Dead Space 2: first impressions

To stomp, or not to stomp? That is the question...

Normally, I tend to hang back a month or two, once the hype has died down (allowing unbiased reviews and player feedback to emerge), the game becomes cheaper and any problems have been patched.

However, Dead Space was one of the few games which I've bought on the weekend of release: the combination of sci-fi and survival-horror ticked all the right boxes.  And by and large, it was an enjoyable experience; a bit predictable in places but entertaining enough.  Though whoever came up with that asteroid-shooting section needs to be strapped to the front of a plasma cannon...

Anyway.  After a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided to pick up DS2 this weekend, and having survived up to the second chapter (despite struggling with the Dual Shock controller; I'm not sure if I'm overly used to the Xbox 360 controller now, or if the DS controller has simply been evolved too far past it's original, stick-free design), it's proving to do a good job of continuing the series.

It's not perfect - the first boss battle was a clumsy mess and the bubbles floating in vacuum just look odd - but the decision to give Clarke a voice fixes one of the major flaws in the original game.  You're no longer controlling a mindless golem, but instead trying to help a human survive a nightmare.  And that makes the world of difference to player motivation.

Still, there's one new thing which I really don't like - for all that it's seemingly simple, it's a change which fundamentally weakens the survival-horror theme.  To get loot, you now have to stomp on dead bodies (or shoot them, potentially wasting precious ammo).

Y'see, the first time you do this, the results are horrific and disturbing.  Blood spurts everywhere, limbs go flying - my girlfriend was on the phone when I started playing and looked on in shock as I tore apart a dead patient, for seemingly no reason.

The second time, she frowned.  The third time, she gave up and went back to chatting on her phone.

The repetition of something dulls it's emotional impact - and by extension, it dulls the impact of the activities surrounding it.  I'm no longer trying to mercy-kill monsters, but instead smashing apart pinatas for some free candy...

And that's before you consider the fact that having to go around stomping on dead bodies slows the player down.  Or the fact that bodies can automatically disappear before you get a chance to inspect them; on a similar note, I carried a wheelchair through one set of doors, only for it to vanish when the doors shut and the game flushed it's object cache.

Admittedly, I can understand the reasoning behind the stomp - it means the player is left in suspense for a few seconds longer as to whether or not a given enemy is dead, rather than being given an obvious tell in the shape of a glowing pickup.  However, I can't help but think that the solution is overkill in every sense of the word: wouldn't it have been better to simply give the player a "search" option when standing next to a dead body?

Anyway.  Onwards and downwards: let's see what else is out there...

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