…or alternatively “Dead Space 2 – and how the game news media proves it’s really not worth reading by putting out the same reviews (for crap games) as each other.”
Despite having played Dead Space 1 and having very little positive to say about it, I’m determined to remain optimistic and keep trying horror games when they come out (or I’m determined to keep being conned out of my money, which ever way you see it). I am also determined (mostly – with some encouragement from Peter Reviews) to finish a game when I start it to be able to give a full opinion on it.
So, what’s my opinion? In short, it’s a pile of crap. But the short version doesn’t really explain why or really do its absolute crap-ness justice, so I’ll continue.
I decided to get the Limited Edition version of Dead Space 2 – which in the UK included a free copy of Dead Space: Extraction. I load up the game, and am pretty much immediately annoyed by the ‘online pass’ system. It’s annoying for a number of reasons – first and foremost, why is there a need to add an extra system onto online play? Just to annoy me to death so I can’t tell people how crap your game is? Secondly, well…the very ‘in your face-look look we have multi-player too’ attitude. Dead Space 2 did not need multi-player. No game like it really needs multi-player.
Now don’t misread me here. I don’t care one way or the other about multi-player games. People have their favourites, they can play with their friends. These games, such as Team Fortress 2 or (going way back when) Unreal tournament, are designed for online play and can be fun. When a game is a single player story driven game, be it action or horror, adding multi-player just makes me feel like they took time away from developing a good game to tacking on multi-player. People will not play Dead Space 2 for it’s multi-player – they will go play their preferred multi-player game. So if games could stop wasting time and disk space with the tacked on multi-player crap, that would be great….
But I’m getting way way way…….way off course here. So, starting up Dead Space 2.
Unfortunately, there’s another rant here about something entirely different. There’s already a DLC and a Store option on the game menu. I’ve just put the game in, and already it’s telling me I can spend even more money. I dislike (I dislike a lot of things) the current precedent with DLC – that all games are pretty much now designed with it in mind. Again all this feels like is game’s developers taking out content to ask you to pay for it later. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be able to buy a game and just play it, without having to think that really the complete version of the game is if you spend 10-20 extra pound on stuff that was cut out.
*sigh* I think I got it all out of my system now…
I watch the ‘Previously on Dead Space’ video for a quick game reminder, then start the game in normal and wait for it to load.
The first thing I notice is that the character models are different – your girlfriend looks totally different. It’s a bit weird but I guess it’s not that important. Despite the fact that I was a bit confused as to why the game has a sequel – I enjoy the opening movie. Isaac is in some sort of metal institute or correctional facility. It’s dark and the sound is very bass-y and you’re being questioned (more like interrogated) and then your creepy dead girlfriend crawls across the table at you shouting and glowing. Pretty creepy. The game starts really trying to show off its graphics. The poor guy trying to save you gets turned into a necromorph right in front of you – and no, it’s not really that scary – it’s a bit too over the top for that, but it is quite…pretty?
And then? Well the game just gets annoying. I’m told to run. I’m a bit slow and I die. Restart. I get a little further and go the wrong way. Death. Restart again. All the while I’m dying the game is trying to give me some on screen help/tutorial style information. This information is pretty small and out the way, and as the game is demonstrating I can’t just…stop and read it. I keep dying if I do that. I’m sure the nicely rendered mental hospital with it’s creepy wheel chairs and blood soaked corridors would have made for great atmosphere right away if I hadn’t died two to three times already.
More atmosphere is attempted with creepy dark rooms, great creepy noises around you (I played the game in 5.1 surround) and more blood, creepy objects and only giving you a torch to begin with. While this is great, the first “Ah, Jesus!” scare is… a loud noise. Imagine my lack of being impressed… There’s a mini boss pretty early on, and while at the beginning I wasn’t sure if I was dying as I haven’t played Dead Space in a while…well, how good I am doesn’t change the fact that I keep running out of ammo to kill one thing. And this is only normal? With three more difficulty levels above this one? A couple of more deaths later and I’m already tired of the drawn out death sequences Isaac goes through. So not only is all the horror down the toilet because I keep dying…it’s determined to take its time when I die.
It’s a real shame so far, because all the atmosphere adding elements: creepy static looping TVs, flickering lights, noises and whispering and your creepy dead girlfriend – really nice atmospheric sets, are just ruined by the crap difficulty set up. A couple of monster cupboards (really?) later and it’s starting to feel long. But I’m not sure it’s really long in a good way – chapter three to four in and all I’ve done so far is run away from a hospital. It’s taken so god damn long because I keep dying.
Then it turned into Dante’s Inferno with huge swarms of creepy dead babies (wave o’ bahbeeees) and I died some more. However, I am (maybe) getting somewhere. I’m going to the church to meet some people. The Unitologist living space gives off a very nice creepy cult vibe and we start to find more text and audio logs about the Unitologist church, laying on the evil church vibe with some ‘Indoctrination rooms’. However the creepy deserted church is soon ruined by the return of monsters pretending to be dead on the floor. It’s just as predictable as before (a fully intact monster really shouldn’t be on the floor) and no less lame.
Getting up to chapter six out of fifteen and we finally meet the people we’ve been trying to get to since chapter one. And surprise surprise the people hiding in the evil church are EVIL! Kill me now…(no wait, the game’s done that at least twenty times by now). Getting through the church, the Necros that ‘play’ with you, while annoying are at least more interesting than the standard Necromorph. And they sound a bit cute. Another interesting mechanic (at least in my opinion) is that while I’m now back tracking away from the evil church now, the locations have changed. The corridors are darker, and more destroyed, with symbols and things written all over the place. I don’t know if we’re supposed to assume it’s the Necros but I’m not sure how that would work. Anyway, I think it’s nice they went to that extra effort at least and I’m not just stomping down the same metal corridors a la Dead Space 1.
In another location channelling the spirit of Silent Hill, we’re visiting the creepy primary school! I actually quite liked this location, it didn’t have as many enemies, apart from a frustrating section near the end, and the atmosphere is great. It’s a pity the location is quite short. You also have another encounter with your creepy dead girlfriend and strangely Isaac is getting more…conversational (?) with her. Some more game channelling later, in the form of a shopping mall that is very Bioshock and some clearly just a face hugger from alien necromorphs and we’re putting up with the ‘Future expansion’ windows that you can break then conveniently seal. Whenever these are around unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like a suggestion to use the window – you can basically only use the window or you die. Surprise surprise the game is killing you for not doing the exact right thing.
A couple of location changes later and we get to the real set piece of the game. Isaac revisits the USG Ishimura that’s been docked here. Leading up to going inside is a great feeling of calm and dread before the storm. You re-explore the ship, going through all the locations in the previous game, now mostly neatly wrapped and taped away. It’s actually quite eerie. The ship gets darker and more exposed the further you explore, pointing a big finger of metaphor at the ‘Oh, he’s going back in his memories, and they get darker and darker.’ Again like the school, there are less enemies – it feels like they wanted you to experience this location, not just run through it screaming and shooting (and dying). Couldn’t more of the game have been like this? I think it would have been much better.
Now we’re getting near the end however, and the atmosphere and story aren’t the main concern any more. I’m having to go through location after location crawling through with barely any health or ammo. This doesn’t really feel like it should be the difficulty one above the easiest. It’s far too frustrating to be enjoyed. I’m just running through rooms with enemies because that seems to be the best way to save ammo and health – once I get to a room with a save point, a bench or a shop – I pretty much know I’m safe. This is wandering dangerously close to Silent Hill Shattered Memories level of not scary – when it’s predicable, it just doesn’t do it for me.
Then, after a frankly underwhelming ending (I won’t spoil that at least) the game ends and promptly rewards you with…a harder difficulty! (Die in a fire….) And the promise of another (cash in) sequel after the credits.
It really is a shame what they’ve done to the game. The few parts of the game with actual pacing and atmosphere are in no way worth the crawl through the game. Any enjoyment from the really great sound or graphics is lost in the fact that I keep dying. And on normal difficulty. I know I’m not the best at games, but I have been playing them for long enough to know my way around a game pad. So, all I can assume is that they really just designed this game for people wanting to play a really hard game to some how show off…which I just don’t understand. Restarting the game in easy, and it’s…well…painfully easy! These difficulties are just too far apart, it seems unreasonable and I hope people who play this ‘for the challenge’ get thumb cramp from this crap thing.