Have you ever had difficulty enjoying a great game and had no idea why?

Let me just clarify something before this Dead Space 2-focused rant starts and GamesRadar Towers (alright, grey, semi-depressing office building) burns to ashes in the ensuing flame war. I think EA’s survival horror sequel is utterly excellent on almost every technical level I can think of. Visceral Games has created a moody, beautiful-looking environment, which shares the same sense of claustrophobic dread as the colony from Aliens. It’s an absolute masterclass in arresting sound design. And the core combat and weapons feel brilliantly judged and balanced.

Yet still, there’s something missing that I can’t identify. Some reason I can’t quite connect with the game, which I’m struggling to understand. So, my question to you, oh wise and learned reader is: have you ever been left cold by an excellent game and had no buggering clue why?


Now, I was a massive fan of the first title. Released the same year as Resident Evil 5, it felt effortlessly polished, exciting and fresh placed next to Capcom’s increasingly geriatric horror/action hybrid. From the incredibly well-realised Ishimura (that somehow miraculously managed to make every level of a banged-up spaceship feel like a distinct, memorable environment in its own right), to the constantly satisfying Strategic Dismemberment system; I had one hell of a hoot and a half throughout Isaac Clarke’s adventure. 

On the decomposing face of it, then, I should be getting on with the sequel like a house with extremely flammable shag carpets and no smoke alarms. But I’m not. And it’s bothering me like having to share a linguini with a Necromorph, Lady and the Tramp-style.

Above: The new Zero Gravity sections are easily the most improved feature from the first game

As I said earlier, on a technical level, there’s really nothing that bothers me about the sequel. Combat feels just as meaty and visceral as the first game. The new weapons and enemies (I’m looking at you Stalkers and Johnny Javelin Gun) are most agreeable to my DualShock-obsessed digits. Oh, and some of those setpieces? Lets just say I seltzered my intergalactic pantaloons during the early tram crash.

Above: This setpiece is incredible, but I'd have liked a few more on this scale in the first half of the game

So what’s the problem? Well, admittedly my gripes are all small and fairly pernickety. Though I’ve enjoyed exploring the Sprawl, no one part of it has had the same impact on me as the initial approach to the Ishimura or the starling botanical section in Isaac’s original adventure. I’ll confess that I’ve only completed ten of the game’s 15 chapters, but so far, there’s been a little too much backtracking for my liking. Compared to the original, the pacing doesn’t seem to be quite as well judged or carry as much momentum propelling things forward.

I’ve also got a final gripe, which will make me sound like a mentalist of the very highest proportions, who needs to be promptly fitted with a straightjacket and personal padded cell. I don’t like the save system. Specifically, I think there are too many checkpoints. I’ve played both of Isaac’s games on the Hard difficulty. The big difference between the two for me, in terms of harvesting and maintaining a genuinely off-putting atmosphere, comes down to the sense of peril I feel while playing.

Above: The Sprawl might give you some stunning views, but I still preferred exploring the Ishimura

In Dead Space (at least on Hard) there was a fairly punishing checkpoint system, which actively encouraged manual saving. One impromptu decapitation for our space miner and you could easily be looking at having to redo 10 minutes of progress. But the sequel, on the other severed hand, loses a degree of this tension and dread simply because the punishment for death isn’t as severe.

Yeah, I’m aware you’re only given three saves on the highest, granite-hard difficulty setting. But you have to finish the game first to unlock this. Again, I must stress I’m only around two thirds of the way through Dead Space 2. Although so far, I’ve not found it to be as edgy or distressing (eh, in a good way) as its predecessor.

Anyhoo, I realise a couple of the above arguments aren’t particularly rational. That’s the whole point. Even though I’ve moaned about them, none of these fairly insignifcant factors should be detracting from my experience with the game in any significant way. There’s just something which has left me cold in the seven or so hours I’ve spent with Visceral’s title. Perhaps it's because the sense of having a new, amazingly atmospheric, unsettling world to explore has been dulled due to Dead Space 2 sticking so closely to the formula of the original. Or maybe, it's just because I'm a moaning prick.

That’s why I want to hear from you. Help make me feel partially less of a contrary, picky bastard by telling me about any irrational ill-feeling you might have towards a game you recognise is great. 

Feb 10, 2011


  • Tomsta666 - February 10, 2011 3:07 p.m.

    Bioshock. The setting and foreboding atmosphere was top notch. And most definately set it apart from any other shooter. But that was the thing, for a shooter, the shooting mechanic was whack. I really didn't care much for the RPG elements either, wasn't bothered about updating my plasmids, or playing fucking pipedream whenever I needed to reload.
  • Vaon007 - February 10, 2011 3:12 p.m.

    Felt the same about both Deadspace 1 and Both Bioshocks. I understand they are great games, but the few times i tried to dive into their worlds I couldn't and gave up.
  • myguyfromthe80s - February 10, 2011 3:13 p.m.

    I apologise in advance to the whole of GR Dead Rising 2 on PS3 - I bought it on release day saying how can you go wrong killing zombies? It just.... Well... ... sorry.
  • WillisTron - February 10, 2011 3:13 p.m.

    Funny, I thought the first Dead Space to be the perfect example of this. Everyone loved it, the gameplay was solid, visuals were great, everything was top notch, but for SOME reason, I just didn't get into it. Played maybe an hour, and had NO want to come back to it. Examples of game I simply COULDN'T put down are: Megaman Legends (PS1) GTA IV (Xbox 360) FFVII (PS1) Super Mario RPG (SNES) And of course so much more
  • tomthespesh - February 10, 2011 3:15 p.m.

    This may earn me some hate around here, but I feel similar with Red Dead Redemption. I can see it's a brilliant game with a great story, characters and what have you and I've tried to love it and keep trying it but I just don't.
  • Crypto140 - February 10, 2011 3:15 p.m.

    I can't answer that, im not hardcore enough to dive into the game and be "in" the game. I loved Bioshock 2. Thats it. I am now gettting my spam sheild.
  • KidKatana - February 10, 2011 3:16 p.m.

    It's weird, I know what you mean, but even if I'm not initially enjoying a game I usually complete it (possibly after playing something else first) as I feel I'm making an uninformed judgement otherwise, and a good ending can really tie together a disparate game. I had love/hate relationships with both Bayonetta and Killzone 2 due to aspects of their design being - in my opinion - unforgivably obtuse/arbitrary, but in the end came away from both of them with fond memories. Admittedly, Bayonetta helped itself a lot by having a final act that let me kick god into the sun. Even Red Dead, which is possibly my favourite game this generation, didn't have me at hello - the first couple of hours didn't half plod along. Just stick with it! Or, failing that, go and complete another game then come back to it - it might just be that you're not in the mood for that style of game.
  • JasonStatham - February 10, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    Bioshock 2. Really enjoyed the first one but the second was the definition of meh for me.
  • bitcrusherrrr - February 10, 2011 3:20 p.m.

    Im having the same problem with mass effect 2, Im not enjoying it as much the first game and i dont feel the need to progress is a great. I think the main problem there is as its much more of a shooter im judging it differently and things like getting into cover and leaping over objects etc just dont feel as smooth as they should, also I dont feel as attached to sheppard anymore if though i imported her from the first game.
  • ThatSkinnyGuy - February 10, 2011 3:21 p.m.

    This is blatantly going to turn into a 'Prove You Have No Taste' thread.
  • LittleSamson - February 10, 2011 3:22 p.m.

    Bioshock, on paper it looks amazing but when I play it I'm just utterly miserable.
  • PessimisticCunt - February 10, 2011 3:22 p.m.

    Far Cry 2?i thought it was like,COOL...but incredibly kinda...yaknow...shitty,and i dont know why :/
  • CancerMan - February 10, 2011 3:23 p.m.

    Little Big Planet. It never felt like I was playing a level but rather I was being shown the level. Like any proper gamer, I love platformers but LBP doesn't float my boat.
  • coleswanson - February 10, 2011 3:24 p.m.

    I have not enjoyed a single Mario game after Super Mario 64.
  • babyhenchy1 - February 10, 2011 3:25 p.m.

    No More Heroes and Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. It's even stranger because I love Fallout 3.
  • xenon - February 10, 2011 3:26 p.m.

    Bioshock, like Tomsta666. Mostly because of the RPG elements, then the plasmids thing and the shooting.
  • db1331 - February 10, 2011 3:26 p.m.

    Zack & Wiki on the Wii. I heard about how great it was for years, and I love point and click adventure games, and all things piratical. I finally found someone I could borrow it from. I got to about the third or fourth stage and just got tired of playing it. Also, Spirit Tracks. As a lifelong Zelda fan I had no choice but to buy it, even with my initial WTF reaction to the news that there would be trains. About 3/4's of the way through the game I realized I wasn't even having fun playing it, and I was playing it just to finish it. I sat there in shock for a few minutes after I beat it, struggling to come to terms with the fact that I hated a Zelda game.
  • huntreilly25 - February 10, 2011 3:27 p.m.

    I'm having a hard time getting into Bioshock(like others). Not quite sure what it is but I just can't get into it. I can recognize that it's a great game but for some reason it's not getting to me. I feel i'd be the same with Deadspace1 & 2 as well, great games...just not my cup of tea, I guess.
  • n00b - February 10, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    the same thing happened to me with just cause 2 and resident evil 5 i was actually very excited to play just cause 2. grappling hook and parachute, eat that gta4 (at that time i just completed gta4 and hated it) i played it for like an 2 hours and haven't played it again since. resident evil 5 well, it just did some things that got on my nerves. like zombies with guns
  • Myrmida - February 10, 2011 3:33 p.m.

    Mass Effect 2, Bioshock, Dragon Age: Origins, Batman Arkham Asylum, Little Big Planet... All these games have gameplay issues imho; Not a single one of them feels as smooth as their "proper counterparts", e.g. ME2 3rd person shooter gameplay isn't nearly as good as it could (or should) be, LBP jump and run gameplay simply pales in comparison with Super Mario World (a game thats 20 years old!), and if I don't like the core gameplay, nothing in the game can convince me to like the whole package. In contrast, I really liked Darksiders; it's more or less shamelessly stolen from other games, but the gameplay is flawless (the new Castlevania, too).

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