Sunday, 11 September 2011

REVIEW: Dead Space 2

Sequel to one of the most original games ever, there was a very high standard for this game to live up to. But did it deliver?

I had a problem with this game. Literally. In that my second disc on my Xbox wasn't working. So after putting it down after intensively working my way through the first disc, I finally returned to Hell on Earth, or in space should I say after a 5 month hiatus.

Dead Space 2 takes place not long after the first game and Isaac is in a psychiatry ward in a settlement on some planet or other. Immediately, things start going wrong again. After an escape, your back with the monsters and you are left to survive - alone. Well, mostly. There's some woman who is helping you out a bit along the way as well - but she's hardly there so don't worry.

I can't really remember much of the story. You generally have to get from A to B via C and press a few buttons and do some things to turn things off and on in the grander scheme of things or whatever, but I never really understood the story at any point. You're also seems you're against the military as they are to recover the artefact, this ancient huge structure that seems to be the key to everything. What makes this game enjoyable is that the artefact and the story around it might seem like the main story, however it is in fact the story of Isaac's peronal issues that are the most interesting - and in fact make for the heart wrenching power behind what would usually be dismissed as a no-brainer action game.

In case you didn't know, the first Dead Space was actually Isaac coming to terms with his inner demons in relation to his wife. This denial continues in Dead Space 2 where is trying his hardest to let her go, but he cannot. She appears, calling him back into madness, Isaac trying desperately to hang onto his sanity. Again, the monsters are just personifications of his mental breakdown and it's these two levels of interpretation that make the game work. For the action shoot'em'uppers, it's a man killing monsters with a big bit of stone in the middle and some weird stuff going on, but for those who wish to, the story can be read in a multiple of ways.

In any case, EA have taken Dead Space 2 in a different direction. There's a lot more action, you get thrown about the city which has huge landscapes and more larger scale battles. However, what it makes up for in action it loses in it's original appeal. The reason why I loved the first game is that on the Ishimura spaceship, the corridors were tiny, claustrophobic, making you constantly on edge. The tension was unbearable at times and it dotted the gameplay with action set pieces that fulfilled the odd blood lust. Dead Space 2 does have tension, but it's so open that you can't help but feel like they've missed the point slightly. It's the same feeling as if it's like a Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film. However, at one point when you enter back into Ishimura, it was one of the most emotive sequences I've had in a game. The recognisable set, the horrible closed corridors, the long elevator rides, it all came flooding back in a wave of dread upon me in a too-brief chapter that made it clear to me that the original Dead Space was definitely better.

An annoying aspect near the end, when you're up against an invincible Terminator-esque monster (which made me recall Resident Evil 3) took me quite a few attempts as I had ran out of ammo and health. I'd recommend saving at regular intervals on different slots because I'm used to just overwriting my save files again and again and I was gutted I couldn't go back to fill up on more health and ammo before launching into this battle against a load of creatures and someone that can't die. The same for the final boss battle, which took a few attempts and then suddenly through a stroke of chance I completed in about 20 seconds.

The gameplay however is a lot smoother, the graphics more colourful yet washed out and they have taken painstaking effort into the small details that grace the game's every moment. The voice acting is superb but, much like the first game, the overall story arc as I said before could have been more simplified. Why am I pushing this button again? Who is this guy? Why am I going back into Ishimura again? Luckily, it never stays like that for long and you're quite happy just to follow where you mean to go and kill some things along the way.

I did thoroughly enjoy the game and it was definitely a great purchase. However, it wasn't the survival horror that the first one was and also I didn't collect near as enough ammo or power nodes etc. by the end as I had done in the first game, so I felt like they somewhat rely on the fact you might want to replay the game keeping all your stuff again and adding to it. I just think that it's a worthy sequel but can't touch the amazing experience that I took during the first game.

Great fun but somewhat lacking in areas. I can only hope that another game like the first, or perhaps a sequel that might do something a bit different will come about. As much as I love those weird monsters, I can't help but feel that I'm going to be a bit sick of them if it's the same thing third time round. They should definitely make it more disturbing, which doesn't always mean less action.

And please no Terminator type monsters. As tense as it was, it was also very annoying.

Go out and buy it. You won't be disappointed but if you haven't done the first one? Definitely do that first.

Rating: 8/10

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