Start game. Load saved game. Hands become moist. Game starts. Shuffle character cautiously towards flickering light. Immediately startled by monster jumping out of wall. Lights go out. No ammo. Low health. Run towards nearest light or doorway. Ambushed to near death. Hands sweating. Heart racing. Pause game. Go for Cigarette. Turn Xbox off due to stress. Play again 2 weeks later once calmed down.
This was the players’ journey for the first Dead Space. A gripping, terrifying and relentless piece of game design that left you gasping for air after 10 mins. The claustrophobia and limited movement coupled with a no mercy approach left you messy panted and shaken. This, is precisely why I stopped playing it. Yeah yeah call me a pussy, its only a game blah blah SERIOUSLY, it was causing me medical harm. Saying that the game looked incredible, and it had been years and years since I’d been affected by a video game in a similar way (I distinctly remember playing Resident Evil 1 on the Playstation which caused involuntary “switch of the TV” spasms). The story line was reminiscent of space horror epics like Event Horizon (or “Event Whitey” as we called it in my youth due to the massive whitey’s it sent us on), with a real possibility of expansion. This was proved with the release of the various “in-betweeners” in the form of on rails Wii Dead Space: Extraction, DVD movies, and incredibly atmospheric iPhone apps.
The news of Dead Space 2 had me both excited and terrified once again. The thought of being shoved back in those corridors with no mates and just one crappy gun against the most disgusting/hideous possessed life forms I’ve ever seen somewhat turned me off. Then I remembered how awesome it was. Luckily, DS2 has done away with a lot of the stroke inducing tense sequences; skulking round corridors becomes a lot easier when you have a flame thrower, or a javelin gun that pins enemies to walls hundreds of feet away.
In place of the nightmarish creeping around (which is definitely still present in some places, however) are… how can I put this… F*cking incredible action sequences. I’m talking the best bits of Uncharted 2, coupled with Gears of War and Mass Effect 2. Better than all of those. One particular scene has you being chased down a corridor by a monster as big as Parliament, only to reach the next room which is fronted with a huge window. Up pops a gunship, shoots the window out, tries to kill you and the monster at the same time. Problem being you’re in space; the monster gets sucked out into weightlessness grabbing you on the way, and attaches itself to the spaceship outside. Cue you shooting key bits of set pieces to free yourself, all in the eerie silence of space. Awesome.
Surviving this, you find yourself smashing back into the space station which the game is based in -all with no loading, no cut scenes and complete seamlessness. Rather than the gimpy industrial worker you played in the first game, this game gives you a little more credibility and firepower. Although its actually the same character, Isaac, You feel more like a marine than an engineer, complete with new outfits and over the top “dressing sequences” (that’s not as gay as it sounds, think more Rocky than Dirty Dancing. Okay that sounds gay).
While the first game concentrated the experience to confined environments on one horrible ship, the sequel opens up a whole city from the go. Within half an hour you’re falling through a zero gravity train hurtling through the city at insane speeds, while shooting awful bastards that keep trying to eat your face. You’ll find yourself in a school with appropriate child sized mental things. You’ll be in a shopping center with Raptor-style monsters that peek round corners before chasing you. And of course, you’ll shit your pants an awful lot.
And then there’s the multiplayer…
While not as polished and story driven as the single player mode, this part of the game is pure carnage. It offers the chance to play both human or alien, unleashing a whole host of disgusting abilities and scare tactics. This twist gives the player a completely different atmosphere in terms of gameplay as the stalked suddenly becomes the stalker. Choose from a range of gruesome and damn nasty creations from the game and get hunting, or load up your pulse rifle and try to survive the onslaught. Trust me, popping up from the ground from an air vent or a grate in the form of a crazed child alien and scaring the absolute shit out of your mates never gets old.
The game looks amazing — lighting effects and the dystopian satanic dressing of the space station push the console to its limits, while the gory, outright terrifying enemies and action sequences are some of the best I’ve seen since… urm… films. This is a true action blockbuster of a game whilst maintaining the dignity and rawness of a good survival horror.
This is the Aliens to Alien. The Terminator 2 to Terminator. The Lost World to…. nevermind.
Not only does it surpass its predecessor in every way, it’s a completely different game.
If you don’t like shooting electric Javelins at possessed aliens, kindergarten scenes with horrific school-play based twists, and unbelievable set pieces, then you don’t like video games.
My game of the year so far. Buy it.
Check out our coverage of Dead Island here.