Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Dead Space 2


Three years have passed since the events on the USG Ishimura.  The fateful rescue attempt leaving one survivor in a world of hurt.  Isaac Clarke returns from the pits of hell only to be overtaken by it again on the space station known as the Sprawl on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.   As much as Isaac tried to keep from being overtaken by enemy creatures, the damage done mentally left longer lasting scars.
When he “wakes” from his Post Traumatic Stress and dementia, Isaac is again thrust into the center of conspiracy, violence, death and necromorphs.
…Succumb to insanity.

The former picturesque station is now a bloody one-way path into the belly of the beast.  The graphics are stellar and crisp giving enough detail to the creatures that lurk the horrid complexions that made even myself recoil at a few scenes.  Even in the dark hallways or walking through the recommissioned Ishimura, the atmosphere just on sight gave a sense of foreboding and dread.  The lighting was intense to the sudden burst of a fuse to the black lights that illuminate blood stains in a day glow blue.  The smallest details made the game a work of art.
The ambiance from the soundtrack to the clatter of metal on deck plating enters the player into a sense of paranoia.  The claws skittering in air ducts above urge the player forward, even if they didn’t want to.
“Shoot off their limbs!”


This time around combat was fast and intense.  While the first ten minutes of game play are distressing and horrifying; there is nothing that the engineer can do.  His hands are literally tied.  Once actual gun play comes into effect, the controls are less touchy than its predecessor.  An emphasis on stasis takes center stage as the player makes their way through various locations on the Sprawl.

Zee-gee missions were massively improved compared to the first Dead Space.  The use of boot thrusters to quickly navigate through treacherous passages was useful.  Also new to zero gravity is the ability to auto correct for placement.  Remember in the first one no one could tell well the floor or ceiling was once you made your jump?  They’ve fixed that, so now with the click of a button, Isaac is right side up and the sky isn’t a stellar sidewalk.

Creatures are fast and the old adage of shooting off their limbs doesn’t always stack.  Whether being played on casual or hardcore, shooting off two legs and booking it doesn’t always work.  They are faster and smarter and many of them attack in packs or use flanking maneuvers.

Ammunition is limited, but the ability to impale creatures with spikes with a telekinesis shot makes up for the dread of the “click” from an empty firearm.
Though to compensate for those situations, Isaac was given new hardware to use along with some old goodies from the last game.  The Plasma Cutter makes its appearance as the perfect side arm and with a special ability unlocked by nodes this gun is still a heavy hitter.  The Contact Gun has an impressive second feature that will blow enemies back and put them in stasis if you are willing to pump the nodes into it.
A couple of new toys are the Seeker Rifle, which is the equivalent of a sniper rifle, great for long range, but not so good up close.  Another wonderful item is the Detonator.  This piece of weaponry fires a proximity mine with tripwires that can cause substantial damage if placed correctly.  The last new item in firepower is the Javelin Gun.  Shoot your opponent and nail them to the wall.  Its secondary function will impale an enemy and electrocute those that are near it.  It’s great for crowd control.

The all important RIG gets an upgrade as well.  With the different schematics for suits, there were some changes made this time around that don’t just effect item capacity or damage reduction.  A few of the suits now come with special abilities that will alter weapons or stasis.  If you don’t like a suit or want a specific ability for your play style, don’t be leery about changing to something you want to use.  Isaac won’t lose any of the new item slots or protection by choosing something else.  They are static.
While gameplay is tight and difficulty slowly progresses, the end game made a mad jump in difficulty.  The last couple of chapters were winner take all and if you don’t have the means to finish, whether by low health and no med packs, or out of ammunition.  You might as well stop playing and start from the beginning again.  It is a grating experience on the more difficult settings not to be prepared or to think you are and be totally wrong.
The mini game of hacking panels was lack luster, but was the equivalent of trying to break into an old bank vault.  Turn the dial and when you hit the right spot, you’ve made a connection.  Do that three times and your job as an engineer is practically fulfilled.

“There are four steps…”
The story is intense from the word “go”.  Isaac’s trip into madness isn’t a walk through the park for him and some of the NPCs that he interacts with.  Yes, this time Isaac is a fully voiced character with a personality that rings of remorse, regret and self-hatred.

Throughout game play, Isaac will be assaulted by the disembodied voice of his dead girlfriend, Nicole to flashes of terrible scenes of death that will almost bring him to his knees, and full on attacks by the remnants of his past.

There are plenty of quick time events during the story to keep a player on their toes.  Fail and its game over.
While the story is quick and the characters sparse, there just seemed to be something off about it.  Whether it was the characters and their two dimensional attitudes about what is going on, they didn’t seem like they were fully aware of their own mental faculties.  If it was due to their own paranoia or terror, it isn’t written out like they should have responded given the situation.

Midway through the game, as independent as Isaac was in the beginning, he became a gofer to an audio link that just wouldn’t shut up.  I sat in one room and thought to myself that the task would go so much quicker if they would just get out and help.  Do something, anything.  Just don’t sit in your god-mode cabin and watch me get smacked around by shrieking monsters.  I digress.

“Make us whole, Isaac…”
Though the game as a whole was incredible, there were a few things that I thought could use some fixing.  Small as they might be, they should be brought up.  First off, Stasis can be picky with certain items.  I went to pick up something and it got lost in a dimensional hold.  I couldn’t pick it up and when I did get near it, it would disappear.  Eventually, almost giving up on it I had to walk into the doorway of another room and kinesis it from there hoping that the door wouldn’t close while I maneuvered Isaac into a good position.
Another thing and my biggest gripe are the elevators.  I had the same problem with them in the first Dead Space.  Even though it happened once per game it happened at the same place.  Standard operational procedure when it comes to survival/horror games and elevators is don’t stand by the doors.  Common sense, right?  When standing in a corner, Isaac would mysteriously and abruptly drop through the elevator like someone opened a trap door under him and then that would be it “Game Over.”

The tables have turned:  Multiplayer While I only got to experiment a few times with the multiplayer game it was an interesting exchange of four on four battle royale against humans and necromorphs.  Tired of those pesky lurkers firing on you?  Then take your frustrations out on another player by becoming one yourself!

ncluded is a point and ranking system that gives the player certain special abilities or items to be used during the single player campaign according to what level you hit.  Some would increase the damage of certain weapons, while others would increase damage reduction.

I especially liked it for the moments of laughing out loud when I would sneak up on someone and slash at my opponent like so many times that it had happened to me in the main game.

Professional Opinion:
It’s a great game with intense storytelling.  While it might drag in a few parts and become slightly redundant after the third or fourth “Isaac, you need to do…,” it’s well worth the play through a couple of times.  If you are more into hardcore survival/horror or love to play shooters, than this is a game for you.  Combat is definitely worthwhile with all the combinations of weaponry and armor at your disposal.  The atmosphere is spectacular.  What speaks gloom and doom better than being trapped in space?

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