Friday, April 24, 2015

Game Review: Dead Space 2 (PC)

I decided that, similar to what I did with the first Dead Space article, rather than do our semi-standard Full Review, I would simply talk about how I personally played the game as well as expanding upon my impressions from my first article.  There will be spoilers to some degree, so be warned that I may cover some story elements which, as far as I knew, were not common knowledge about the game.

Just your average run-of-the-mill space station city. . .smeared with the blood of convergence.
Since the first article and finishing Dead Space 2, I think I have come to a reason as to why I seemed to have enjoyed the first game more than the second.  In the first game, there was a fair amount of build up as to what was happening.  Yes, there was the initial sprinting through the Ishimura to escape from the necromorphs, but listening to people not know what was going on through their audio journals and text journals is what I loved and what drew me into the world.  In Dead Space 2, I did not get the same or similar sense of confusion on the part of the populace, which saddened me a bit considering that the majority of the game takes place in a metropolitan-style space station.  I felt that since Isaac had already been through a necromorph outbreak, there didn't need to be that same feeling  of confusion and slow build on the part of the populace.

Throughout the majority of the game, I felt lost.  With DS2 starting in a location that was unfamiliar to the player (as Isaac Clarke), it is only natural to feel a sense of disorientation, especially in Isaac's case having been in an induced coma/stasis for the last three years, but having a map function would have made the game more palatable. Even with the game being linear (walking through hallways, going down elevators and occasionally searching through a room on my way to another elevator, which I went down to exit into another hallway), it would have been nice at the very least to have seen a map to see where your destination was in relation to your current location.  Without a map, I might as well have been travelling in a straight line. At first I thought that the lack of map was part of the story, that I would come across a map function on my RIG (seeing as how you picked up the stasis field emitter and the kinesis  module), but the map was never a thing and this I feel is where the game began to lose me.

You ever wonder whose job it is to light all those damned candles?

I think what it boils down to is that in DS1, the necromorphs have had some time to calm down a bit.  The Ishimura had been attacked quite a while before Isaac and company arrive, but on Titan Station, the outbreak is happening right then and there.  I didn't get the feeling that stragglers/survivors had time to hang around in corridors banging their heads against walls or mumbling to themselves about seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth.  In DS2, there was not time for that, so people were just running around screaming.  This all means that DS2 is to DS1 what Resident Evil 4 was to Resident Evil 1.

About a third of the way through the game, Isaac finds himself in a massive Unitology church, which is even commented upon in-game as being itself an obscenely large church and adjoining buildings/rooms even for Unitology standards.  This area was one of the highlights for me.  You started out passing through the main doors and as you progressed through this stage, you unlocked previously closed doors and emerged in a familiar area so that you were able to get your bearings and you knew where you were within the confines of the church.  However, with your knowledge about the Marker from Aegis VII, Isaac Clarke even mentions that being surrounded by anything Unitology is about the last place that he wants to find himself and I could not agree more.

For at least the first half of the game, Isaac is following the directions of a woman whom I cannot even tell you her name it seems so unimportant.  Early on (maybe Chapter 3, I am not sure), I had forgotten why I was even trying to get to the woman.  All I knew was that she thought I was important somehow, but that seemed like an easy and cliched way to get the player to go along a set path.  Maybe it was to help me off of Titan Station, but I was not even  100% sure.  Since there was only one direction to go in, I figured she knew better than I did.  It was not a good feeling to have.

One last criticism about DS2 was that the diagnosis of "dementia" was thrown around a lot.  It is stated on a number of occasions that both Isaac Clarke and Nolan Stross (another escaped patient who received "treatments" along with Isaac) suffer from dementia, one of the affects of The Marker.  All of the symptoms that both Clarke and Stross exhibit, are not dementia.  While some of those experiencing influence from the Marker exhibit common symptoms of dementia such as restlessness, memory distortion (hallucination based), anxiety and agitation, I would not classify their diagnosis as dementia.  You could even say that they exhibit common symptoms of schizophrenia, but that word is never used (from what I could tell) throughout any of the games.  Something closer to "Marker Sickness" would be more appropriate, except that not believing that the Marker is the cause of the events is part of the lore in the game.  I do not have any answers, just criticisms it turns out.

Don't worry, it's all in your head. . .
Which brings me to how Isaac Clarke's hallucinations are manifested in-game.  Most of the time, there will be a flash, the screen will take on a yellowish-orange hue along with a shaky-cam effect and I would immediately think, "Oh, I'm hallucinating now."  What I liked about Dead Space Mobile was that it was not always apparent to Vandal that the hallucinations were indeed hallucinations.  Sure, when you see someone who looks to be you walking towards yourself in a hallway, there is a good chance that you are hallucinating.  But, without a visual and auditory cue, there is that split second where you are not sure if that person is you, or if it is a veiled necromorph slowly walking towards you.  Maybe it's another engineer in the same situation and they need your help?  Nope, it's a necromorph who needs it's limbs cut off.  Right?  A necromorph and. . . not another. . .fellow. . . engineer. . .right?  Sure some of the visuals were unsettling in DS2, like when Nicole would appear in an elevator right next to you with eyes and mouth flaring light and static while screaming about how you killed her, but again, you knew it was a hallucination.

Nolan Stross on the other hand was apparently having believable hallucinations.  Maybe subtlety was the key here and what Isaac Clarke was seeing was not subtle.  Sure, if that happened to any one of us in reality, I would need an entire wardrobe of brown pants, but in the context of a video game, someone decided that a visual cue was needed for the majority of Isaac's hallucinations.

Moving on.

It's always a good idea to check your ammunition stores before going through doors.  Always.
Like any good survival horror video game, ammunition in Dead Space 2 always seemed to be scarce.  For this playthrough, I focused on using the Plasma Cutter, Line Gun and the Ripper, although I did also purchase the Pulse Rifle, but mainly to take care of the numerous and annoying Swarmers and to conserve ammunition on the three primary weapons that I was modding with the Power Nodes.  Because of how much fun (and understanding) I had with the Ripper in Dead Space Mobile, I knew that I wanted to give this weapon/tool a go here and I was not disappointed.  The Line Gun I really only used when I needed to produce a wide beam of damaging plasma or throw, basically, a timed grenade that was more powerful than the one chucked out by the Plasma Rifle.  The Plasma Cutter was my go-to weapon for most of the game, but only when I had enough ammunition, which I always seemed to be running out of near save stations.  Bloody hell.

There was one other area aside from the Unitology Church area that I loved.  I felt that it recaptured what the feeling that was missing in this game.  I will not go into it because I feel that it is too much of a spoiler, but I will say that it was a great part of the game.

In closing, I think it is pretty apparent that I did not like Dead Space 2 as much as the first Dead Space, but I can promise you that I will be going through the game again in the future.  Maybe after I make my through Dead Space 3, which apparently is only available on PC through Origin, which is fine with me, because that is where I have it awaiting my attention.

. . . Well fuck. . .

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