Dead Space 2 - Actually pretty good

Occasionally I feel the need to balance out the stream of loathing that usually populates this blog with a positive review of something I actually enjoyed.

This is going to be kind of a mini-review since there isn't terribly much to say about this game.  Mostly, it's just a fun game.  That's the entire point of games isn't it really, to be fun?  Developers Visceral live up to their name once again, as that's the best adjective one could use to describe the Dead Space experience.  There's nothing like being surrounded by hordes of terrible nightmarish monsters and proceeding to blow off their arms and legs one by one... and then stomp their corpses in to mush (just because, fuck you, monsters).

At its time of release, I wasn't terribly interested in Dead Space 2.  There were a lot of lackluster reviews, and then to make matters (much) worse, one of the worst marketing campaigns in the history of video games.  Thanks EA, you probably set back public perception of video games by 20 years.

Anyways, the game plays out more or less the same as the first one.  This sounds like a bad thing, but when the core game itself is really enjoyable, then more of the same with a few new features and a story continuation is often much more welcome than a completely changed sequel.  You once again play Isaac Clarke, stuck on the most depressing space station ever, fighting off hordes of undead/mutated monsters and trying to escape the hellish nightmare, while the ultimate antagonist is (again) an evil company man who inexplicably cares more about research than slaughtering thousands of people (who probably pay his salary) and destroying billions of dollars worth of equipment and property.  Weyland-Yutani much?

Anyways, here's a quick rundown:

The Good

  • More extensive and varied level environments, coupled with no artificial level-transitions (you had to ride a train between every level in the previous game) or loading screens.
  • Going right along with that, some added gameplay variation, such as extended zero-g sequences and some falling/dodging shit sequences.  They aren't that drastic or frequent (or even inventive), but they serve to break up the monotony of dark corridors a little better.
  • Removal of shitty gameplay elements that I'm pretty sure nobody liked, such as the asteroid-shooting one.
  • Giving Isaac Clarke a voice, face, and dialogue, despite it still being generic video game white guy, served to engage me more with the plot and make me care a little more what happened.
  • The sound design is marvelous, as it was in the first game.
  • It's not the best looking game in the world, but it looks pretty nice and graphically runs incredibly smooth.
  • Customizable keybinds! This shouldn't even need to be said, but somehow PC ports seem to miss it all the time.  There is one exception though, which I'll cover in the next section.
  • A much more harrowing and appropriate endgame section.  The final boss itself was a pushover, once again, but the section immediately preceding it was insane.  It basically has you running through a nonstop gauntlet of Necromorphs while simultaneously being perused by a regenerating super-Necromorph, and pretty much running empty on ammo and health kits (the one and only time in the game that will happen, btw).
The Bad
  • There were a decent amount of really cheap deaths that became rather obnoxious.  They were pretty much entirely related to quick-time events.  I'm not sure I ever died outside of a stupid quick time event, actually.  
  • Quick time events.  Enough already.
  • Okay, so the one keybind issue I had is directly related to quick time events.  Most of the quick time events entailed mashing an action button, except for some reason that button wasn't mapped to any key, and despite pressing every key that was bound to anything, nothing happened.  I ended up having to keep my Xbox controller on standby so I could hit the A button whenever a QTE happened.
  • I was kind of disappointed that despite being a continuation of the Dead Space story, you don't really learn anything new about what all is going on.  As far as I can tell most of the plot is just Isaac dealing with PTSD and regrets about his girlfriend dying from the first game.  You don't actually find out anything about the Necromorphs or the marker or any of that crazy shit.
  • That's pretty much it, really.  The cheap deaths, which were mostly QTE instant-kills, were the only thing that really pissed me off throughout the game.
One final note: Don't call this game "survival horror."  It simply is not.  You will generally never find yourself wanting for ammo or health kits, you have tons of destructive weapons at your disposal, and the enemies are pretty manageable.  The horror part also depends on your own definition of horror.  As others have said, Dead Space is more akin to a slasher flick — it's gory as crap but the "scares" are all monsters popping out of dark places and yelling at you at predictable moments.  After you get over the initial shock value, there's nothing remaining to creep you out.  I'd say at about 1/4 of the way through the game, you start to roll your eyes at the monsters and go "Oh, you again? Don't you have any new tricks?  Feh... I'll kill you now."  That's not to say it isn't still fun to play.

Anyways, if you had been putting off playing it, the game is only $20 now on Amazon ($40 for the collector's edition or console versions), so you might as well go pick it up and have fun spending 10 hours blowing evil space monsters to shit.

Hmm... that turned out to be a long-ish review after all.

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