Friday, February 4, 2011

We're All Gonna Burn


Sequels are bound to bring about anxiety.

Fanboys and girls alike all know the feeling of sitting down to the next installment of something they greatly loved and far too often are then left with a feeling of disappointment. After all, for every “Aliens” and “Terminator 2” there are a dozen “Star Wars: Episode 1” and “Batman and Robin”.

It was understandably strange when I realized that all of the usual trepidations weren’t present when I thought about Dead Space 2.

The first game has been raved about enough on this site so I’ll spare you what you’re bound to already know. Yes, yes, Dead Space was a marvel of survival horror. What’s really awesome is that its sequel is also a spectacle to behold. Even – dare I say it – better than the original.

Before you gawk and vow to never read this site again allow me to explain. Let us consider the few flaws that Dead Space had: One, the errand boy, backtracking telling of the main story. Something breaks, you fix it, something else breaks, you fix it, something else breaks and you destroy it in a monotony-induced rage. Or, you fix it. It got old and Visceral got the message. Throughout all my time in The Sprawl I can only remember one instance when I had to go back to the same area to finish an objective. Aside from that one occurrence, every area both looked and felt different.

Two, the melee attacks. Yes, it may seem like a small detail to some but personally, I didn’t use Isaac’s punch and stomp to kill an enemy once in the original game. This tended to be a problem when a necromorph was quite literally breathing down your neck and a second to compose yourself or, say, quick heal, meant the difference between moving on or reloading from the last checkpoint. This time around, Isaac’s attacks are much more precise and almost worth letting a slasher try and slice your head off. Well, maybe not but it was still a vast improvement over the last game. Not to mention the ability to have our illustrious hero repeatedly stomp while muttering, “die you motherfucker!” was pretty fantastic.

Third, poorly planned events. Take, for instance, the infamous asteroid defense scene in the original. You got to take a break from shooting the horrific re-animated bodies of your former friends and colleagues to defend the ship against a ridiculous and unending wave of asteroids. To this day, I’ve never spoken to a single person who didn’t loathe that sequence. Now, is it fair to bring the game down because of one scene? In this case, I’d say so. Go on, talk to anyone you know who’s played Dead Space and I guarantee that after the praise the first thing they’ll mention is “that damned asteroid sequence”. There were also several scenes that involved you having to fumble around with the real-time menu to consume an air can before you asphyxiated. Dead Space 2 has no scenes requiring you to search around for an air can or shoot asteroids or anything even remotely similar. With the exception of one chain of events toward the very end of the game involving a particular enemy type that may have done its job a little too well, the game is very evenly paced.

Four, a silent hero. Unlike the original, Dead Space 2 gave Isaac a voice and personality. Whereas in the first game the most we got out of him was a shake of his head to convey emotion, this time we get full-on conversations with other protagonists, antagonists, and himself. Isaac is cocky, confident, troubled and quick to anger. The voice work is superb and it gave way to the unexpected joy of Ellie, another survivor on The Sprawl who is not only one of the best female characters I’ve seen in a game in a long, long time but who also provided Isaac with some much needed support and even a few laughs.

Love you, Ellie.

So when I take into consideration these facts plus the absolutely breathtaking graphics (even if it did require the Xbox version to be on two discs), the duel stories of The Marker and Isaac’s grief over Nicole, the amazing soundtrack and audio effects, the mixture of cheap and psychological scares including one very, very memorable trip down memory lane and some crazy smart AI, I stand by my declaration:

The original Dead Space was incredible.

The sequel is a freakin’ masterpiece.

3 comments:

  1. w00t! Thanks again for your great well-crafted reviews, Cary.

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  2. Psst . . . You have two number 3s.

    Otherwise, thank you for no spoilers, I haven't finished it yet. Have you tried multiplayer yet?

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  3. Thanks, Valerie!

    Nicolene, Ha! Thanks for pointing that out! I haven't tried the multiplayer and probably won't. I watched Lynsey play it for a bit and was really just unimpressed.

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