Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yes, please.

November can't come here soon enough...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

REVIEW: Dead Space 2

Before I dive in, I want to take a moment to give some advice for new fathers. When your new baby is big enough to be out of a bassinet and into an actual crib, (around the 2 or 3 month mark) you should give your wife a break on the overnight feedings. What you do is whatever night you don't have to work the next day, take your infant, put her in one of those little bouncy chair things, and just rock her to sleep while you play video games until about 5 in the morning, stopping only to feed and change the baby. That way the Mom can get a solid night's sleep, you get some good gaming in, and you look like a hero. 

I give you this advice because that is how I played the first Dead Space game two years ago. It was one of those games that in the cold and darkness of a November night, and with surround sound speakers sitting behind you, really made you jump when startled by a man you once knew turned necromorph. As Isaac Clarke (an obvious nod to classic sci-fi writers), you were part of a team that tried to figure out what the hell happened on a wayward excavating vessel only to discover that things are no bueno in the worst kind of way.

Well, you're back and and so are the necromorphs. This time you wake up three years later in a space station type setting and there really is no moments of peace before the chaos. From the second you are able to control Isaac, you are evading people getting eaten, begging for help, and screaming for their mothers.

The first chapter of Dead Space 2 really sets a great tone for the game. You don't get any kind of weapon except a flashlight through most of the first 25 minutes or so. After you've evaded the initial chaos of the psycho ward you just escaped, you are now trying to traverse dark rooms and shadowy corridors in order to find something that you can use to fight back. The game does a great job in the beginning of giving the gamer a sense of anxiety as you hear things that may or not be there, you try to find your way to escape, not knowing what lurks around the next corner.

Your first encounter with the necromorphs, you won't even have a weapon. You acquire a kinetic ability to objects and have to use it to impale the first batch of baddies that come your way. Once you get the all familiar plasma cutter, then the strategy is conserving ammo and your med packs to survive. You'll always have your ability to kinetically throw objects at enemies and potentially kill them if you run out of ammo, but you will have to be very deliberate in which you can take down necromorphs; shoot off their limbs, then run up and curb stomp them to finish them off.

I got a great sense going through the first part of the game that reminded me of the first Alien movie: quiet, tense, and not sure where the next attack is coming from. Scaring people is more than just jumping from a dark corner; Dead Space 2 gets psychological on your ass. Throughout the game you are haunted by the memory of your dead girlfriend, who appears to you in the form of a vision trapped inside your mind, making you wonder if you are personally responsible for the terror that has befallen this settlement. There are also moments while you are traversing the living quarters of people that have gone crazy and lost it. Candles with alien writing, people crying out for their lives in the distance, later a mother holding her infected infant only to see them both explode; that is where the real fear resides and where Dead Space 2 can seriously creep you out when you're playing all by yourself in the middle of the night.

I'm so ronery. 
As the game progresses, the action becomes more fast paced. You go from the feeling of Alien to more like Aliens as the necromorphs begin to come at you in higher numbers, actually making you fire forward but be mindful of your blind sides as some of the different varieties of baddies flank you as you're fighting.

The scenery also changes up a bit, right at the right time. You will go from fighting in a cult-like church, to open room shopping area, to trash compactors in zero gravity and more. I was really impressed with the amount of different environments and varieties of weapons you're able to employ to dispatch enemies. As with the norm these days, you have someone there to guide you through the game, but you also have another voice of one of your fellow test subjects who is slowly descending into madness and foreshadowing what is next in store for you if you can't get through to the end of the game.

I don't have a lot of bones to pick with Dead Space 2. I do recommend that you play on a higher difficulty than casual. I played on Normal and got through the Single Player campaign in about 9-10 hours total. I then began a second play through (New Game plus) on casual to pick up some achievements (you pretty much have to go at least two playthroughs to get the majority of them) and that's probably going to finish up around 5 hours. At a higher difficulty, again, ammo is going to be at a premium, so don't just go firing blind. I also left myself in a few sticky situations where I had no health, no ammo, and bad guys surrounding me in opposite rooms. Be sure to use your stasis packs sparingly and only when you are in serious trouble. Higher difficulties will make the game more enjoyable for you. Beating the game once unlocks hard core mode which only allows you three save points in the entire game. I am not that glutton for punishment that I am going to try and beat the game on hard core (which you have to start from scratch; no New Game plus), even though doing so would unlock one of the coolest guns evar.

There is a multiplayer component to Dead Space 2 but I never really bothered to get into it much. I played a few rounds and it seemed very Aliens v. Predator to me (not a knock against AvP). Its something to play to say you've played but its something that will neither add nor significantly detract from the overall experience. If you don't want to buy a game that is about 20 hours total of gameplay (considering the number of playthroughs), that's fine, but you definitely need to play it. Its fun, terrifying, and visually stunning. With this, the original, and last year's Dante's Inferno, Visceral Games is becoming one of those studios that I've totally bought into. You should too.

TL;DR - A fantastic ride.

Stop Your Grinnin' and Drop Your Linen...

...because shit is about to get real around here.

Living in the midwest is a treasure on its own right. You get to be considered a "flyover state". You're a red state! And when it snows heavily, people are asking me if I've made my peace with God since we are in the midst of the end times.

As of today, schools in my area has been closed 5 times. Today will be six, and probably tomorrow will be seven. The University of Kansas cancelled classes in consecutive days for like only the second time in 30 years.

People are totally freaking out around here. The good news is I don't have to go anywhere. The fridge is stocked, I have some work I brought home to finish, and have plenty of time to type up some stuff I had meant to post for awhile. As long as this stuff doesn't turn into ice, I won't have to worry about this: