Dead Space 2 Proves That Linear Games Can Be Amazing

I need a mangle from open-world games. While I’ve had a blast with Breath of a Wild, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Ghost Recon: Wildlands, I’ve been longing something extremely some-more linear. In a happy coincidence, Electronic Arts’s Dead Space 2, one of my favorite games, recently showed adult on Xbox One around behind compatibility.

Not usually does this 2011 journey still reason adult today, it shows how particularly linear games can do things open worlds usually can’t.

After Grand Theft Auto III, it seemed like everybody wanted a square of a nonlinear diversion pattern pie. If a video diversion is a array of “meaningful choices,” as goes a (possibly apocryphal) observant of Civilization creator Sid Meier, positively open-world games have a many choices to offer. But how suggestive are they? Every time Fallout 4 tells we another settler needs help, or Breath of a Wild asks we for 30 bundles of wood, are we unequivocally improved off? Is open-world diversion pattern inherently improved than a linear approach?


You competence be informed with this image, that has been floating around a internet for utterly a prolonged time now:

The some-more tedious arrange of linear games—Resident Evil 6, for example—tend to follow this template exactly: travel brazen a few steps, watch a cutscene, travel a few some-more steps, watch another cutscene, and so on. But linear games can be many some-more enchanting than that.

Dead Space 2 starts with one of a best diversion openings of all time. You arise adult in a medical facility, trapped in a loyal jacket. Someone named Franco explains that you’re in “terrible, terrible dang—” though before he can finish, a beast kills him and transforms his physique into another monster. Franco grows new limbs out of his behind while his face many flays itself. You force him away, and a voice on a radio screams, “Isaac Clarke! If we can hear me, run!”

As we run, monsters called Necromorphs mangle by a walls. One takes a furious pitch during you. Another starts converting a remains into another Necromorph. All we can do is run, and we do, until we find relations reserve with a clearly unhinged male who says, “We’re all gonna bake for what we did to you,” and afterwards slits his possess throat.


The best video diversion introductions emanate momentum, giving we good reasons for holding action. Some games try this by revelation we your possess backstory in a hopes of creation we wish to get punish on someone who wronged you. Dead Space 2 achieves this by piquing your oddity and capitalizing on your clarity of helplessness. What did they do to you? How will we survive? Your health is low, so we need to find a recovering item, and if we wish to survive, you’ll need a weapon.

Open-world games can’t force this clarity of momentum. This year’s Breath of a Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn both trap players in a small, open training area during their onsets, though even within these spaces we can spend hours usually erratic if we wish to. Any incentive to swell is subverted by a game’s assault of distractions. Dead Space 2 empowers we to play along, spawning enemies in your path, pulling we to run.


Some open universe games, like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, underline linear sequences. But if a guarantee of open-world pattern is a ability to play how we want, afterwards a inclusion of these sequences constitutes a profanation of that promise: How bad could linearity be if even open-world games feel a need to yield linear gameplay?

In Breath of a Wild, whenever we felt outmatched, we could simply run in any instruction we chose, avoiding a problem entirely. By forcing we to confront situations with no means of shun other than success, Dead Space 2 creates a kind of tragedy you’re not expected to find in other games. When we overcome a clearly impossible, we feel a clarity of fulfilment that’s utterly opposite from what we feel when we rush and come behind when you’re some-more powerful.

Because many open-world games are calm to let we play during your possess pace, you’re acquire to stop doing whatever you’re doing to resupply or grub until you’re absolute adequate to take on your foe. Sure, a Big Bad competence be holding a gun to a conduct of a galaxy, though if we need to go batch adult on ammunition, he’ll be ideally calm to wait for we until you’re ready.


This empowerment comes during a cost. An open-world diversion will frequency give we a disturb of defeating an rivalry with a misfortune gun accessible during your ordering since it was a usually thing we had ammo for. Because open-world games are immensely forgiving, they can remove a absolute romantic procedure that fuels some-more linear games.

One of a arguments for open-world games over linear games is that a open-world diversion gives players a leisure to tackle encounters their possess way, coming objectives from any angle, regulating any object they find. At a best of times, this can emanate amazing, noted experiences. But some-more mostly than not, it doesn’t work out that way.

Open-world games are costly to make since developers have to emanate large, enchanting spaces that are stretchable adequate to concede players to play a approach they want. As a result, many open-world games tend to repeat activities all around their maps. Create a dozen opposite “test of strength” dungeons for Zelda, noise them around a map, and blam, you’ve usually combined a few hours of gameplay to your game. How many times have we finished a “move a cube” Korok nonplus now? How many settlements indispensable my assistance in Fallout 4? How many telekinesis minigames did we play in Saints Row IV?



Dead Space 2 is shining since it avoids repeated play. I’m personification on a top problem right now, and during one point, we had usually 7 rounds left. My favorite weapons were out of ammo entirely, so we had to use some guns we wasn’t gentle with. With a randomized object parent system, Dead Space 2 can give we equipment we didn’t know we indispensable and maybe we didn’t even want. It’s not always a optimal approach to play, though it guarantees variation.

Another large problem that open-world games humour from is “Rule of Three,” a over-abundance of missions that need we to do something 3 times. Go here, press a button; go there, press a button; go somewhere else, press a button. It’s not startling or interesting. If The Empire Strikes Back was an open-world game, Luke would have had to take down 3 AT-ATs before he got to a subsequent scene, murdering a story’s momentum.

In Dead Space 2 we have never once had to repeat an movement 3 times in a row. Every pattern is opposite from a last. we began Chapter 7 by prepping an conveyor for launch. After that, we rode a conveyor adult to a energy plant high above Titan Station, fighting off monsters that clawed during me by a walls. In a energy plant, we had to figure out how to get by a wily set of doors, and after that, we found myself trapped between dual tripmines that, when detonated by an artless Necromorph, threatened to blast me out into space.


It competence be a linear game, though it can feel a lot reduction repeated than an open-world diversion because, over a march of a game’s 12 hours, you’re never compulsory to perform a same charge twice. Every singular confront in Dead Space 2 is opposite than a one that came before.

Linear games also concede designers to emanate many some-more focused encounters with enemies. One confront in Dead Space 2 funnels we towards a sealed door. While we wait for a crony to clear it, enemies parent behind you, prepared to attack. These enemies, called stalkers, hide around cover, afterwards rush you. That sold locus is built to element their design. Not usually that, though a ammo a designers placed in that locus is for a detonator mine, a ideal foil to stalkers. You can use any of a guns we have to face them, though a locus allows we to take advantage of a detonator cave in a approach that other arenas don’t.

One confront in Dead Space 2 sees a actor swinging upside down from a wrecked sight car. The enemies that parent there are enemies that make that confront fun; fighting stalkers while swinging upside down would not be scarcely as enjoyable. By formulating specific encounters, a Dead Space 2 designers can emanate fights that are approach some-more enchanting than a uncomplicated encounters you’ll find in games like Grand Theft Auto V.

Despite my critique of them here, we still find open-world games to be fascinating experiences. Open universe games offer extraordinary opportunities to explore. They’re shining in a ways they bother curiosity, and we adore a approach they concede random interactions to emanate overwhelming stories. But with a new bolt of open-world releases, I’ve craved something different.



Sure, once you’ve played a linear diversion you’ve played all a encounters, and it competence seem like there’s no reason to go back. But by enforcing something different with each objective, a good linear diversion like Dead Space 2 can feel a lot some-more sparkling than elucidate a steel brick nonplus for a 85th time. I’m rewatching Lost right now, a square of party even some-more linear than Dead Space 2. The array hasn’t altered from when we watched it a initial time, though there’s a lot I’ve forgotten. The same binds loyal for a best linear games—playing them once doesn’t empty a party value.

Dead Space 2 is a diversion for me right now. It’s tight, it’s focused, and it’s smashing during generating overwhelming emotions. A month from now, we competence find myself longing an open-world diversion and finally burst behind into Mafia III. Who knows? Picking between games is a lot like anticipating a right car. When we wish to assistance a crony move, we wish a truck. When we wish to expostulate for a perfect fun of it, a sports automobile is a improved choice. No one diversion can surpass during everything, and that’s okay. There’s no right approach to make a game, usually a right diversion for a knowledge we wish to have.

GB Burford is a freelance publisher and indie diversion developer who usually can’t get adequate of exploring because games work. You can strech him on Twitter during @ForgetAmnesia or on his blog. You can support him and even advise games to write about over during his Patreon.

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