Dead Space 2 in 2020 | The Last Bastion Of Survival Horror Revisited |
Back in the mid-2000’s, many gaming genres had a flagship franchise which opened the path for an influx of other similar titles to join the party. The Ratchet and Clank series would birth a wave of action platformers, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare would galvanize the FPS scene and both The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises would pave the way for new open-world titles to capture the imagination of gamers everywhere. However, for the longest time, there was a real absence of a truly phenomenal survival horror since Silent Hill 2’s release in 2001. Thankfully this would change in 2005 when Resident Evil 4 arrived on the scene, awaking a sleeping giant in the gaming industry and inspiring the team at EA Redwood Shores who would later become Visceral Games to create Dead Space.
Glen Schofield and his team at Visceral Games were initially working on a game called ‘Rancid Moon’ which would be a prison-based game within space. However, upon seeing the success of Resident Evil 4, the team saw this as a green light and using their extensive knowledge of horror and Sci-fi, the team would create one of the most interesting, gripping and bone chilling IP’s within the horror genre to this day.
Dead Space would receive a great deal of praise for its incredible artistic direction, the tense and creepy atmosphere that the game managed to maintain from start to end, various design factors that encouraged a greater sense of immersion than any title that had been produced to that point and a very flexible and fun set of combat mechanics. However, despite the runaway success of the first title, the developers and the publisher EA both felt there was something missing. A last piece of the puzzle that could push Dead Space to new levels of success. Visceral Games wanted to add more spectacle to the narrative, expand on the lore created in the first game and add more shocking, brutal, tense and memorable moments. So this would be the blueprint that would help create Dead Space 2.
The Aftermath Of The Ishimura
Let’s begin with what amazing aspects that Dead Space 2 maintains from its predecessor. Firstly, immersion is still a primary focus of this game. While most games will fill the player’s screen with diagetic information in the form of a HUD, Dead Space 2 continues to offer all of this information to the player naturally through the world of Dead Space. Players will be able to check their health and stasis through the status bars on Isaac’s Exo-Suit, you’ll be able to check the bullets left in your magazine by aiming your rifle rather similarly to the Halo series and you’ll be able to find the quickest path to your current goal by using the way finder option on your suit, lighting a blue holographic line on the floor. These integrated details stop the player from menuing or becoming self-aware that they are playing a game, leading to the psychological phenomenon of flow state and keeping players fully invested in the action on screen.
The other key component that makes a return is the incredible sound design performed by Miguel Izasa. The score for Dead Space 2 continues the great work of the original and produces some of the most bone-chillingly tense sombre tones and frantic action pieces that serve each segment of this game perfectly. Not only does this game match the quality of the original’s score, it also uses a neat design trick of the original too. Visceral games realized that if players lingered in areas for too long, they would become aware of a looping musical track, rendering the tense music and the ambient noises useless. So what they would do to counter this was have a multitude of ambient noises play at random times throughout the playthrough. For example, you might hear scratches on metal, Necromorphs screaming in the distance or the screeches of the ship played at random intervals to keep you on your toes. The purpose of this was to create a sense of discomfort in players and never allow them to truly feel safe and it’s very clear that they succeeded in implementing this perfectly.
Building On Brilliance
We could honestly talk all day about how good the original Dead Space was but we are here to shine a light on the second instalments ability to build on this success, so let’s do that beginning with the story. While the last game had a very serviceable plot with a number of twists, turns and a shocking ending, there was an issue with creating moments that would last long in the memory. Things that come to mind from other franchises include stepping out of the vault for the first time in Fallout 3, climbing that ladder in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater or encountering the Giraffe in The Last Of Us. These are moments that never leave you as a gamer and the Dead Space franchise wanted to create more of these.
To do this, the game would change its overall approach, taking a step back from a pure survival horror approach of the original and moving toward more of an action RPG format rather like the Uncharted series. Dead Space 2 would feature many more set pieces throughout the run where you would pull off near-impossible feats, play through many more varied segments which weren’t confined to small rooms and narrow corridors and be treated to a larger variety of enemies as well. If you want us to list the key moments that many remember about this title long after the credits roll we would say that the nursery segment and the scene where you perform cornea surgery on Isaac are our picks of the bunch.
Another aspect that really got a buff in Dead Space 2 was the combat. While the iconic ‘aim for the limbs’ tactic returns to great effect in this game with little change needed, the combat mechanics to supplement this feature have had a real facelift. In the first title, Isaac only had a handful of weapons to work with to take down the necrotic horde. However, in this iteration, the player has 13 unique weapons to play around with, each with their own alternate firing system that allows the player to change the way the bullets cut through the enemy, allow for a range of vertical and horizontal cuts that are better for different enemy types. Think of it like being able to swipe on any direction freely on Fruit Ninja but with more guts and gore.
The melee function and movement mechanics also get a touch up as well. Within the first game, it was very easy for the player to get pinned to a corner and taken apart by a crowd of enemies, especially when ammo was scarce as it usually is in survival horror games. So Dead Space 2 aims to give the player a contingency plan through a melee and stomp function that can be used for crowd control and making narrow escapes rather than simply stomping on corpses in search of spare ammo or credits. It’s a small change but it can make all the difference on the harder difficulties.
Which brings us on neatly to one of the most interesting additions to the second instalment, the hardcore mode. For players that have conquered this game on it’s hardest conventional difficulty level, the developers have included a much harder test. The hardcore mode would actually have enemies that hit slightly softer than the hardest conventional difficulty setting Zealot mode. Plus, you’ll be able to find much more credits and resources throughout the playthrough as well. However, this comes with one important caveat. When the player dies, you don’t respawn at your last checkpoint but rather at your last save point.
This doesn’t sound too bad at first as each save point is split by chapters. However, the player will only be allowed to save the game three times throughout the entire run. Meaning you’ll have to save tactically, play every section with added caution and navigate all those potential instakill moments like the eye surgery scene with the utmost precision. The good news is that if you do manage to get through this brutal challenge, the game will reward you with a fun foam finger gun that kills all enemies in one shot for your next playthrough, so at least you get a reward for your efforts.
The Last Bastion Of Survival Horror
As you complete your journey through the perilous setting of Dead Space 2, you lay waste to the marker that has been plaguing Isaac’s mind and he simply sits down waiting for it all to end, the emotion is truly tangible. You can see that Isaac after two non-stop campaigns of fighting and risking his life with only engineers tools as an arsenal to deal with an endless horde of necrotic flesh, that he is done. At that moment you feel that Dead Space as a franchise has accomplished all that it aimed to do. It has delivered a quintessential survival horror that rose the genre to prominence in a time where no other game would take up the challenge. So then at that moment, you felt that the game had achieved the perfect ending to a near-flawless series. If the credits rolled then, it would have been nothing short of poetic. Sadly, however, Isaac would be swept from the wreckage of the Sprawl and Dead Space 3 would come to be.
This title would be one completely run into the ground through the greed of it’s publisher as the game became less about what made the first two titles special and more about pandering to the casual gamer in an attempt to make more money. EA would kill this franchise and would eventually kill Visceral Games as a studio. However, the legacy of Dead Space lives on through the survival horror games that have taken up the mantle in recent years such as Alien: Isolation, The Evil Within and the franchise that inspired Dead Space, Resident Evil. Dead Space 2 fought a lonely fight to save survival horror, but that fight was not in vain.
So that’s our rundown on why Dead Space 2 was so special. Do you think that this is one of the best survival horror games ever made? If not which one do you think is better? Did you prefer Dead Space 2 or the original? What moment of Dead Space do you remember most fondly? Let us know in the comments section below .