The latest footage from Dead Space 2, EA’s only public surviving legacy of its new IP project, has me worried. It’s a contextless clip of Isaac strapping himself into some sort of industrial mech which is is then launched into the cold vacuum of space in which he dodges arbitrary colonial detritus through what seem to be rocket boots.
While the first Dead Space may have been a fairly derivative survival horror, drawing strongly from established zombie and science fiction plot elements and Event Horizon for it’s visual style, it was a solid implementation of those ideas. It maintained its atmosphere pretty damn well with the exception of a few “boss fights”, which seemed gratuitous.
This trailer however, seems to completely abandon the tenants which made the atmosphere so good. In it Isaac resembles Iron Man more than anything else, nimbly dodging through space debris at insane speeds, in stark contrast to his low key escapades in the first game.
It is reminiscent to me of the tonal shift between Modern Warfare and it’s sequel. For me, Modern Warfare’s tone alternated between the somber, serious atmosphere of missions such as “All Ghillied Up” or the AC-130 Gunship and the desperation of the “Cargo” Ship or the game’s final chase sequence. However in the sequel, (which I haven’t played) people remark upon the great tonal disparity in the sequel between the more solemn moments and the more fantastical. Kieron Gillen writes on RockPaperShotgun;
“As others have noted, the most disturbing part of No Russian is its context. A few seconds previously you’re involved in a high-speed James Bond chase involving snowmobiles. A few seconds later, you’re mowing down civilians. That tonal shift isn’t brutal. It’s laughable. At best, you’re comedy. At worst, you’re cheap exploitative trash. Modern Warfare leans towards the latter.”
This seems like it could easily become the case with Dead Space 2 if the latest trailer is indicative. I cannot help but wonder if having spent the last thirty seconds playing Iron Man in space might undercut future tension about the seriousness of a Necromorph ambush.
Keep in however, that the spaceflight moment is provided with no context at all and that Dead Space 2 is supposed to have a slight tonal shift from the first game, to reflect Isaac’s new role as “hero of the Ishimura”.
Perhaps this second chapter is intended to feel completely different to the first. Perhaps it is all about Isaac’s ability to cope with being the sole idol for humanity, particularly considering that his image is being used to prop up a Unitologist government. Perhaps at the end of the game, the player and Isaac must abandon the Unitologist’s aid (such as the rocket boots) and strike out on their own. Perhaps then the third game could be again different, as Isaac leads civilians in an uprising against the Unitologists of the time who are deliberately unleashing Necromorphs on society. Dead Space could become “The Saga of Isaac Clarke” perhaps, where the games are linked by a character’s narrative rather than by atmosphere and mechanics.
However, one cannot have their cake and eat it as well. I sincerely hope that whatever tone Visceral Games has chosen for Dead Space 2, that they stick to it. The a snowmobile is fine in a game about snowmobiles.
This is not conducive to "rocketeering".