If you enjoyed doomy space dismemberment fest Dead Space, then you’ll probably enjoy Dead Space 2, because pretty much nothing has changed. That’s not a bad thing, and the sequel is as atmospheric, tense and genuinely terrifying as the original, with a textured narrative and rich mythology lurking behind the splattery fun. The combat is solid, the strategic dismemberment dynamic remains insanely satisfying, and the anti gravity spacewalking bits help to break up the pacing with some quieter, more eerie moments.
Starring Isaac Clarke: Space Emo
The game kicks off with one of the best opening levels I can think of in recent games, where you’re thrown head-first into a massive monster showdown. Disorientated, and with no idea where you are or what the bloody hell is going on, you have to pilot a straightjacketed Isaac Clarke through a hospital descending into chaos, desperately trying to outrun Necromorphs. True to iClarke’s engineering background, you spend a lot of this section trying to haphazardly fashion some DIY weapons using cutting tools from surgery tables to try and defend yourself. It’s a truly thrilling opening, tense and urgent, and sets the tone for the rest of the game perfectly.
From then on in the game is pretty much a relentless set-piece jungle, with an explosive semi-scripted encounter occurring on average every three and a half minutes. There’s too many to mention here, but my favourites include the time when you get sucked out of the airlock with a massive snarling deathbeast and have to try and land on a passing gunship, the train ride, the return to the Ishimura and pretty much the whole final section of the game, which was basically a feature length set-piece, as far as I could tell.
Isaac Clarke punches aliens. And children.
Structurally, the game is actually a huge improvement on the original, getting the balance between dependably enjoyable limb-slicing mayhem and epic set-pieces just right. Dead Space 2 also manages to avoid the episodic format of the original, and you really feel like you’re journeying through Titan station, rather than just getting the Tube between stops on the Ishimura, like in the last game. It helps that the game is really tightly paced, and the action keeps powering along whilst still giving you enough respite between battles to catch your breath.
So yeah, play it, four out of five stars, whatever. But what I also wanted to talk about was the advertising campaign. Before the release of Dead Space 2, I noticed a promoted trend on Twitter called #yourmomhatesthis. Imagine my surprise when I clicked it and it was an advert for Dead Space 2:
The tweet linked to a series of YouTube videos where mothers are shown “the most brutal, violent scenes that Dead Space 2 has to offer.” The mothers in question are all, without exception, wholesome middle-age conservatives who’ve never seen anything more graphic that Diagnosis Murder, so you won’t be surprised to learn that they were outraged, horrified, and disturbed.
This is without a doubt the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
Pictured: the EA marketing department.
The #yourmomhatesthis advertising campaign is pathetically stupid and hopelessly reductive. Dead Space 2 is a violent game, yes, but if you show someone only the most graphic and violent parts of something, then of course they’re going to be horrified. You know what my mum would hate? All the graphic and violent bits of No Country For Old Men played one after another (of which there are not a few). The actual film, she might actually like.
Your mum hates bowl-cuts.
To quote Margaret Atwood, context is all. Brutal violence can often have a place in art, but it needs to be justified by the tone or subject matter of the work. Dead Space 2 is a graphically violent game, but it depicts a nightmarishly horrifying scenario. The violence is unflinching, but then so is the source material. Does it not make sense for a game like this to be graphic, is it not appropriate for the world it has created? I believe it is, but you need to place that violence in context to understand its role.
And it’s insulting to think that, as the intended target audience for the game, I’m supposed to think it’s totally awesome that my mum would hate all the graphic violence. As if that’s supposed to make me want to buy the game more. I’m sorry, but I stopped doing things to piss off my parents when I stopped being fourteen. Isn’t this the sort of attitude and thinking that gamers should be trying to dispel? Video games are never going to progress or develop as an art form if the rest of the population thinks that they’re just senseless and gratuitous distractions for emotional half-wits. It’s reductive of gamers, and it demeans us a community.
We’re better than that.