I didn’t use to like horror games. Fear was a feeling that I usually avoided. I simply did not enjoy myself if I was afraid. But as the years passed and I became more and more jaded, I started to realize I was not capable of feeling any emotions anymore, except one: Fear.
So I started to chase fear, timidly at first. I installed Dead Space, a game that seemed to have what I needed. The first few levels I was paralyzed with fear. Then as I slowly built confidence I began to be bolder, to be more daring. Besides the moments when an apparently dead xenomorph jumped up and tried to murder me, there was nothing that could get a rise out of me. I felt like a total badass. This miner, who doesn’t speak, facing terrifying situations, conquering his fear in order to save his lady.
It’s a pretty romantic description of my experience with Dead Space but the truth is I realized that the game was not in fact that scary. At first I did not know what to expect, but as the game went on I realized that it is more of a horror shooter, than a true horror game.
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot more from Dead Space 2, but since Amnesia decided to stop working, I gave it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by it, in the sense that it is a lot scarier than the first game. There is a lot more to be scared of in Dead Space 2. Isaac Clarke is now a little bit insane, and he keeps hallucinating throughout the levels. Bear in mind that I am not biased against hallucinations, in fact I dabble in hallucinating every now and again, but when you start doing it in a xenomorph-infested city it’s bad.
Dead Space 2 is a lot more of a cinematic experience than the first game. At one point I was dangling upside down, with my leg trapped in a tram wreck, when xenomorphs started attacking me. You see it coming a mile away, but classic horror situations like this one make the game fun. It seems, however, that the developers are trying to exploit every phobia that the player might have. Like the way you have to crawl through a tight space in order to get to another area. There seems to be no other purpose for this, other than to give claustrophobics the creeps. I’m not a claustrophobic, but I doubt anyone would feel any sense of fear when crawling in-game through these spaces.
Sound is what makes or breaks a horror game. Dead Space 2 shines in this department. There are some creepy children that start attacking you at one point. There’re a lot of them and they have this amazing scream that sends chills down the spine. And while we’re on the xenomorph subject, there is more variety now.
The game however is still not that scary. It is more of an action game. The feeling you get is not of fear, it’s more of a rush. You know you are going to face off against some pretty nasty things, but you have a machine gun, a laser pistol, a spear shooter, a disc thrower, or a ray cutter in your hands. You feel like you can take ‘em. That’s not a feeling you should have in a horror game. You should feel helpless, you shouldn’t be able to hold your own against the horrors that lie in wait in the shadows. You should feel thankful for the moments you are alone, and at the same time terrified because you know for sure that something else is coming to get you.
That’s what Dead Space 2 gets wrong, and Amnesia gets right. In Amnesia all you have is tinder, a lantern and the ability to open doors and throw chairs. You cannot fight a monster. You cannot even look at it or you will go insane. Whenever you see a monster you don’t start strategizing and figuring out how you are going to kill them without wasting any ammo, no, you quickly run to a corner in the dark, and hide with your back to the horror that is out to mutilate you.
This does not mean that Dead Space 2 is bad. It’s an enjoyable game. But it’s not a horror game. If you are looking for a true horror game buy Amnesia, if you’ve already played Amnesia, then buy Dead Space 2.
So, does Dead Space 2 deserve the Game of the Year awards it has won? If it’s in the horror games category sure, since Amnesia came out in 2010. But there are games out right now that are better overall. Still it is a very fun game that I recommend.