As usual I am late to the party with Dead Space 2 though the wait has been worth its while. I have had to skip the previous post entries by Isaac and Simon due to my personal engagement with games; their stories. A spoiled story is almost not worth sitting through. Its mysteries are there for me to ponder and wonder, to take me on a rollercoaster of an adventure through its scripted narrative visualized by an expansive universe with minute details. Okay, the last bit was too contrived, even for me, but it is game’s main pull for me to play them. So I stomp the Dead Space 2 disk into the PlayStation 3 and sit back to enjoy the ride.
Dead Space 2 picks up nicely after the events of Dead Space 1. Though there is no explanation as to how you were found floating around in space or why you were brought to The Sprawl, it were things I could look past as a good story is a story which knows what elements to focus on. So I… ahem… Isaac wakes up from coma and is thrown from the ashes straight into the fire. Isaac’s old buddies, The Necro-get-away-from-my-face-you-freak-of-nature-Morphs, are here to visit from and pay homage to his exploits. If only that… actually they are here to rip him a new one in innovative different myriad of ways. So I grab my trusty plasma cutter and… wait a minute… where’s my Johnny?! And what is this? I’m in a straight-jacket?! And the guy in front of me is being brutally murdered and there is nothing I can do to fight back? Damnit! So I run for it while getting slashed by a couple of Necro’s along the way.
The act of restraining the player made me think of Amnesia’s way of inducing horror in its players; you cannot fight back. You are at the mercy of your enemies and they will show you none. Since the game ends once the player reaches zero health and zero health is the equivalent of dying, players will try to keep themselves alive as long as possible. So I sprinted out of the mental ward without so much as knowing where I was going – merely that I was getting the hell away from here. The darkness, the chaos and the unfamiliarity of the space, made me experience what I would assume to be the equivalent of waking up from sleep (or coma) in an unfamiliar space, surrounded by people you do not know and you have no recollection of how you got there. A nice start and perfectly in line with the initial start of Dead Space 2.
It is no surprise that I had high expectation for Dead Space 2. Dead Space 1 was a very pleasant surprise in terms of universe, setting, actual game play, development of story and its untraditional discourse. The few logs you could find aboard the Ishimura told only a fraction of a vast universe populated by EarthGov and Unitologists. The Unitologists themselves were quite fascinating as they could be seen as a parallel to our world’s Scientologists, but they also contained enough information to warrant them as a separate and functional religion. The developers even went as far as to create an alphabet of Unitology letters.
But most importantly, Dead Space 1 provided me with an adventure where the main protagonist wasn’t a pumped up version of a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Rambo, but a normal every-day-guy who was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. Over the course of DS1, Isaac became more confident and rose above the everyday-man, but without forgetting where his roots lay. He just wanted to get the hell away from Ishimura and so too did he want to get away from the Sprawl.
However, I am afraid that my journey through DS2 was not as fruitful as DS1. The world was not new and so I was not as intrigued when I discovered I had been brought to the Sprawl and Necromorphs were ravaging through the station. These were common knowledge by now and so I kept going, hoping to find new information which could satisfy my questions: What is the Marker? Where is the real Marker? What is the purpose of the Necromorphs? Is there more to Unitology than what we have seen? Why do they stash their dead bodies? And yet I only gained a fraction of what I asked for.
The Markers were still as mysterious when I finished the game. More information was disclosed on their origins, at least the one located on The Sprawl, but nothing which could prompt further discussions. The Real Marker, mentioned in DS1, was not mentioned at all in any relation and the mystery surrounding the purpose of the Necromorphs was not dissolved. The only new addition to the universe was a game chapter devoted to an area where you enter the Church of Unitology and take a guided tour providing you with some new (propaganda) material. But beyond that, nothing.
As such Dead Space 2 has left a strange taste in my mouth. I genuinely enjoyed this new addition to the Dead Space universe, but also felt that a lot of my time was spent doing nothing. It was one long walk down a corridor to another. The mystery surrounding the Ishimura was not be to found on the Sprawl. It was taken for granted that the station was fucked up because someone had constructed a new Marker. End of story. Go blast some Necromorphs, Isaac. I only have one question left.
How is it possible to experience a new story and come away with no new knowledge?