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Dead Space and Dead Space 2 review
By A.K.

                   One of the biggest survival horror games of this decade has been Dead Space, a game that literally no one knew about. My first taste came when my brothers and I saw a picture of a floating severed hand. From there, we had a few nights of yelling, getting scared, and basically freaking the crap out. However, after beating both games, I have had some revelations.
                   The plot in both games has been quite interesting; the only problem is I only found that out after reading it on Wikipedia. I find that as I play the game, all I did was move from one simple puzzle to the next, with big fights in between. I never found myself really feeling the frustration or fear that the characters should have been feeling. Everything seemed like a minor speed bump on the way to wherever the blue line on the floor was telling you to go. It’s a game that tries to be atmospheric, but fails because it seems so familiar. A big, alien overrun, bloody, abandoned space ship is pretty unoriginal, and the same goes for the big, alien overrun, bloody space station in Dead Space 2, as well. Dead Space made you backtrack a lot, and Dead Space 2 had a whole level on board the Ishimura, the big, alien overrun, bloody, abandoned space ship from the first game. The levels just feel like the blood and dead bodies have always been there.
                   Anyway, back to the plot. In Dead Space you play Isaac Clarke, a CEC engineer onboard a repair mission to the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel. Isaac is not only trying to repair the Ishimura, but is also looking for his girlfriend. Everyone except Isaac and two other people get their socks rocked by some space zombies, or necromorphs. After that, he wanders around the ship fixing stuff and killing necromorphs. One of the biggest problems with the plot of the first Dead Space was that Isaac Clarke was a robot. He said nothing, you only see his face twice, and he displays literally no emotion, not even by body language. I will refrain from spoiling plots in the future, but the plot of the second game revolves around the twist in the first. Spoiler: Isaac’s girlfriend committed suicide to escape the horrors of the ship!! All the times Isaac has been seeing her has been a hallucination caused by the Marker, an alien piece of technology trying to put itself back together by bending the minds of those around it.                     
Visceral ironed out these problems with Isaac’s character in Dead Space 2, but unfortunately left the iron on too long and burnt his character a bit. In the second game, Isaac is suffering from dementia and convenient amnesia, meaning he’s forgotten everything that happened between the two games. He awakes on board Titan station, one of Saturn’s moons, in an insane asylum. One quick complaint, why don’t they have a separate, isolated moon for the insane people throughout the galaxy? Anyway, the person who tries to untie you from your straight jacket gets turned into a necromorphs and Isaac has to head-butt him away in order to escape the asylum. He then does the exact same thing as he did in Dead Space, wandering around fixing things while being hunted by necromorphs, the military, and his hallucinations. The story happening outside of Isaac’s head kind of pales in comparison to the inner struggle between Isaac and the hallucinations of his dead girlfriend, who he persuaded to work on the Ishimura. He is guilt ridden and the hallucinations are even trying to kill him, which makes the last few levels quite unnerving.  
                   I am now going to spend a paragraph releasing my frustration about Isaac’s character in Dead Space 2. IT IS NOT A SURVIVAL-HORROR GAME CHARACTER! His lines, attitude, and overall persona are that of an action game, which is basically what the Dead Space franchise is. Visceral could have at least tried to make him a survival-horror game character. At one point he is stuck in an area forced to fight off waves of aliens. When asked by a support character if he is alright, he responds with, “Yeah, good times.” He should be terrified, confused, and on the edge of a complete mental breakdown, not making satirical comments. Another moment comes when he is boarding the Ishimura in the second game. The same character says that it’s a bad idea, and Isaac responds with, “Stick around, I’m full of bad ideas.” Then Visceral decided to make him seem nervous as he trod the same paths where all the horrors started, but this failed since he only seemed nervous for one line before going back to his action hero character.              
Game play in the first game consisted of Isaac walking down claustrophobic hallways killing aliens, occasionally having to fix something or solve a puzzle. This might seem par for most survival-horror games but there are a few differences. The only way to kill enemies is to cut off their arms and legs, shooting them in the body does nothing and shooting their head off makes them flail their arms around at you. Because of this, everyone’s arms and legs come off as if they are attached to the body with wet duct-tape. Isaac has to stomp or beat the head, legs and arms off of everything in sight. He is also equipped with stasis, which slows down enemies that get hit with it for a short time, and kinesis, which allows him to pick up objects and is mainly used for fixing things. These moments where he fixes something or solves a puzzle are way too easy. At one point, a laser, shooting from some apparatus, was blocking my way. I saw a rocket that I could attach to it in order to move it. After grabbing it, I made my way to the apparatus to find that one was already attached! It’s like they don’t want it to get too hard.
The next original aspects of the game came with the guns and HUD. There is only one gun in the first game, an assault rifle. The rest are tools used by Isaac to cut off the necromorphs limbs. The thing is these “tools” seem like they were built to cut off limbs. One of them shoots out a spinning blade that hovers in front of you. There are no trees in either game, and the tool seems way too messy for surgery, so it seems to have no purpose as a tool in the real world. The HUD is integrated into Isaac’s suit. Your health is a meter running along your spine, next to that is a smaller meter telling you your stasis levels, and the ammo counter and sights come out of the gun. The HUD really lets you get into the game, as you’re not staring at invisible meters and counters.
The biggest aspect of the game is space itself. Since the areas in Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are falling apart, there are places where hull breaches have occurred making a vacuum, and certain rooms are made to be a zero gravity environment. You have a limited amount of air in your suit, so the vacuum levels become quite nerve-racking as you slowly suffocate while space-zombie babies stab you in the spine. The zero-G in the first game was quite original. You aimed at a certain spot and you pressed a button to leap across the room to get to it. The zero-G makes the game a bit more fun, but also allows for the space-zombie babies aforementioned to find your spine much easier.
Dead Space 2 kept the basics of Dead Space’s game play, but I have the suspicion that Visceral is secretly trying to sabotage all the original parts of Dead Space. There are new weapons added, most of which are actually guns. They even throw in a sniper! This is basically a zombie game, and no one uses a sniper in a zombie game! They also added a new mechanic in which you use a javelin gun to shoot spikes at the necromorphs. Isaac can shoot these javelins into their chests in order to pin them to walls. This angers me for two reasons. The necromorphs are already held together by duct tape and now they weigh as much as a fat baby. I shot one in the chest with the javelin gun, and it flew in a straight line for over fifteen meters before getting pinned to the wall. I also got an achievement for it. This game play mechanic also moves the weak spot from the limbs to the chest, not an original place for it to be. Another game play mechanic that’s been changed is the zero-G. In Dead Space 2, Isaac’s suit is outfitted with jets that allow him full 3-D movement in zero-G. However, I liked how the zero-G in the first game still restricted you. Now that you can just fly away from your space-zombie baby problems, it’s just less scary.
Multiplayer was a new addition for Dead Space 2. After a few games as both the humans and the necromorphs, I found it to be uninteresting. As a human, you just try to survive. I mean, you have an objective, but I couldn’t find time to do the objectives in my tight schedule of keeping aliens from enjoying my liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. As a necromorph, you just kill humans. It is kind of enjoyable, in a sick way, to be on the other end of the quick time events that Isaac does whenever an alien latches on to him.
In all, the Dead Space series is fun. The game play in Dead Space 2 is varied enough to keep it interesting.  The first game was original enough to be appealing to most gamers. I still find it to not truly be survival-horror. If anything, it’s a survival-action game with scary enemies and scary moments. It does not allow you to let down your guard long enough, and there is hardly ever any tension built up. You just kind of begin to predict what’s going to jump out at you and when.

Dead Space:
Visuals: 9 (honestly anything that comes out these days is going to look great)
Performance: 9.5 (once again, most games have no giant bugs)
Story: 6 (alright story, but hard to understand, and the characters are very bad)
Gameplay: 7 (Original, but lacks the atmosphere a survival horror game needs)
Multiplayer: None
Overall: 7.9

Dead Space 2
Visuals: 9.5 (better than Dead Space’s)
Performance: 9.5 (I saw no difference in performance between the two)
Story: 8 (better characters, better plot, still far from perfect)
Gameplay: 8 (takes away from originality but adds to fun, still no immersion)
Multiplayer: 7 (chaotic and pretty bland, but fun when you’re an alien)
Overall: 8.4

Dead Space as a series: 8.2

3 Responses so far.

  1. I'm sorry, but i differ in opinion as far as visuals go. your comment about the visuals in every modern games looking great is simply not true. Great visuals does not mean:

    dev: high-res texture packs alright! let's package into a zip and do csedit then done kthx

    instead, it means:

    dev: high-res texture packs alright! let's hire a lighting artist and level artist and animation designer and graphics touchup artist and separate animations studio to do AI 120-point movement captures!

    unfortunately the latter example is not happening these days. Studios cut corners a lot to save budget-wise (looking at you, THQ) and games do not turn out as beautifully as they could have. Want a beautiful game? Try Bulletstorm or Crysis 2.

    that is all :D

  2. Alex says:

    Thank's for the input. I'll be sure to focus more on visuals the nest time I review a game.

  3. Alex says:

    My rating for visuals still doesn't change though. The lighting in the game is well-done, and the humans and aliens alike look realistic.

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