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Dead Space 2 by Jason Graves (Review)

posted Feb 16, 2011, 12:24 AM by Kaya Savas   [ updated Feb 16, 2011, 10:04 AM ]

The survival horror genre in video games has taken a huge suffering as of recent. Franchises like Resident Evil have turned into action games and Silent Hill is unfortunately running on fumes. Dead Space is a fresh and innovative approach to the genre that incorporates classic elements of horror. The same goes with Jason Graves' score. His score for the first game was fantastic and the same follows here.

Atmosphere. That's the key to a great horror score. Listen to any of Akira Yamaoka's scores to the Silent Hill games. Graves' approach is more traditional here in that he uses an orchestral sound with a lot of little plucks and tings for acoustic ambience. He also has melodies which Yamaoka strays away from to create his horror. I love these scores because they remind me so much of Jerry Goldsmith's Alien except obviously they're much more aggressive to match the story. Some elements remind of Ennio Morricone's The Thing as well. Getting the feel of isolation across is key and that's why this score is so successful. The music constantly makes you feel uneasy without giving you a headache. Graves never resorts to headache inducing dissonance.

The score has two sides. Tension mode and panic mode. The tension parts of the score are eerie and chilling. The instrumentation is brilliant in creating that haunting and terrifying uneasiness. Then the score can switch on a dime into panic mode. The orchestra goes full force as your heart pounds. This is one of the best horror scores I've heard in a very long time. I'm very critical of the genre because I think horror films suck immensely these days, which is why I'm glad to see video games doing things filmmakers somehow can't. Games like BioShock and Dead Space are bringing back the classic elements of horror and actually scare the shit out of us. In the end it all comes down to one thing and that's atmosphere. The way the score concludes has moments of horror but then ends on a beautiful if not haunting note.

Graves has a lot of talent and he is really showing us a side of horror we haven't seen in nearly two decades. Bravo.