "real life" chance to find out! I was able to take down about 6 of 'em, before 3 more jumped on top of me and brought me down. Get these goddamn children off of me!

The Mood

Unfortunately with the amount of variety in the environment itself, sound took second place to art. While the mood is as immersive as the first game, each area is distinct because of the environment itself, not because it sounds different. Two of my favorite moments from Dead Space 1 were the engine room, and the first moment you hit space.

The engine room was massively loud. The whirring of the engine completely over came my senses, and made progress a bit disorienting. Even more so when the enemies broke into the room and I had to fight them while the huge, loud engine was right on top of me. There is nothing like this in Dead Space 2.

The only parts in Dead Space 2 where the sound takes center stage is Space, which is completely the same as the first game. There are several points when you are thrust into the vacuum of space to complete your task. When this happens all sound is sucked out of the environment, and the only thing you hear is yourself. The beeping on your oxygen tank, your breath as you exhale into your helmet, and the muddled clomps of your foot steps.

Astronauts describe the feeling of being in space as very isolating. There is nothing between you and space, but the layer of your space suit. Dead Space nailed this feeling perfectly, so I'm glad they brought it back for the sequel. And now you have thrusters to fly through Space!

Mood Killer

One thing I really hate about Dead Space 2 is the use of scare tactics. Dead Space 2 does an incredible job of immersing you in the environment and lulling you into an intent state, only to tear everything down by a monster popping out of the wall, or jumping out at you from behind a corner. It doesn't make the game scary. Being startled is not being scared.  By the fourth or fifth time, I just shrug it off and blow them away. There's no sense of danger, or being spooked.

It's the difference between somewhere coming up from behind you and yelling "BOO", rather than walking through the woods at night.

Stage 3: Frustration

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt :(

Dead Space 2 is quite an enjoyable experience until you get to the final chapters of the game. All story points converge at the government sector of the moon base. You've lead all the enemies of the game to this point, so now you need to fight them all. And you have a new enemy which cannot be killed, only slowed down.

Throughout the entire game, ammunition and health had never really been a problem. I have died quite a bit, but it was usually because I did something stupid. Dead Space would train me not to do that, and point out it should be done this way. I adapted and continued. I would always have enough health packs lying around to heal me, and plenty of ammo around to keep me moving through the hordes of enemies.

In the second to last chapter, Dead Space pretty much gave up on this balance. The enemies were more difficult, and there were more of them. I started using a whole lot of ammunition taking them down without enough to return to take on the next wave. So, I started getting hit more, and using up my health packs. Wave after wave of enemies continued, and I no longer had health to regen.

I basically pushed and shoved my way through all the enemies to make progress, which resulted in many many lives, and many many restarts. Yes, I wasn't really thinking about how I could improve, but with constant failure, I just wanted to get it done. I finally made it to the final checkout, which was complete with a Store to resupply.

What awaited behind that checkout was another constant horde of enemies, I had to push through to get to the final boss. But when I made it, I was all out of ammo and health again. Basically fucked. I tried taking them down, but after 30 minutes, I quit.

The End

With a good night's rest to think about my options, I returned with a plan. I sold all my extra ammo and focused completely on the only gun I had completely leveled up, my Plasma Cutter. With my strategy realigned, I tore through the horde, pushing most of them aside to greet the final boss, again. This time I blasted the shit of them. They hardly stood a chance.

Overall, Dead Space 2 did not let me down. I feel like it had a few incredible scenes and sequences, sewn together by a solid base. Before I got to the end, I had a very enjoyable time, and I'll probably pick it up again to chew away at the remaining achievements.

I would totally recommend Dead Space 2 for anyone that has fond memories of the original.

Also, the legend continues (or begins) with Dead Space Extraction included on the disc! Plus, there is DLC releasing tomorrow that ties Extraction into Dead Space 2, entitled "Severed".