It’s that time of year again, where the weather gets to feeling damn near perfect, leaves start falling, hot cocoa and pumpkin related products are consumed en masse, and horror games and movies get lots of play. Yes, that’s right, it’s October and I want to share with you a horror game that is very dear to my heart.
Back in October of 2008, I played a game that I had been highly anticipating the release of, it was an action/survival horror game supposed to be set in space and following along the same vein as Resident Evil 4. That third person perspective, over the shoulder camera, laser-aiming reticle goodness that I had grown to love immensely. I was hoping for an action packed thrill ride and let me tell you, I was not disappointed in the
Dead Space had all the best ingredients of horror smashed together into a slick package: creepy enemies that could come at you in large packs and from any angle (due to them using air ducts and vents as mobility around the levels so they can pop out from anywhere), a nice variety of weapons that were completely unique and very fun to use, a balanced difficulty that required you to play smarter than a lot of other games but still was almost never frustrating (besides the meteor shooting segment, that was pretty maddening), an engaging story, some neat boss fights, and stellar visuals. I have to say to me it matched pound for pound with how I felt about Resident Evil 4 and I beat Dead Space at least 8 times on PS3, which is more than I can say for any other game that I had been playing at that time. Most of them I finished once and that was all I needed but this one brought something much more to the table.
In the very beginning of 2011, we saw the next installment of this action/horror hybrid. So, did it live up to the original? Or die trying? Let’s take a look and find out.
It’s been 3 years since our returning protagonist (engineer Isaac Clarke) was aboard a necromorph infested space mining ship: the USG Ishimura. Suffering great loss at the end of the previous game, his sanity was in question and he was placed on an asylum within the Sprawl, a space station located near the planet Saturn. Our story starts with Isaac in a straight jacket and restrained. He is set free by Franco Delille, who was in a side Dead Space game called Dead Space: Ignition. Franco is killed whilst releasing Isaac by an infector Necromorph and turns into one gruesomely before Isaac’s eyes. After pushing Franco aside and running from the room, control is given to the player and the chaos begins.
The game shows you the tactics needed to face the Necromorphs and lays them out in a nice smooth fashion. One by one you learn all the mechanics of the game: healing, kinesis (a telekinetic ability that allows you to pick up items as well as level debris and Necromorph body parts, which can be used as a one-shot weapon), hacking, stasis (another ability that shoots a blue beam capable of slowing down whatever it hits, which is highly useful for puzzles and slowing down highly mobile enemies for easier combat management), and melee. All of these tools are important to survival on the Sprawl. Enemies are fast, come from anywhere and everywhere, and tensions are high at almost all times. Whereas Dead Space was a very fast paced game with some slower sections, Dead Space 2 in full throttle when it comes to action. Playing this game with headphones or a great surround sound system is a must because the use of sound is another high point of this series. Since enemies can and will come from all sides you need to be able to hear them before they get to you.
Your suit is called the Resource Integration Gear (or RIG) and is a very important part of your survival. It can be upgraded, as can your weapons, with power nodes that are found scattered throughout the locales in Dead Space 2. These upgrades are made at benches and pertain to everything from how much life you have, how far your kinesis can reach, how long your stasis lasts, and many more options. The key is to explore and find as many nodes as you can so you can make this journey a lot easier on yourself and Isaac. Also, you will find stores throughout the game that let you buy crucial items such as new RIGs, weapons, ammo, and stasis packs. So grab all of the money from enemies and areas that you can and stock up because you’re going to need.
The weapons are great as well, bringing back a lot of the classics from the first title like the Plasma Cutter, Line Gun, Ripper, and more. Also bringing in some new ones like the Pulse Rifle, Detonator Gun, and the Javelin Gun, just to name a few. All of the weapons are fun to play with and figure out what works best for your playstyle. For me, it’s always simple: the Plasma Cutter and Pulse Rifle (when things get too hectic though you can’t go wrong with a beefed up Line Gun).
All of the enemies from the first Dead Space, for the most part, have returned and they have brought some new friends as well. The Sprawl is crawling with Necromorphs at every corner and you’ll want to take all of them out as quickly as you can, otherwise, you will be swarmed in no time. The new enemy types are sometimes a pain in the ass but their presence really just teaches you to prioritize based on what’s coming at you. Some enemies explode if they get too close, some are insanely fast, others are super strong and can kill you quickly, while some spit acid and slow you down. Always be on the move and make every shot count. The good news is, stomping on corpses of enemies usually nets you either credits, ammo, or health items so that helps you if you are in need of some items.
The difficulty is still fair and checkpoints and save stations are in abundance all throughout the game. Dying is something the developers know you are going to do occasionally and they don’t seem to punish you as much as they easily could for it. I never felt frustrated because I never had to go back extremely far after a death. Also, Dead Space 2 makes it beyond difficult to get lost because of a waypoint that can be shown with a touch of a button. It’s that simple to figure out where to head to next.
Another high point is the fact that, like Dead Space, you fight against enemies in a different way than other horror games that use guns against creatures. In most titles involving shooting, what’s the first thing you’re probably going to aim for? The head. It has been engrained in our minds that the head is the weak spot to shoot first. In Dead Space, however, that is not the case at all. Blowing a head off typically results in pissing the enemy off more. The goal is to go for the limbs instead. Most all of your weapons are laser based and are used like cutting tools that separate appendages like a sharp knife through a string. This departure from how other games play might seem like it would take awhile to get used to, but trust me, you’ll be severing limbs like a pro in no time.
There are also sections taking place in the vacuum of space where you have no air other than what is provided in your RIG, and you will need complete whatever objectives are given to you in a hasty manner. Usually, there are plenty of oxygen tanks around to keep you going though so this part isn’t too much of a nuisance even though it can lead to some high-stress situations for sure.
I could get into all of the parts of the story, but honestly I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises the game has to offer (including the ones in the first game, in case you haven’t played it yet, and there are some big spoilers at the beginning of this game that ruin the ending to the first one if you don’t already know what’s going on), and this is a game I highly recommend that you pick up if you haven’t already or have been on the fence about it. If you love action, horror, and fun then you owe it to yourself to grab this game.