Emasculation of an Action Star


During the course of the first “Dead Space,” you”d be forgiven for thinking Isaac Clarke was a complete bad ass underneath the suit. I always pictured him as a whimpering little bitch, but mainly because he screams at nearly everything that jumps towards him.

Visceral Games did the great luxury of fleshing out Isaac for 2 and the game feels a lot more human for it. Not only is Isaac really not a super-macho badass (the man’s in his mid 40’s, which is uncharacteristic of every muscle bound idiot), but he emotes about lost love.

SPOILER WARNING FROM HERE ON OUT. DON’T COMPLAIN!

The very first chapter of “Dead Space 2” has Isaac running through an insane asylum while strapped into a straight-jacket. This leaves Isaac with literally nothing to defend himself, stripping him of any kind of power that a gun or fists would give him. It’s incredibly tense and it helps build the fact that Isaac is far more powerful on the inside than most of his contemporaries.

Eventually the game gets into Isaac’s psychosis and reveals that he is feeling extremely guilty over the death of his girlfriend. In “Dead Space: Extraction,” players are shown Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole, killing herself over the outbreak of the necromorph.

The entire first “Dead Space” game has Isaac trying to look for her (though getting sidetracked by some bitch’s personal agenda). At the end of that, Isaac sits at the cockpit of an escape pod and watches the last few moments of Nicole’s life on repeat. His facial expression clearly shows the man is in pain.

While 2 doesn’t delve enough into Isaac’s mind as I’d like, there are a few key points worth mentioning. One comes fairly early in the game (around Chapter 4) and showcases the dementia Isaac has. Right after crawling through a shaft, Isaac is confronted by an apparition of Nicole with a needle in her hand, attempting to stab him in the eye. Once you successfully pass the QTE, Nicole disappears and you see Isaac holding the needle up to his face.

It’s very shocking and makes you wonder exactly how deep this man’s heartache goes. His look of fear is also something you wouldn’t expect of a man who has dealt with some of the worst monsters in the known universe.

Later on in the story, Isaac meets up with another woman. Her name is Ellie and she’s trying to get off the Sprawl as much as Isaac. While Isaac simply wants to help her, she wants nothing to do with him and nearly shoots him dead. When she is seen leaving through an elevator, Isaac’s expression is something of worry.

Isaac begins to have transference with Ellie. She is envisioned to be a Nicole that Isaac can save. Towards the end of her role in the game, Isaac even says that to her. He potentially sacrifices his life so that Ellie can live; something he wishes was possible to do for Nicole.

After giving Ellie this speech, Isaac falls to the ground and looks down in a blind gaze. Lost in thought, Isaac isn’t sure of his actions anymore. He looks over to another apparition of Nicole and they share a conversation about why Isaac cannot let go.

This overwhelming sense of guilt is something not normally seen of male characters in video games, especially not ones in action games. It also one-ups “Lords of Shadow” by simply showing the angst in Isaac’s eyes instead of describing it to us.

The final scene that really nailed this out of the park for me happens around the middle of chapter 14. Isaac opens a door and the apparition of Nicole grabs him by the neck and thrusts him into the air. After yelling at him and asking him questions, Isaac utters an extremely heartfelt line.
“If I let you go, I’ve got nothing left.”

As the game closes, Isaac feels betrayed by the visions of Nicole and eventually has to face them in a thrilling climax. Nicole leads Isaac to the marker (the source of all power in the Dead Space universe) and Isaac doesn’t understand. He curses her and then destroys his visions of her.

After that, Isaac is finished. He’s ready to wait for death as nothing is left for him. Even though Ellie comes back and rescues him, the player is left unsure of whether Isaac will truly be able to let go of his guilt.

I know I’ve had similar feelings, though I’ve never actually witnessed the death of a past love interest. The first girl I really fell for in high school I wanted more than you could imagine. She was very friendly to me, we had lots of common interests in music and our attitudes about school were pretty much mirror matches of each other.

The only problem was that she was fairly promiscuous and she had some kind of guilt about it when it came to me. She never dared touch me and wouldn’t give me the luxury of seeing her outside of school. I tried my best to change that and I went overboard and practically began to stalk her.

When she finally ceased contact with me, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I began to feel extreme guilt over the things I had said to her and how I pushed her away. I lamented how I was borderline psychotic in my approach to finding her.

When I finally did let go of the idea of ever seeing her again, I realized that life isn’t so miserable. While losing someone is never easy, letting go of a person you love isn’t saying you’re no good. I definitely made mistakes (and I got my chance to apologize to her a few weeks ago), but I can’t keep thinking about them as current events. I’m no longer that man.

I’m happy that Visceral didn’t gimp out on the narrative for “Dead Space 2.” It could have been exceptionally easy to never give Isaac a voice and portray him as a rock hard man with no emotion whatsoever. I’m pleased they didn’t go that route.

Whatever happens with 3 and Isaac’s further emotional health, we’ll always have the dementia and pain from 2 to teach us to better ourselves. As long as we can wear our feelings on our sleeves and talk to each other, no pain to too great to conquer.

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Thoughts of Death

When it comes to media, I try to be as objective as possible. Obviously I’ll berate something if I dislike it or cheer when I’m captivated by something, but I usually go into things with an open mind. It pains me when television shows lack quality, but then hit so close to home that I can’t openly talk about them.

Still, last night’s episode of “Glee” really did a number on me. The plot of the episode had the show’s main antagonist, Sue Sylvester (played by Jane Lynch), dealing with the loss of her sister. Her sister had been afflicted with Down syndrome, but managed to make it past 40 years of life.

Sue explains to her rival teacher, Mr. Shue, that she was hopeful. Her sister, Jean, lived past 35; a year her doctors claimed would be her last. Then she got up to 40 and 45 and everything seemed great when she turned 50. Sue was shocked that everything was perfect the night before. Then she got a call in the morning and she heard the horrible news.

Why this hits so close to home for me is that I experienced a similar loss in my own life with my aunt. While my aunt didn’t suffer from a lifetime illness, when doctors diagnosed her with ALS, my family really didn’t know what to say. She was given 2 years to live and we all felt terrible.

Those 2 years weren’t easy, either. My aunt was a small ball of energy. We used to laugh about her height (a meager 4′ 10″), but she definitely could knock you out if you pushed her. She was a very lovable and quaint person, though she had a wild side when she felt it. Seeing her deteriorate was like watching any natural disaster and feeling helpless.

She first began to lose feeling in her legs, eventually losing the ability to walk. Next came her arms and those, too, lost function. Her voice began to go and along with that, her ability to hold up her head. It was essentially like having “locked-in” syndrome and she cried at nearly everything.

When she wanted to say something but couldn’t, she cried. When my uncle tried his best to speak to her and help her communicate, she got frustrated and cried. He learned how to use a very interesting vision based keyboard, but she never fully grasped the idea and would give up, much to my uncle’s dismay.

The saddest part, for me at least, is how her memory never faded. My uncle obviously had a lot on his mind, but my aunt didn’t forget my birthday. Of all the hardships she was facing, she still had that love in her heart and the retention of an elephant.

On “Glee”, Sue says to the Glee club something that I often say to myself.

“Jean was the nicest person I have ever known. As you can all tell, I’m probably the meanest person you’ll ever meet. Why wasn’t it my time?”

I may not have fully known my aunt, but she was easily one of the warmest and loving people in my life. Losing her was awful to me and all I can think about is how selfish I am. I remember the times in my school life where I was mean to my fellow classmates. I remember how awful I’ve treated some women in my life.

I think of how ungrateful I was for my mother’s love during my youth. I can’t escape how terrible I’ve treated some of my friends with my own headstrong attitude. What I really don’t understand, though, is why my aunt had to die.

I’m not going to spin this religiously, either. I am not a religious man, though that is mostly due to my aunt’s passing. Still, when evil persists in the world and good is taken out, what is the greater purpose?
So while last night’s Glee may not have been a good episode, it definitely is one that got me thinking.

Life is indeed awful, but I hope that by opening up a small bit to the community, that I can learn to grow and move past my inner doubts.

If nothing else, know that I never intend to harm anyone with my comments.

Split Screen Woes

Multiplayer is definitely not the newest idea in the gaming world and it’s online application isn’t even in its infancy, but I’m really starting to feel angry over the lack of proper split-screen or developers bright ideas to tack them on to single-player games.

Last night, my friend/brother Jim and I sat down with Killzone 3 to try out the Move support. We were skeptical that it would work well, but we figured that, since GameStop has a fairly lenient policy on used games, what the hell? We synced our two wands, booted up the game and were greeted with a lovely message.

“Move is not support in split-screen multi-player. Please connect a dual shock 3.”

Alright, so Guerilla Games lied about that; whatever, no big deal. Move isn’t the end all, be all of first person gaming (and believe me, Killzone 3 bot matches with Move are stupid), so Jim and I just decided to say the hell with it and continue on into the campaign.

Now, I know I complained a tiny bit about Resident Evil 5’s split-screen application, but at least that game kept an aspect ratio of 16:9. Killzone does one better and formats the game to 4:5 or some kind of stupid mash-up of full screen with black bars. It’s one of the ugliest uses of split-screen I’ve ever seen in my gaming career and that covers nearly 20 years!


Best picture I could find. Definitely really awful, though.

It turns out, co-op was a completely tacked on idea at the last second. Sony needed another bullet point to sell their latest shooter and they figured co-op was it. Why there’s no online use or customization of the screen is beyond my feeble brain, but it definitely brought my piss to a boil. Jim was so frustrated at his inability to see anything that he gave up after 3 levels.

While we were lamenting our lack of any kind of current co-op game to play (we can’t keep going back to Borderlands for the umpteenth time), I kept making the joke of, “Well, we can play Dead Space 2 online!” That brings me to a totally separate discussion.

We all know Call of Duty rules the online, first-person gaming scene along with Halo and Battlefield. So why do developers feel the need to tack on a multi-player mode into their single-player game? Granted Dead Space 2 is still a wholly awesome game and worth the price of admission, but think of how much more polished the mid-section could have been if half of Visceral wasn’t being wasted on trying to copy Left 4 Dead.


Who needs skill when I can just statis away?

Bioshock 2 made this same kind of offense. Not only was the single-player game lacking in almost all of the charm and mystery of the first, but its competitive multi-player component was utterly worthless. Laggy battles, poor collision detection, insanely worthless perks and game ending crashes (at least in my experience with the PC version).

On the flip side, we have Bulletstorm. It features a fairly neat co-op mode where you can team up with 3 friends and fend off against waves of enemies. Oh wait; you can’t do that split-screen! This is truly baffling as Epic provides a fairly well done split-screen mode in Gears of War, offering both Horde and Campaign without any sacrifices.

Taking a look at an open world game, why does Saints Row 2 not feature any kind of split-screen support? Maybe it’s due to the underwhelming amount of RAM in current generation consoles, but it’s completely stupid that open world games with co-op modes cannot be experienced on the same console.

Why can’t more developers do something like what Gearbox did with Borderlands; provide the entire game in split-screen and actually make it function? While Borderlands has a vertical split, at least it fills your screen.


Everything is in plain view.

How about Infinity Ward and their co-op mode in Modern Warfare 2? Every mission is playable and fully functional and the screen is perfect. It doesn’t feel like a tacked on idea to sell more copies and, even if it were, it at least doesn’t hinder your ability to see anyone.

While Scott Pilgrim lacked an online feature, at least it’s same couch experience was well made. All characters worked well together and even had some extra functions over their single-player prototypes. Hell, lacking online probably made the offline mode that much better.

As for single-player experiences, what is the need of including a multi-player component? Did we really need to have multiple Isaac’s running around? Was there any want for Bioshock’s powers to be explored with other players? Why not take all those creative ideas and apply those to even better scripted events?


Makes me wonder how well the split-screen will fare in Uncharted 3.

I know this isn’t a call to arms or a very insightful blog, but I’m just sick of seeing multi-player being offered in games and then developer’s half-assing their way through it. Yeah, obviously not every game has awful split-screen or lacks it, but I just want to see a revision like the old days. Give me more Perfect Darks and less Killzones.