[Game: Dead Space 2, Visceral Games, 2011]
Deadened Space:

How Small Elements of Design, Optimization, and Polish Combine to Diminish Dead Space 2

 

Introduction:

Despite its slightly more favorable reviews, among game analysts and longtime fans of the series Dead Space 2 is commonly considered to be a lesser work than the original Dead Space—a lesser work of horror as well as a lesser game in general.

But on first glance, it’s not remotely clear why anyone would hold that opinion. After all, nearly every element that hooked people into Dead Space, nearly every element that I praised in my own article on the game, remains present in the sequel: an engrossing and precisely tuned sound design, a plot that deftly blends sci-fi and body horror, a set of enemies who navigate through ductwork to ensure no space ever feels truly safe, a dismemberment-based fighting system that increases combat complexity while enhancing uncertainty regarding whether any given foe is deceased, a pacing that spaces out spans of tension with spans of relief, a combat system that straddles the line between being restrictive and being empowering, and an eschewing of a traditional HUD in favor of diegetic menus and indicators on and around the player-character’s suit.

Yet, for all that, I would still agree with those who feel there has been a slight slide down the scales of both horror quality and overall game quality from the first game to the second. After some careful consideration, I’ve come to a conclusion as to why this is. Frankly, I don’t think Dead Space 2 has any big, glaring problems that weigh it down. It remains a very solid follow-up to the original, and an entertaining, worthwhile experience. This is not a traditional review of the game, which would surely be much more favorable than what follows.

Dead Space 2 screenshot with puzzle solved in zero gravity - Visceral Games, comparison, review, analysis

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[Game: Dead Space 2, Visceral Games, 2011]
Deadened Space:

How Small Elements of Design, Optimization, and Polish Combine to Diminish Dead Space 2

was last modified: April 7th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Jak II, Naughty Dog, 2003]
Jak, Too:

Extolling the Virtues of Naughty Dog’s Second Jak & Daxter Title via an Unintuitive Analogy

 

Introduction:

For about a decade after I originally played it, Jak II was my favorite game. In the run up to its release back in 2003, I spent over a month convincing my parents (especially my violent-media-averse mother) that it would be alright for me to purchase the game, despite the fact that it would be rated ‘T for Teens’ and I would not quite yet be a teenager.

My ironclad arguments included that I had already played the T-rated games Ratchet & Clank and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4; that Jak doesn’t get access to guns until partway through the game; that the enemies in Jak II simply vanish without any blood when killed; and that I had already completed its E-rated predecessor, Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. Ultimately, I doubt my folks were swayed by any of those arguments. Rather, they probably relented because I was almost a teen anyway, and I had demonstrated so extensively and so annoyingly the depth of my desire to play it.

In fact, I had not simply completed Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. I had one hundred percented it. And the game did not reward that effort with a chunk of additional gameplay, as had titles that I had previously one hundred percented (such as the entries in the original Spyro trilogy); instead, it simply provided a short, cryptic cutscene lightly teasing the inciting incident of Jak II. This may go some way to justifying my eagerness to play the sequel. Nevertheless, when I did finally get my hands on it, I was astonished by the quality of the game.

Jak II screenshot with piloting zoomer in slums - Naughty Dog, retrospective analysis, analogy, comparison

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[Game: Jak II, Naughty Dog, 2003]
Jak, Too:

Extolling the Virtues of Naughty Dog’s Second Jak & Daxter Title via an Unintuitive Analogy

was last modified: April 13th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Dead Space, EA Redwood Shores, 2008]
AAA Horror that Works:

How the Original Dead Space Maintains a Tense Atmosphere

 

Introduction:

For those of you who didn’t have enough horror over the Halloween weekend, I recommend checking out a great game which just turned seven years old, Dead Space. I decided that Your Mid-week Mission series, which is now two months old, is long overdue for something besides a 2-D, pixel art, indie PC game (as much as I obviously enjoy those). So I’m getting about as far from that as possible with this article about a AAA action horror third-person shooter.

In particular, this article will explore what makes Dead Space succeed as a horror game, which is a genre with a disproportionate number of failures. I intend to encourage any fans of the horror or third-person shooter genres to play the first part of the Dead Space trilogy as soon as possible, so let’s get to why.

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[Game: Dead Space, EA Redwood Shores, 2008]
AAA Horror that Works:

How the Original Dead Space Maintains a Tense Atmosphere

was last modified: April 5th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski