I finished this game a week or so ago and I’m still a little traumatized and exhilarated. Dead Space 2 is superb on every level. It’s exciting, well paced, well designed, looks stunning, and has a great story. It is also unbelievably violent and gory to the point where I am now utterly desensitized to pretty much anything a game can throw at me.
Predictably, Dead Space 2 continues the story begun in the first game. You play Isaac Clarke (a scifi nerd nod of respect to Asimov and Arthur C.) as he struggles to survive against various beasties, monsters, and zombie-like necromorphs aided by a large selection of limb-slicing weaponry.
There are some superb set pieces with ridiculously large baddies and zero gravity action. There are also smaller and more creepy enemies like weird screaming little children necromorphs and, even creepier, little crawling babies that make an odd wailing noise and then explode when near.
Evil exploding babies
The story is fairly good too. There are double crossings and weird religions. There’s also a sub-plot with Isaac’s dead girlfriend who appears every now and then to freak you out. The action is set in a massive floating city and is awesome. I spent more than a few minutes just staring out the window.
I didn’t find it particularly scary but that is probably due to having watched a shitload of horror films and generally being desensitized to all things spooky and violent. My wife walked past at one point and was a bit freaked out by the casual way I shot the arms and legs off a necromorph then calmly walked over and stomped on its head, causing it to explode. Then I got jumped by another one who thrust a limb down my throat and ripped me in half. I barely noticed and sipped my tea.
Above all though, Dead Space 2 is just a great game. It’s brilliantly made with gorgeous graphics, realistic physics, superb and easy controls, and just the right amount of ammo and health to make it a challenge while remaining fun. I only played the solo mission though. There is multiplayer but I could never get it to work, although hopefully that is fixed now. Even considering this I still didn’t feel short changed.
You play a delivery man called Cole, who lives on a roof with an annoying friend and is dating a woman called Trish who whinges a lot. (Although this is kind of justified). One day there is a massive explosion in the city and you wake up in the middle of a huge blast crater with special powers. You can control electricity. Which would be pretty exciting. Although as far as I can see, he can never wash or drink liquid again.
There seems to be a disease that is turning people either ill, or mental, so the government blockades the city, declares quarantine, and shoots anyone trying to escape. A bit like Escape from New York but with less cool characters. (And there it was a prison.) Cue the rise of fairly unique gangs on each of the islands that comprise the city. As the story unfolds you learn more about yourself and the shadowy figures and groups behind everything. The story is actually pretty good with stylish comic-book cut scenes that really add to the superhero theme.
Another thing that develops are your abilities and your karma. You learn more skills as the game progresses and the learning curve as you master these new zappy powers is actually pretty easy. There are various city zones without electricity and each time you start up the generator you get a blast of electricity and a new skill. Some of them are very cool but it feels a bit artificial. I know it is a game but I find it mildly annoying when you gain a power in a game like this and suddenly it turns out to be the very thing that’s need right afterwards. It’s like a mini tutorial, which is handy, but it subtracts from the, er, reality. I won’t gripe about it here but this sort of thing seems to be a tedious unrealistic necessity in games (like in 1st person shooters when you find ammo and a drink that heals physical wounds in a clay pot or something).
Sliding along power cable never gets dull
At first you are limited to just one island and travelling around is slow – although you are pretty damn nimble. You unlock other islands as the game progresses (like GTA) at the same time as finding other ways to move about. Like zipping along train tracks and power cables or even flying. These are fun and easy and look fantastic.
In fact all the controls are easy and intuitive and by the end you truly feel mega-powerful. I just thought it was a shame there wasn’t more to destroy. Don’t get me wrong – there are cars and people you can chuck about and blast but if you’re nice, you have to be a bit careful.
I should talk here about being good. Like other games (eg Fallout 3 or Knights of the Old Republic) there is karma. You can be good or bad. This is a great idea and adds to replayability. When you are good there are posters of you everywhere looking heroic and noble. Everyone loves you and gathers around cheering and taking photos whenever you pause for a second. When you are evil a much cooler poster appears with half your face and half demon skull. Whenever you stop for a second people hurl abuse or stones. Which is a pretty dumb thing to do to someone who is evil and has mega powers – especially given how fun it is to throw a car at them. The more good deeds and missions you do the better karma you get. And vice-versa. There are three grades of good/evil until you are either famous or infamous and each grade unlocks even more abilities. Which is all well and good except that there is no point in being neutral. In Fallout 3, for example, there are advantages for whatever state you choose. People fear you or like you and do better deals. Too good or bad and some won’t deal with you, and so on. In inFamous you will miss out on a ton of abilities if neutral – it is only worth your while to be a goody two shoes or out and out bastard.
If you're evil your electricity goes red. Because that's what happens...
The game is sandbox with sidemissions and game missions and lots of other little tasks. There are also missions that are exclusively good or evil. They’re all fairly fun but unsurprisingly the evil ones are better. In fact, the whole game is more enjoyable when you’re a bad guy. You don’t have to care about innocent people, you can just blow the crap out of everything that moves. It also makes it easier.
InFamous is a great fun game but it lacks any real depth. You can’t alter the main character in any way, some missions are a bit repetitive, and you don’t feel as fully immersed in the world as other games manage to achieve. You can cause a lot of chaos in the city but there doesn’t seem much point. You don’t feel like you’re going to get anything out of it. There are no repercussions. In Grand Theft Auto you can go mental and crash cars into traffic, jump out and blow the resulting pile of automobiles up with a grenade. There would be a satisfying explosion, cars flying everywhere, and dead passers by. You take take all their money and occasionally weapons but at the same time become wanted and the police get called in. If you start shooting them the FBI and army and helicopters and so on turn up. There are advantages and consequences and escalation and thrills. Do this in inFamous and nothing happens except some burnt cars.
Don’t get me wrong. The game is great fun, looks fantastic and plays brilliantly. There’s no need to become the insane overly violent psychopath I tend to become in games like this. You will very probably love it. Just not for long. You will play the game as good, then as bad, then you’re done. The story doesn’t vary that much for each karmic state – just enough to warrant two play throughs. You will finish after your two 10 hour sessions and think “That was fun, what next?”
InFamous is recommended, great fun, good-looking, has an intriguing story, is stylish and definitely worth a go. It’s just a bit shallow.
You should be able to find it pretty cheap as inFamous 2 is due out soon. At some point.
This game starts with your birth. Literally. You are pulled out of your mother and see the doctor and your dad – who happens to be Liam Neeson (the voice anyway). The first section then follows you as you grow up, make friends, choose a career and so on. It sounds a bit dull but in fact it doesn’t take too long and really adds to the rest of the game. There’s been a nuclear war and by the time you hit adulthood neither you or anyone else has left your underground bunker – Vault 101 – for decades. Then your dad buggers off without even saying goodbye. Things go a bit tits up in the vault and you decide to leave.
By this point you have probably been playing for at least an hour and it genuinely feels strange and exciting the first time you walk out of the Vault and see the open landscape and ruins of Washington DC before you. The area is vast and you can explore it all at your leisure.
The Capitol wasteland
Like most sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto or Elder Scrolls Oblivion (the latter also by Bethesda), you will most likely spend half your time following the story and the other half exploring. A great deal of thought has gone into how all the various groups of people have survived and you will find communities dotted all over the place. I loved stumbling across some of these. There are normal-seeming villages where you start to suspect that something is wrong the more you chat (cannibals?), an underground group of vampire types, ghoul cities (like zombies but friendly and chatty), virtual reality towns, a mad Russian with hookers, a ‘Mad Max’ type survivalist type town, and shitloads more. Also roaming the landscape are huge green mutants, rapid dogs, humanoid crab-like creatures, punk bandits, and so on.
On top of having your choice on where to go, you can also dramatically change your character development, the way you deal with people (and vice versa), and even the outcome of the game. You can choose attributes – strength, intelligence, etc; perks – speciality skills; even your morality. Your actions also have consequences to yourself, those you meet, communities, the world, and companions you make. The variety and difference between how the game plays out for each player is genuinely vast and satifying.
Graphically the game looks great. By that, I mean the art and design of the landscape and the characters. In particular the armoured characters that feature so heavily in the advertising and pictures like the one at the top of this piece. It is pretty to look at and convincing in a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ kind of way. Nothing special though. There are games with more detail and realistic characters both on PC and other PS3 games. This is forgivable to some extent given the epic size of where you can go. A more linear FPS for example, can afford to pay full attention to the graphical experience.
I should mention the VATS combat system. This allows you to pause the game, select a body part of the chosen victim, and then fire. You then get a brilliant sequence where you follow the bullet as it zooms toward the target before, if you’re lucky, blowing said limb off in a spray of blood. As with all games that have ever featured guns, it is at its best when you get in close and blow the head off. The VATS system is optional by why wouldn’t you use it? It’s fun and slow-mo and gory. It is slightly clunky but the first time you blow a rabid dog to pieces, you realise you don’t care.
Fallout 3 is fun but not flawless. There are some great set pieces where you join together with others to blow the crap out of some mutated behemoth or other. There should have been more of this. The combat is cool but can sometimes lead to weird camera angles. The story is actually quite satisfying but I accidently finished it before exploring several large chunks of the map. This latter fault can be rectified by either replaying it or downloading one of the newer add-on adventures that are available. Mostly though I was saddened by the fact that I got a dog called Dogmeat that I really grew quite attatched to. I then got kidnapped and lost him. He is now wandering around a fictional game on his own. Poor Dogmeat. Maybe I got too involved.
Where are you Dogmeat?
I enjoyed Fallout 3 and if I didn’t have other games to play would be still exploring now. If you like First Person Shooters or RPGs you will probably like it too.