Dead Space 2, an Alien-View
The following is by Bo_Fox. As with everything that we publish at AlienBabelTech, the opinions expressed are solely those of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and the opinions of the rest of the ABT staff. –Mark Poppin, ABT Senior Editor
“This here is not a review, but an Alien-View”
Everybody is talking about Dead Space 2 since Visceral Games released it a month ago. Is Dead Space 2, an over-the-shoulder third-person shooter genre, a disappointment? Or, is it going to meet your expectations? Sorry, no blunt answer will be given here, but this Alien-view will point out the highlights and the shortcomings. It will also be a guide that gives some hints and workarounds to undertake, for better enjoyment of the game.
First, let’s take a quick rewind to the past. Since a few years passed after Doom 3 came out, gamers were starving once again for a similar horror-type shooter game. Dead Space 1 was just the fix that they needed to fulfill this raving hunger. Its success has contributed a great deal to the anticipation of Dead Space 2.
Dead Space 2 takes place on Saturn’s moon, Titan, 3 years after Dead Space 1 ended sometime in the 23rd century. A fully-fledged mining city there is rather massive – it makes the game feel a bit more open than the confinement of a single spaceship in Dead Space 1. Who doesn’t like the future? Skyscrapers?
It is mostly a dark game that is yet a bit more colorful than the first in some parts. The element of darkness is totally conducive to spine-tingling, bone-chilling horror. For me, it raised goosebumps on my neck, arms and legs 23 times the first play-through. The sound and music really did contribute a lot to the fear. Oh yes, there is just as much blood and gore as the predecessor. If you like the gore, make sure to die in every way possible, so that you don’t miss any of the different possible cut-scenes of gory death animations.
Even though it was pretty dark in some places, the main guy that you play as, named Isaac Clarke, is no longer silent, and is now making conversations with some people [NPCs] throughout the game. This alone makes the sequel have a far less isolated feel to it. Some gamers might be disappointed, preferring the isolated feel that makes it as grim and scary as possible.
The story is great. It touched me at the plot’s climax; the voice and cinematic acting really did intrigue me into emotional feelings. An exception is the very end, which felt rather lame. I would’ve preferred to just fight some stupid gigantic monster like in Dead Space 1.
A helluva lot of time was wasted searching for ammunition and health packs in every room. I had to stomp on dead corpses to find randomly-generated ammo and hunt around every corner of the room for power cells hidden like Easter eggs laid by the developer. At least it’s not as bad as Bioshock where a completionist gamer would spend half of the time searching around and picking objects out of corpses rather than just playing the game the more fun way.
Like in System Shock, Deus Ex, or Bioshock, the weapons can be upgraded. The interface actually looks somewhat like Deus Ex, with a certain number of slots that your armor has for carrying items. Also, the rig (armor and health) can be boosted by buying a new upgraded rig suit at a “store” that looks like a virtual vending machine. Successfully managing your money by wisely buying and selling items is not too challenging. If the game becomes too hard at any point, you could always change the difficulty on-the-fly.
With a few more new weapons that were not found in Dead Space 1, I just had to play the game over again so I could experience maxing-out every single one of them. It was just too tantalizing to not know what the upgrades could do with the weapon’s alternate-fire mode.
The artificial intelligence of monsters are what one would expect of semi-dumb necromorphs (zombie-like monsters that use human corpses as hosts). One new monster that was not in Dead Space 1 does show much improved “intelligence”, acting like a bird-reptile with a long neck so its head can stick above tall objects or lean past the corners to see where you are at, while staying hidden. If you look carefully, you’d spot them “peeking” at you, and you had be better prepared with weapons when they’re about to attack you. Watch out! – like in DS1, they still crawl through vents to reach other rooms (although not as often as in DS1).
Sadly, the notion of the monsters jumping out of vents whenever you cross an invisible line in the room (in about half of all the rooms in the game) is a bit reminiscent of the closet-spawning monsters of Doom 3. Inevitably setting off these “trigger-traps” one too many times makes the gameplay feel kinda dumbed-down.
Multiplayer added almost nothing to the game. While the necromorphs vs survivors mode, which is the only mode available for multiplayer, might seem exciting at first – a lot like Left 4 Dead – it quickly gets boring with just one repetitive mode and only a few maps. Perhaps it is the steep $59 price that keeps it from getting so popular yet, or perhaps it will just never take off.
FUN FACTOR: It’s more fun than Bioshock 2 and Quake 4, but playing it twice within a month might change your mind. Wait a bit longer for a replay and resist the temptation to play the “New Game+” mode where you can carry over your collected ammo and power-up’s into the new game. That way, it’s almost just as scary and fun the second time around.
Check out the next page for more advice, advanced tips, and if you must have a review score – a number rating squeezed out of me with a gun to my head by the editor.
For the beginner who has zero experience with playing Dead Space, just try to upgrade your rig’s health capacity and acquire new rig suits first before anything else. Right after you get a new suit, feel free to buy nodes for upgrading your weapons for the next 2-4 chapters. Like in Dead Space 1, the next rig suit upgrade becomes available every 2-4 chapters, so make sure to start saving money again after about 2 chapters of spending freely on power nodes. The more powerful you are, the less ammo/health packs you are likely to need – and therefore the more ammo/health packs you can sell.
Shoot the heads and the limbs first! Shooting in the middle of the bodies takes up so much more ammo (and deadly precious time) to kill them.
Use telekinesis to pick up objects and throw at enemies whenever possible, to save ammo!
On my computer, using Vista x64 SP2 and also WinXP-32, the Xbox360 controller worked great for the most part, except for when the frame rates dropped below the Vsync rate. Then I could only turn left at half the normal speed. That meant it took forever for me to turn around to react to a monster attacking from behind. I tried to look into it, but didn’t find any solutions – the obvious one is to make sure that the frame rate does not ever drop below your monitor’s refresh rate. Perhaps it’s just my isolated issue, but I was able to replicate this on another computer. Hopefully a patch could fix this.
Eventually, I ended up preferring to use the keyboard/mouse combination. Reasons:
- FAR quicker and more accurate aiming so that the highest difficulty can be beat without having to be some kind of a controller wizard.
- Although I had to sit closer to my 24-inch monitor using 16:10 aspect, where the narrow field of view felt a bit too narrow up close, the speed and accuracy still made it worthwhile. The controller’s dead-zone for the PC is noticeably worse at default than for Xbox360.
- The controller’s vibrations did add more to the experience, but BUT.. the vibrations are so one-dimensional, shaking like a vibrating toothbrush every time I shoot or stomp a corpse. I decided that just to feel the bass vibrations from my subwoofer was a more genuine and realistic experience, and I felt it all over my body, regardless.
Now, for one serious PC-related issue with this console port, if Vsync is enabled from within the game menu, this option would limit the frame rate to 30fps on a 60Hz LCD monitor, and introduce some unacceptable lag with using the mouse. Even using the Xbox360 controller, the only controller this ‘Games for Windows Live’ game was designed to work with, was laggy. An easy workaround to fix this lag problem is to turn off Vsync from within the game menu, and if you still want Vsync, simply force Vsync from the video card’s control panel. Like most new games nowadays, it automatically calls for a triple buffer regardless, so that the frame rates are not automatically halved or fractioned whenever it drops below the monitor’s maximum vsync refresh rate (no need for D3DOverrider).
The scenery relies on the same engine used in Dead Space, with somewhat better lighting and more intensive use of dynamic shadows cast by movable objects. Some places in the game are filled with a good amount of fog – not too much fog, but good-looking fog. The only change in the graphics options menu is the addition of “Very High” quality shadows, whereas the original game only offered up to “High” quality shadows. The game is somewhat more graphically demanding on video cards than Dead Space 1, where an 8800GTX could play it smoothly at 2560×1600 with maxed-out settings. Now, an 8800GTX can only bear 1920×1200 max settings, but my new GTX 460 1GB could still handle 2560×1600 just fine at well over 75 fps most of the time, occasionally dipping to around 55fps in some scenarios.
It’s highly recommended to just max-out all of the in-game graphics options if your computer can handle it at over 30 frames per second. That is, EXCEPT for the Anti-aliasing option in the menu – leave it disabled because it does not do true AA. It only blurs things, similar to MLAA found on AMD cards. Try it yourself and see if you prefer crisp detail or soft images. Personally, I just jacked up the resolution as high as possible–2560×1600 @ 69Hz on my 24″ CRT monitor made the jaggies super tiny, so I didn’t really care about AA anyways.
It is not recommended to try a “driver hack” to force multisample anti-aliasing by changing the compatibility flags using Nvidia Inspector, since it will make the shadows disappear and cause some other buggy instances (like the game crashing when Alt-tabbing to Windows).
Also, I tried forcing ambient occlusion through the NV control panel (as it supports Dead Space 1) by renaming the .exe to DeadSpace.exe (the same as Dead Space 1′s .exe). The enhanced atmosphere gave a more real feeling to it. Although the picture only shows an obvious difference in the shadow covering the left area of the floor, it added quite a bit to the overall environment’s cinematic appearance, making it seem “unreal”. Unfortunately, the frame rate hit was too great, bringing my GTX 460 down to its knees. The lighting implemented by the game itself is already excellent, after all.
Default without Ambient Occlusion (above)
The developers really should have worked with Nvidia to try to include full support for stereoscopic 3D without having to disable shadows, DOF, motion blur, etc. Playing in S3D does make it almost too frightening to handle, but without the shadows, I decided I’d just play the game as intended and wait until 3D truly takes over the world in a year or two. Perhaps IZ3D would have worked just fine, but I have not tried it out yet. As for physics, the Havok-based physics engine works wonders with rag-doll physics where the body parts and limbs can be thrown around, into the glass, sometimes breaking it into shards.
If your video card has a hard time handling your monitor’s resolution at a smooth frame rate, just drop down to either “medium” or “high” quality, from “very high” preset and see if this helps. Lower the resolution first before dropping the quality to “low”, because “low” quality is pretty much never worth it just to maintain the resolution. Check out my Voodoopower ratings to see how your video card is ranked.
Dead Space 2 could have been a flat-out stellar game with amazing graphics if it used high-resolution textures throughout the game rather than incredibly low-detail textures in several key areas, consistently. The linearity of this horror shooter game isn’t a bad thing for most people, but it is its shortcomings that makes it actually fall short of PREY, a game released five years ago. Still, it is an excellent game with several excellent highlights, with lots of different highly detailed object meshes found throughout the visually impressive maps that make for a mostly pleasant showcasing tour. If Dead Space 2 used multiple DVD’s for Xbox360 and PC versions, while filling up the PS3 blu-ray disc, it could have had Crysis-like textures all over, rather than “contradictory” quality textures where it matters the most. Here’s to the future!
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