This has been a weird couple of months for me game-wise. Never have I been excited at so many games coming out at once. We are now in May and I’ve already played through four games I was thrilled to see released and wanted the first day! And even as we speak two more just hit the market! I’m usually lucky if three such games hit in a single year. But at the same time, I had space between titles this time, so I found myself looking at my ever-growing backlog. So while I waited for the next one, I decided to pick up this little gem and play it through. After all, I enjoyed the hell out of the original, so why wouldn’t I like this title?
Long story short, I loved it. Come on in and lets talk.
Story: It’s been a few years since the events on the Ishimura, and it seems Isaac Clark, the single survivor of both that catastrophe and the attempt by his own repair crew to fix the ship and re-establish contact with anyone aboard it, is definitely worse off for the wear. He spends his days now aboard the Sprawl, a space station situated on Titan, the biggest moon orbiting Saturn. And while he isn’t really on the job anymore, he probably wishes he was, as he also spends his days being observed and in a straight jacket. The influence of the Marker has driven Isaac Clark insane.
But not all is as it seems, for as the days have come and gone for our hero, other events have been happening that he has not been privy to throughout the station. The only reason Isaac was able to see something had gone horribly wrong was because suddenly, one day his cell door was opened and a man came to pull him out for evacuation. While he was attempting to get our hero out of his cell, an alien creature latched itself onto his torso and jammed a tube on it’s “face” through his head. As a result, the freshly killed man was mutated into the monstrous space-zombie known as a Necromorphe on the spot.
This is the point the game will start you as you run to escape the asylum, find a way to unlock your arms from in front of you, and escape the new infection brewing on the station. You will guide Isaac through a story about surviving his second zombie apocalypse, even as he is haunted by hallucinations of his dead girlfriend from the first one taunting and torturing him as he moves along. And yet, the story doesn’t stay on this same note the entire time. Before long, Isaac finds himself working with two other survivors to escape both the necromorphs and a government attempt at containment which will kill them in the process, giving a the whole story a much more personal feel as the man leading this containment reaches out to Isaac again and again over the communication lines. Sometimes sympathetically, sometimes aggressively, but always showing that there actually is someone human doing their best to keep everything in that station from leaving and spreading the infection. This lends the events themselves a bit more of a human element and gives your opposition for most of the game an actual personality despite the enemies being nothing but the monstrosities you are fighting.
There are more elements to the plot here then I am going over, but the game cares to reveal details from a survivor’s eyes. As a result, explaining too much could ruin the game for you. And yet here the game faulters a little too. Since this isn’t Isaac’s first time dealing with the monsters that now inhabit the Sprawl’s halls, the game assumes it’s not yours either, and won’t explain anything that the original title covered. In short, the game wouldn’t stand on it’s own if not for a selectable video in the single player menu called “previously on Dead Space.”
It is also worth noting that if you did actually play the original game, the Markers (artifacts of alien origin directly related to and centered by the events in both games and worshipped by a huge religious organization in the game’s universe) have completely reverse effects on the creatures involved. Without reading more into the universe, there is no effective way to resolve this conflict. I can not let such a central item in both games having such a contradictory nature go without commenting on it.
Graphics: [System Specs: AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz, 4GB RAM, Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM, and Windows 7]
Considering the game was released in 2011, there are probably a lot of people who would expect the game to look dated and have to forgive it. However, those people would be pleasantly surprised by what Deadspace 2 shows them. This game is generally dark, oppressive, and holds up exceptionally well.
When looking at the environment, you will find yourself wandering an insane asylum, apartment buildings, daycares, a church, industrial areas, and even military bases. And with all this variety, the game holds together a theme of desolation, decay, and the aftermath of something horrible occurring very well. It also keeps everything setup in a way that makes it all feel like it’s part of the same place, something with this much variety to praise in it’s own right.
And the detail work that went into each area speaks of a love the developers have for their world and their game in it they were creating. When you look around and you can see the details of how many of the previous residents of this station died just by the visual touches the left behind, or notes in the church made about who might be worthy to move up in their ranks and who is most likely to walk away from them, you have to appreciate it. These are very human touches that reach out from the recently living station. It’s things like these that make or break an environment, and this game makes it in spades.
As for the current inhabitants, they are done very well too. Granted, you can not expect photo-realistic people in the game. It was designed with the limitation of the hardware of it’s day (both PC and console). Still, this hardly takes away as the aesthetics they used still hold well right now. Nothing stands out as wrong or ugly that isn’t meant to, which brings us to the necromorphs. For the most part, these have not changed their basic designs from our first encounter, which is a good thing for consistency. However, with time and some advancement in the engine, more detail could be added, as displayed nice and up close by the opening sequence to the game itself. Get a good look, as from that moment on, the tone has been set and it never changes.
However, this game also separates itself from most other games in it’s UI for the player: there is none. Everything that you need to access (like your health or inventory) is done with ingame items. Your health is actually a glowing bar on Isaac’s back that is filled (or not) based on how much health you have. If you want to switch weapons, rolling the mouse wheel will not only do this, but open a holographic panel in front of Isaac showing your currently equiped weapons (up to four) in a “plus” configuration. Hitting Tab opens up another holographic panel for your inventory. Even the QTEs in this game use this style of control, showing a holographic “E” whenever one is going on to tell you what button to mash.
Sound: Deadspace 2 is the kind of game that really needs to go the route it did and subdue it’s musical portions significantly. Harkening to horror movies where the music is more of a mood setter when used then anything else, letting ambient noises take over when possible, it proves it’s pure genius. True, no one will go looking for the sound track to this game, but that was never the point. Instead, the point was to go the route of films like Alien where you only noticed the music when in a tense situation, and even then the moment has you and you only realize the enhancement it got after the fact. This is the kind of brilliant use of music more “atmospheric” games need to understand!
As for the voice acting, I have to say it was well done. The chosen actor for Isaac filled in the roll admirably as did everyone else. But this is not really a game based around such parts, so they will be fairly few and far between as you make your way around the station.
The real star here, is actually the sound effects department, however. Sure your weapons generally sound good, if not exceptional, but it’s the sounds of the necromorphs that will hit you. From the baby cooing and crying, to the screeches of the child-horde, to even the roar of a triumphant lurker as it comes barreling at you convinced you didn’t see it, this game keeps everything sounding like it’s part of the same thing, yet distinct and chilling. You will learn to identify what’s around the corner based on the noises they make and panic when you hear some of these without seeing the source, because you know the punishment coming on the other side is on the way.
Gameplay: For those of you who have played the original DeadSpace, you already know pretty much what to expect this time around. However for the rest of you, DeadSpace 2 is an over-the-shoulder view survival horror title. You will guide Isaac using the camera and this perspective to destroy monsters in your path and clear obstacles to proceed.
Those obstacles generally tend to be large objects in the way (such as panel coverings or in some cases, desks or other debris) which you can move using a kinetic beam to pull and throw objects, In addition to this, you will also have access to a “cryokinetic” device which will let you freeze enemies and objects, slowing them down to give you more time to do what you need to do. And of course you have your traditional set of weapons you can interact with as well, and all your tools are both useful and necessary to make your way through the game…. well, almost.
I have to say almost due to the weapons. Simply put this game gives you a lot of options, but you will find yourself most likely gravitating towards a few select choices you happen to like and using little else. The game in fact seems to encourage this as your equipped weapons are overwhelmingly your most likely to find ammo for as you play.
And just like in the first game, you will find power nodes that can be used to either open up special rooms or to permanently upgrade your equipment. The rooms are usually full of items you will find useful, from med kits to ammo, to blueprints allowing shops to make more stuff to even electrical equipment you can sell at those same shops for a quick boost in cash. In general, I recommend opening every one of these doors you find, but be aware on occasion this game WILL screw you. This only happened to me once in my entire 15-20 hour game, but I found one room with one pack of ammo and a box that when I broke it open, had a handful of tiny baby aliens of the kind that make necromorphs which promptly decided to try to eat my face. Since it’s possible but exceptionally rare, I recommend opening all the doors of this nature, but saving first when possible.
Upgrading your gear, however, happens at workbenches you find throughout the game. When you open one, you will be given a list of your currently equipped weapons, your cryokinetic gear, and a generic “RIG.” The generic part is because any upgrades you make to your current suit carry over to any other suit you buy and/or equip, so you never loose those. Selecting one will bring up a schematic of node placement where, provided you have built a path to them, you can place nodes to either gain the upgrade on that spot or gain access to any spots connected to it. Incidentally, if you are smart with your ammunition, it is really easy to buy and find enough nodes to maximize your favorite weapons as well as get all the important upgrades to your rig on your first playthrough.
And you will want to do this, as while the game is not a huge challenge overall, there are parts of the game that will leave you frustrated as they suddenly get exceptionally tough. The single best example I can think of is towards the end of the game as you are being chased down a hallway by something you can not kill and enemies are dropping in in front of you at the same time. If you don’t watch it, it’s exceptionally easy in this part to just get swarmed to the point that you can not move, so having the extra boost in your weapons to knock down enemies quickly is definitely a must by this point.
Not that those enemies will be straight forward. On the contrary, we are talking about necromorphs who can lose parts and not care what part they just lost, so the traditional “shoot it in the face” can often be disastrous to you and not even slow the beast down. Rather, you will spend your shots aiming at limbs in an attempt to dismember them. Taking off legs is often an excellent choice as it slows down the creature who now has to crawl to try to chew your legs off rather then run and try to chew your face.
And although this is the majority of the game and where it plays identically to the original, there are parts of the game you will see fairly often that I find myself disliking. These parts would be the zero gravity components. In the original game, you navigated these by flinging yourself between magnetized panels, leaving you actually grounded (if orientated completely different) during gameplay. This added a fun maneuvering game to the room and even to potential combat without gravity, for even as it limited where you could go, it gave you exceptional speed to dodge with in the fight. In DeadSpace 2, however you find yourself using “rockets” to fly around, and by rockets, I mean puffs of gas that slowly meander you around the space. It feels clunky compared to zipping along like you used to and frankly I would have liked to have had the old way over this.
Still, if this is the only real complaint I have of the gameplay, they clearly made the game right overall.
Bugs: I don’t know if anything I saw could be considered “bugs” as much as an odd occasional glitch, but I did see a few so I believe I have to not them:
- Stretch-Arm-Neck: Sometimes, collision in this game caused odd things to happen. I’ve had Isaac wear a panel cover like a ballerina dress. I’ve had monster corpses dance without stopping as the game couldn’t find a good resting spot for them. I even had the game put a corpse in a crawl tunnel where it clearly didn’t belong or have room to be. But the engine was also weird in that it tried to allow fleshy things to stretch when necessary. I found out how willing it was able to get when at one point I needed to bring a body over to a door and convince the computer the guy was letting me into a room. His arm was stuck but the game gave me no clue since Isaac was covering that part of the screen till I heard something “dancing.” I looked behind me to see his arm trailing a good 20 feet as the body was trying to react. Letting it go sent the thing flying in a macabre display that only could be funny thanks to video games.
- Odd rendering in the last video: Maybe it’s because my monitor is right smack dab between 1080 and 720 HD resolutions, but the end video did something odd when I finished the game. I could see everything clearly, but the left and top of the screen stretched the edge pixels a little ways into the screen, resulting in the kind of effect you might see with old VHS tapes that were starting wear. It was clear how it ended, and it only happened for the absolute last 20 seconds, but it was… very odd.
Overall: I can say very little bad about DeadSpace 2. The game overall was an amazing piece of work with a few rough spots on for overall great experience. If your are only picking it up now, you are getting one hell of a deal for $20. Pick it up, play it through, and enjoy.