11/11/2013

killfest 2013

So I'm playing a space-based surgery slash murder simulator that goes by the deceptive name of Dead Space 2. Deceptive because the spaces therein are hardly dead. Oh no the spaces in these places are positively thriving with all manner of razor fanged obscenities out to murder-kill your ass.

It's fun and by fun I mean fun in the way you go to a horror film to have the bejeezus scared out of you. So maybe fun is not the most apropos term here. A compelling horror-based killfest maybe? I'll stick with fun.
Once again we step into the boots of engineer Isaac Clarke as he goes about his business in your standard grim dark corporate dystopia of the future. Yep all is present and correct here. Malevolent corporations, sinister cults and deadly reanimated space zombies with knives for faces.When we left our hero he had just fended off an entire games worth of monstrosities on board the USG Ishimura. That was Dead Space, a game I very much enjoyed. Sure it was all jump scares borrowed from every decent horror film ever but it was all presented and stage-managed so effectively I found it difficult to dislike.

It was also one of the first true next-gen console experiences back when this generation of consoles was still considered to be at the cutting edge. An atmospheric, tense and playable horror experience that just wouldn't have worked as well back on the PS2 and the original X-Box. Appropriate then that I'm getting around to its sequel just as this gen is about to come to its end.

Just over halfway through and everything I liked about the original is still very much here with a few improvements. The previously silent protagonist now has more personality in the sense he didn't have any before, he's also been driven bonkers by his proximity to the Marker, the mcguffin at large in the Dead Space series. Setting the game on a doomed space colony makes it more interesting visually but the rusty industrial nightmare aesthetics are still there. Clarke's machine-man getup and his tool-based weapons are still examples of some awesome design work, looking as ready as he does for a stroll through the country parks of hell.

In a case of not fixing what ain't broke, the central experience is left pretty much intact. Weapon drawn as you make your way from one objective to the next interrupted only by horrors both real and imagined and pausing only for a moment of plot or character development here and there.Oh and one last note about those space zombies the Necromorphs. Those walking, shrieking, slashing foes reformed from the dead by an alien infection. Still a worthy adversary and a nifty piece of game design that slots nicely into the fiction. Severing their many limbs with panic-stricken precision is always a dread-filled joy.

Joy. Again that's not quite the word I'm looking for but it'll do. There is a joy to be had as the makers of these games pull your strings from one scare to the next. A cycle of tension and relief that never gets old as long as its done well and done well it is here. With this sequel EA and Visceral Games have done what good follow-ups do and built upon its predecessor.  No franchising the series to death here, no that'll be Dead Space 3 you're thinking of. Sad thing is I'm enjoying this game so much I might still give its supposedly inferior threequel a go some day. That'll be some day mind, not today.