Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Many Days of Horror! - Dead Space 2

It's October again, and so it is time once more to delve deep into the realm of horror films and games, to elucidate, tantalize, traumatize, terrorize maybe even inform about what's worth watching, what's worth playing, and what's worth jabbing with a rusty knife and burying in the back yard...there's no way in hell I can keep up with the daily routine I did last year, so I'll stick to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule but make it horror themed all month long instead.

Dead Space 2

The sequel to the original Dead Space was destined to be bigger, although one could argue that the thematic advantages of the original were in the claustrophobic domain of the Ishimura and it's mostly reanimated population of necromorphs. Dead Space 2 moved to the colonized moon of Titan, and introduced an Isaac Clark with a voice, which was a much needed addition; the era of the silent protagonist is behind us....even if you don't offer us a voice, at least offer us some dialogue trees...anything to reflect that our cipher in the game is at least as interested or involved in being where he is as we are.

The freshly voice-imbued Isaac is hiding out. He's stuck in a colonial stretch where Earth Government is in direct conflict with a religious cult which grows by leaps and bounds around the Red Marker, a dedication which belies the madness and eventual, horrific changes that come from exposure to the mysterious artifacts. Worse yet, it looks like the cult is in charge, and has been using Isaac to reconstruct the marker, a much larger version in fact. Naturally, Titan is going to hell. Literally.

Although there is perhaps more shooting and maiming, decapitating and murdering of necromorphs in Dead Space 2 than there was in the first game (and there was a lot of that in the first, I can assure you) it still retained the spooky haunted space station feel, coupled with a sort of space-catastrophe on a large scale. It moved beyond being "inspired by Alien" and well into its own territory of space apocalyptica.

If Dead Space 2 has any failings it's that Isaac is unbelievably competent, although that fits the demeanor of a survivalist whose already managed to live through at least one haunted planet cracker and is the source of secret knowledge for a powerful cult desperate to transform humanity according to the will of an artifact that deludes its followers into believing it offers ascendance rather than dead and necrotic rebirth. Isaac can survive so much, from maneuvering with his amazing suit through the depths of space to the collapse and infestation of the colony itself and on to a boss battle at the end that I honestly enjoyed more than the already impressive final conflict from the first game. 

It is true that you might play this game and not find it horrifying, disturbing or otherwise as shocking as the first, but I would suggest that this problem lies with an audience that has grown inured to the media of survival horror. Despite this, I feel Dead Space 2 did an admirable job of carrying the story on past the first title, and into new territory.


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