2011... ACTIVATE! Dead Space 2

Go away 2010. You were rubbish. It's now all about 2011, and the games we can't wait to play. That's why throughout the first couple of weeks of January I'm going to be going through some of the games I'm most looking forward to in the coming year. First up - Dead Space 2.

Dead Space 2 Here's what I did yesterday, on the final day of my holidays. I woke up. I made a cup of tea. I ate a bowl of Weetabix, and then I played Dead Space.

That's it. That's all I did.

Of course, I had a couple of necessary toilet breaks - some of them involuntary (I was playing Dead Space after all) - but for the most part all I did plough through what is easily one of the the best horror games of this generation, in preparation for the sequel, which is released Jan 27.

I almost never replay games - especially relatively linear, set-piece driven efforts, which Dead Space admittedly is - but having never finished the original, despite totally falling in love with it, I felt compelled. But since I was so close to the end on my first playthrough, and hadn't played in well over a year, I figured it was probably best to start from scratch, and have some context when I finally completed it.

It was the right choice. I expected to be underwhelmed, but what intially struck me most was how little the game has aged. Visually, the game still looks incredible - shadows flicker and vibrate violently, gore splatters the screen with a mad visceral blast - it all feels consistent, everything has a brilliant sense of place. Everything feels like it belongs.

And more than you'd expect from a game built around a sequence of scares, Dead Space features one of the best, filled out Sci-fi universes we've seen in a game. Far from a series of disconnected corridors, The Ishimura feels like real place, with a proper history. Every area you visit has a function in the world, outside of gameplay - every task you are set makes sense. Dead Space is known for its power to make you shit your pants frequently, but few remember that it's actually a stellar piece of universe building.

But let's talk about the game's ability to make soil yourself - because in that regard it's truly one of the best.

Dead Space was initially lauded for it's sound design, and rightfully so - it's downright terrifying. Above and beyond the strategically placed clangs and hissing violins, the manner in which Dead Space uses peripheral noise to trick, confuse and scare is masterful. It juggles with the unfamiliar - what initially seems like the stirrings of a traditional horror piece turns out to be churning machinery, what sounds like an incoming horde of necromorphs is merely an engine spluttering. Dead Space blurs the lines, it juggles your expectations to the point where you can't predict the scares, keeping you on tenderhooks for the entirety of the experience.

We have no reason to believe that Dead Space 2 won't be more of the same, but there are concerns - a shoe-horned multiplayer mode, a commitment to larger scale action sequences. There are areas in which Dead Space can improve, but we hope that Visceral Games remain true to what made the original so memorable - a believable universe, incredible sound design, and an ability to stetch the nerves of players taut.

Initially I feared the worst but, somehow, playing through the original allayed those fears. Visceral Games has such a fundamental, intuitive understanding of 'scary'. They do an amazing job of subverting the expectations of horror veterans, and they do it consistently throughout the course of a 10-12 hour game. The fact that the team managed to frame that foundation with a universe worth caring about is nothing short of incredible. Whatever direction Visceral Games decides to take Dead Space 2 in, I'm ready - I'm ready to trust them.

And have the living shit scared out of me all over again.


Comments

    I was so tempted to pick up Dead Space for silly dollars on Steam a few days ago, but passed on it as I had already brought a few games over the holidays. Now I'm really pissed at myself for passing on it.

    Of more concern, 2011, we had the Nineties, the Naughties and now... what? The Teenies? 11's aren't teens! I cant sleep until its been decided on. :(

      This. Stupid banks not being open to accept my money so I can buy more stuff on the Steam sales. I missed out on some great stuff. At least I got some of it.

      I finally purchased it the other day, on the crazy Steam sale, and have not looked back.

      I have wanted to purchase this for so long I expected to be disappointed, but everytime I play it now I wish the Resident Evil series had progressed to this point.

      An awesome title.

      Well, I guess 2013-2019 will be the teens. 2011-2012 is a special case, which will be known as the tweens. Which may also explain the current (otherwise completely inexplicable) popularity of Justin Bieber.

      It will be like

      1920s - twenty 10s

      then 20 20s

    Dead Space had so much style. The in-game menu systems, videos that played out for the game character (and you of course) to see... it just made the whole thing a pleasure to play. The things I hope they do away with, or tweak somewhat, is the whole, 'go here, find something, oh now we need something else, go here, find something, repeat'. If you took out the thrills of monsters coming out of the airvents, all that you're left with is a very very pretty fetchquest. I played it the other day too, and this is what I was thinking the whole time. Am I being too harsh?

    Finally got around to playing this, having thought it was just another FPS. I was wrong, I live alone and play this in the absolute dark at about 2am with the 5.1 cranked and scare the s**t out of myself. Looking forward to the 27th. If only there was some way to get a free copy.... :D

    Deep down in my pile of shame lies Dead Space. I must finish it before I buy #2 though. Its crap how with the special edition preorder for PS3 you can't get the replica plasma cutter.

    I've really got to disagree here. For once, I find myself agreeing with Yahtzee.
    Dead Space is a game that startles you. It relies entirely on shock horror from start to end. I can only think of one scene in the entire game where the ambient horror didn't lead to a big BOO DID WE SCARE YOU moment (this being the man banging his head against the wall).
    Every other moment in the game is a waste of what could have been a great horror game. The developers are never content to just let you be scared by what you don't see. Every time you start to feel a little uneasy they cut the tension with a necromorph's blade.
    It's not helped by the game being entirely scripted so that every one of those shocks is the same when you play it again.

    This isn't to say it's a bad game. Not at all. It did have a great setting, a passable story, brilliant presentation, and satisfying gameplay, with brilliant sound design. It was one of the best 3rd person shooters of this generation.
    But as a horror game, it was a complete failure.

    I will be disappointed if Shogun 2 isn't on this list later.

      I can't wait for Shogun 2, but this list is Mark's list. It won't do anyone much good if he wrote a tacky preview on something he doesn't care about. I like his previews, cause he's so damn passionate.

    So who actually won that Dead Space 2 competition from before Christmas?

      Was just about to ask that myself :P Unless I missed the post?

    Fine fine! Ill go buy it after work today!

    My amp blew just before I got Dead Space and I had set up my shure headphones for use while I organised my amp's repair. I lost it, so intense, definitely one of my most memorable gaming experiences and such a happy accident. The amp is still broken by the way.

    Im thinking of picking up the special edition of Dead Space 2, Im playing through the first one right now and im liking it so far, maybe my next pay.

    I picked up Dead Space on 360 from Dick Smith for $10 in June. After wanting to play it but not pay for it for so long I really enjoyed it. The ambient noise was a real highlight - playing in a dark room using only headphones really did it justice - with that said as much as I liked it I'm yet to be impressed by the sequel - the demo didn't help in that regard...

    We definitley need more horror like Deadspace, but to me Deadspace was less about horror and more engineering. The environments were awesome. I kept playing just to see the next piece of machinery etc.

    I don't understand why everyone is so worried about Dead space 2 multiplayer. I went on youtube and saw people playing the Beta version and it looked awsome

    I am personally extremely excited about Dead Space 2. I fell in Love with Dead Space since I heard about the 'excruciatingly' detailed Death Scenes (that actually made your gut wrench but still made you want to see them all) prior to the release.

    I personally made it my prerogative to never die, no matter what (I had a good stock of health at all times) "once" during my first play through because I felt deeply connected with Isaac, why would I want to see his torso ripped in half by a Brute!?

    In saying that, the game looks amazing, the interface (being in the world rather than on screen) was definitely what sold me this franchise. I bought a Wii just for Extraction, I own all the Lithographs and they are hung on my living room and were the first things I bought to furnish my new home, my partner is okay with it because she knows she comes 2nd to Dead Space :P

    Just a few days ago, I built a forum dedicated to this one franchise. It took me 2 days to design and theme it, but it's complete... (aegis7.com). I also put together the font (unitology) and everything else for the other Dead Space fans to download.

    What I am saying is, I love this game and if you haven't played it, do yourselves a huge favor. Go out and get it now for like $10 at EB Games (and some diapers) because you will enjoy it and you will crap yourself. Then, go get Dead Space 2...

    If you ever want to truly test out a 5.1 setup, Dead Space is the game to do it with. It's not just the overall quality of the sound, it's the fact that when you've got it set up correctly the positional audio adds a tremendous amount of depth to the game. The constant whispering sounds around you, the sound of things falling over behind you as something sneaks up on you, the muffled vibrations carried through the steel floor when you're in a vacuum... it's really fantastic.

    I don't think I'll ever finish the first one though. Managed to get myself stuck in Chapter 5 or so, sequence where the area's atmosphere gets vented suddenly and you have to get to the controls to fix, through a set of enemies including the invincible regenerating one, and you a very short time limit before your air runs out. Doesn't seem to be put together in such a way that you can actually do it without suffocating. Suspect there's a trick to it but after the fifteenth frustrating attempt I restrained the urge to throw my controller at the wall and gave up. Haven't been back since. :(

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