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Monday, June 27, 2022
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HomeFeaturesArt & EntertainmentLate to the Game(s): Boo! Dead Space still offers scares

Late to the Game(s): Boo! Dead Space still offers scares

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

I haven’t ever had a game really scare me like Dead Space and its sequels. The thing is, I’m not really into horror games, or horror films, that much. I like a good scary story as much as the next guy, but I don’t like gore. And I’m not a big zombie fan. When the first game launched, I wasn’t very big on first person shooters either. So, you wouldn’t think it would be up my alley. But I was working for the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, at the time as a contract writer. 

As part of that gig I wrote game overviews for internal company use – mostly by customer service representatives. So, I had access to a lot of games before they released, and often received a copy for the platform of my choice after launch. 

A lot of those games (Nerf N-Strike, MySims SkyHeroes, some of the Rock Band titles) weren’t played much past what I needed to do to for work. But Dead Space was one of those titles that really intrigued me. 

While I don’t like horror, and I don’t like zombies, I do like sci-fi. And, while at its heart it’s a survival horror game, Dead Space has a really nice sci-fi veneer. While the antagonists are undead mutants – essentially space zombies – they’re specialized space zombies. Like the xenomorphs of the Alien film franchise, Dead Space’s necromorphs take on various specialized forms that require different strategies to overcome. 

I think that was one of the first things to appeal to me. Instead of being a mindless bullet-fest like so many other zombie shooters, Dead Space made you think and plan your attacks. Though they essentially end up functioning largely like guns, you aren’t really using guns for most of your play-through either. Instead, you are using the tools that your main character, the engineer Isaac Clarke, has at his disposal, starting with a plasma cutter and adding rivet guns and other projectile and energy-based weapons/tools to your arsenal as you play. (Though, for a real challenge and the trophy, you have to do one purist playthrough with nothing but the cutter.)

In the first game you dock on the mining ship, the USG Ishimura, to investigate a loss of communications, to discover that a necromorph outbreak has led to the deaths of nearly everyone on the ship, including his girlfriend Nicole. While he survives and escapes, it isn’t the end for Clarke. He’s left emotionally and psychologically scarred by his experiences, and that’s where we find our hero at the outset of Dead Space 2 – under medical care on the Sprawl, a massive space station built on and around the moon of Titan. 

While the first game had its share of jump scares and creepy monsters – particularly the infant like lurkers, which haunted my dreams while I was playing the game – in the second installment Isaac’s tenuous grasp on sanity leads to an even scarier question; what if this is all in my head, and I’m hallucinating the monsters while attacking innocent people? 

Ultimately, of course, that doesn’t end up being the case. But it makes a nice premise and sets the second game apart from the first in an interesting way while building on the trauma and story of the first. The second game also gives the player the chance to look into a lot more info on the Unitology church, and their role in the necromorph outbreaks, fleshing out suggestions that intuitive players are able to ferret out in the first game. 

Of course, this investigation and reading isn’t necessary if you aren’t as interested in the lore. If you just want jump scares, psychological horror, and fast-paced action, you can zip through the story bits to the game objectives, mowing down all the monsters in your path as you go. But for those who are interested in the story behind these space zombies, and where they came from, Dead Space 2 adds a lot to the mix – squarely indicting Unitology and its adherents in the government for the mutant outbreaks. 

Despite being a fantastic intellectual property, with a dedicated fan base, EA halted further development on the series after the third installment didn’t perform as expected. 

So, why are we talking about a franchise that hasn’t launched a new title in almost ten years?

Two reasons. 

First, EA has plans to reboot the franchise, launching a remake of the original game sometime in the next year or so. 

Secondly, and most importantly to us now, Dead Space 2 is currently available for free to Amazon Prime subscribers. 

If you’re a Prime subscriber, you can claim your copy by going over to gaming.amazon.com and clicking on the “claim” button to activate a code for the game. That code doesn’t add the game to your Amazon game account, though. Instead, it allows you to add the game to your EA collection through an EA Origin account. If you don’t already have an Origin account, it’s free to create one, and you can then download the game to your PC to play. 

The one downside, if you can call it a downside, is that this is a PC only download – you aren’t getting a copy from Amazon for your PlayStation or Xbox. But a keyboard and mouse are how I first controlled Isaac Clarke, and though I love sitting on the couch with a controller, I prefer the speed and precision of a mouse in a game that can be as fast-paced as this series can be. 

Of course, you can play the PC game with a controller too if that’s your preference. Nothing is stopping you from running an HDMI cord from your laptop to your television and playing console style on your big screen either. 

But, however you choose to play it, it’s worth checking out. Just consider yourself warned that these monsters might visit you in your dreams too. So, before you start, you might want to check the bulbs in your night light. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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