Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dead Space 2 Review

Dead Space 2Good evening, ladies and gents, J. Wellington Rommefeller here. I’ve recently completed EA’s latest venture into the survival horror realm—Dead Space 2.  I must say, it was a bully good time, but not one without its mishaps!

Dead Space 2 is the sequel to Dead Space, a 2008 release which chronicles the tale of Isaac Clarke, an engineer  charged with the heady task of saving his own life and that of his fair lady friend. I shant delve too far into the original, but suffice to say, things quickly devolve into quite the hullabaloo. In the sequel, Mr. Clarke finds himself in a sanitorium of some sort and it appears the necromorph infestation has broken out yet again! Oh my! True to form, Mr. Clarke takes it upon himself to destroy the necromorphic fountainhead in order to prevent a recurrence of the unfortunate events aboard the Ishimura.

When Dead Space catapulted onto the scene two years ago, I recall playing it and musing to myself “J. old boy, at long last a survival horror game of your fancy!” The original was quite suspenseful, had an engaging storyline and could go toe-to-toe with established series like its sanguinary forebearer Resident Evil. And by Roosevelt’s riding crop, Dead Space’s successor does not disappoint!

My only grievance against the original game was the confounded zero-G controls, and they’ve been wonderfully improved! Instead of Mr. Clarke’s movement being restricted to bouncing about from surface to surface, our intrepid engineer may now float about as he sees fit. Dead Space 2 delivers superior controls and map functions as well, now employing a phosphorescent pathway to guide you to your objective, or the nearest store, bench, or save station. Dead Space 2 also intensifies the degree of virtual carnage in new and unsettling ways. I must confess I did away with poor Isaac more than a few times simply to witness the interesting ways in which he snuffed it. I would not normally find amusement in such frippery, But the myriad of ways in which the hapless Isaac was catawamptiously  chewed up was far too entertaining to pass upon.

Dead Space 2 became no less thrilling as I played. In the time since the original’s release, I had forgotten just how skilled the blokes at Visceral Games are at building a suspenseful moment!  I often found my moustache hairs standing on end as I fearfully anticipated the appearance of yet another hook-taloned ghoul.  Minutes of empty corridors and vacant air ducts withdrew me from the edge of my seat, but only long enough to properly shock me with a deluge of new horrors for Mr. Clarke.. The developers have quite a knack for playing on one’s fear of the unknown.
Isaac Clarke acquires a new female companion this time around; Ms. Ellie Langford is a stalwart and tenacious female lead who compliments Isaac’s characterization in Dead Space 2. The risk involved in this endeavor was considerable given the previous game’s heavy focus on the ill-fated bond between Mr. Clarke and Nicole Brennan, Isaac’s sweetheart. Fortunately, Ms. Lankford is an alluring character who Serves to help Isaac on his quest as well as to provide him with motivation in times most grim.  The presence of a consistent, capable female character throughout the game is a wonderful juxtaposition against Ms. Brennan as the first game was spent largely in pursuit of Mr. Clark’s lover and the tedious, cryptic messages she left behind.

Dead Space 2 took quite a substantial risk by instilling its previously reticent protagonist with a voice and personality; until now, these aspects of Isaac were left up to the imagination of the player. I must be frank, Mr. Clarke’s characterization feels truly botched up.  It goes without saying that not everyone’s perception of who Isaac was in the first game could be realized, but I personally found virtue in the stoic strength of Isaac as the silent hero. I oft thought of him as a quiet man, an engineer who sought nothing more than to do his job and save his ill-fated lover. My dissatisfaction with Dead Space 2 stems not from the idea that Isaac isn’t the fellow I thought he was, but rather that he is who most other survival horror characters are—a droll but affable man who wisecracks his way through mission after mission while simultaneously carrying a dark past. I’ve seen this character depicted again and again throughout my gaming pursuits and I grow ever so weary of it. Had I inclination to cavort about shooting large weapons and solving puzzles as a cheeky hero with a heart of gold I would simply play Uncharted –Nathan Drake has far better quips. Visceral Games crossed the Rubicon with this error, and I see my list of strong, silent, respectable main characters shrink yet again.

Dead Space 2 is a stupendous follow up to one of the survival horror games closest to my heart. Isaac Clarke may not have been the man I envisioned him to be, but the engaging gameplay and suspenseful storytelling kept me enthralled down to the short strokes.
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