After playing the cartoony bag of sugar that is Altitude, I jumped right into Dead Space. For those of you who haven't heard of Dead Space, it's a third person shooter/over the shoulder, survival/action/horror game featuring a mute engineer named Issac, who crash lands on a space station to repair it and find his yapping wife. So, think of it as a mix of System Shock 2/Event Horizon/Doom 3/Clunky Resident Evil 4 controls and you've got yourself Dead Space. The game received critical acclaim, and its much anticipated sequel is coming out.
Dead Space is set in a claustrophobic space setting (Event Horizon/Doom 3/System Shock 2). Some corporation picks up an artifact and unlocks something evil (the above three), and your job is to navigate and repair the space station Ishimura while avoiding/killing the freaks of nature residents (Doom 3/SS2).
This game will remind you of Event Horizon
Gameplay in Dead Space, as mentioned earlier, is an over-the-shoulder third person shooter like in Resident Evil 4. The problem with this is that aiming like this is clunky. Issac's head blocks the view sometimes, and turning for whatever reason in aim mode is incredibly slow, leaving you open for attacks from your flank. Turning also tends to throw the camera view into space. All this means that Issac, when being attacked from multiple directions, makes him vulnerable. The use of the third person is useful, especially for platforming, but flat-footed Issac doesn't really jump much. Also, the over the shoulder view really hinders his ability to see around him. In all honesty, Dead Space would have simply worked better as a first person shooter. Enemies in the game also have an unusual weakness, in that they're weakness are their limbs, which is fairly easy to get used to as enemies tend to show them off like a peacock shows off its feathers. Game pacing is generally excellent though, and enemies are far and in between, keeping you in a good balance of suspense and anticipation.
Weapons in Dead Space, unlike in other futuristic FPS games, are original and practical. Dead Space ditches the standard shotgun/assault rifle/smg/pistol drudgery like in Doom 3. Instead, most weapons in dead space are of an original design, and have practical implications. The pistol fires in rounds of three, creating a sort of energy disc just right for severing enemy limbs. The shotgun has been replaced with a sort of larger pistol version that fires a line of energy up to a meter wide. Even the game's assault rifle fires 6 bullets at once, sort of like an automatic shotgun. Other game developers, especially those making futuristic based games, should take a note on Dead Space.
Someone must have been high to come up with this
The horror elements are done well, but they're not anything particularly original. The horror element is composed in three ways: startling events, fighting ugly monster things, atmosphere, and survival. The game basically relies on the same horror elements mentioned in the above 3 games. Atmospherically, the game is claustrophobic and creepy. There's graffiti on the walls, blood everywhere, lights are dim, and you'll hear the occasional whisper now and then. If you've played Doom 3, you'll find the horror elements surprisingly similar, right from the organic growth all over the ships to the piles of dead bodies always lying around. The monsters are designed better than the ones in Doom 3, and they're appropriately ugly and original looking. The game relies on Doom 3/Resident Evil's enemies pop out of nowhere method of scaring players, which does do a good job of startling the players, but as Yathzee said in his review, this isn't scary as it is startling. If the monsters were replaced with rabbits, it'd have the same startling effect, and it gets kind of tired and played out after a while. The survival element of the game went pretty well in the beginning, when you had to run from a bunch of monsters in the beginning, but right after you pick up your first gun, you realize there's not much 'survival' element to the game. I played on easy, and most enemies curled over with two shots, and then dropped an ammo pack worth up to 8, so my inventory was constantly crowded with ammo. Keep in mind that I killed everything and didn't really make an effort to preserve ammo. In the game's defense, I actually hate running from battles and preserving ammo, so I actually don't mind at all. Overall, the horror elements in the game are done well, and are at least better than the ones done in Doom 3. At the very least, they're more polished and have no respawning enemies, and all weapons have a flashlight included.
I don't know, it's some sort of corpse humper or something.
The old we-didn't-pay-the-electric-bill horror element
Dead Space also has a store/upgrade system similar to Bioshock's. Scattered across the space station are upgrade stations and stores, the former allowing you to upgrade your armor and guns, and the latter allowing you to purchase/sell items and purchase new armor. This comes in handy as the game hails ammo and healthpacks on you, and the game allows you to store items. The unusual thing about this system is that the game doesn't pause when you're shopping, and I've almost gotten hit when a monster was rushing towards me when I was purchasing shoes.
The game also incorporates a few minigames into the mix. There's a small turret minigame, and there's a practice range minigame. Occassionally, the game will let you fool around in zero gravity, letting you run to ceilings and jump large bounds. The game also places you in a zero oxygen/space environment, which forces you to rush or die from no oxygen.
Pew pew pew!
One gameplay element worthy of criticism is the game's objectives system, which takes a page out of Doom 3's. The game is divided into 13 chapters, and in each chapter you have to go from here to there, do this, open that, yadda yadda, and then move on and do the same thing in the next chapter. Everything's either broken or inaccessible, and you have to go back and forth to get around. Basically, it's like Doom 3, to pointlessly go from point A to point B doing something you can vaguely care about. Like in Doom 3, this unfortunately seems like busy work, and unnecessarily pads extra length to the game. I racked in 13 hours into the game, but really, the game should be cut in half, and would have kept the game fresh. The map system is also terrible because of the holographic image display mode, but this is offset by the game's breadcrumbs feature, which will show you a direct line to your objective, so screw the map.
I know a few games that could really have used this feature
Another gameplay element that I will criticize is the game's forcing the use of special powers to accomplish objectives. The game grants you two special powers, telekinesis and freeze. The former works the exact same way as the gravity gun in Half Life 2. You use it to move things around. The game whores this element out by forcing you to use TK for everything. Need to put a battery into a slot? Don't pick it up, use TK to put it in. Need to move a giant package? Don't just push a button, use TK for it. Need to pull a handsized lever down? Don't use your hands to move it down, use TK. There's a freeze ability that you need to use to stop fans and doors from crushing you, but like TK, it's pretty unnecessary also. However, both of these can be used against enemies, the former by throwing objectives like explosives to enemies, and the latter for freezing enemies. Their use against enemies should be kept, their use for puzzles should be minimized.
Apparently in the future, buttons are considered obsolete.
The game's system requirements are:
Supported OS: Microsoft Windows® XP SP2 or Vista
Processor: 2.8 GHz or faster
Memory: 1 GB RAM or more for Windows XP (2 GB for Vista)
Graphics: DirectX® 9.0c compatible video card, Shader Model 3.0 required, 256 MB or better, NVIDIA GeForce 6800 or better (7300, 7600 GS, and 8500 are below minimum system requirements), ATI X1600 Pro or better (X1300, X1300 Pro and HD2400 are below minimum system requirements)
Hard Drive: 7.5 GB free space
Sound: DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card
When playing with my ATI 5650, the game racked up 50 to 110 fps on highest settings. Yeah, that high. The game apparently is bugged so that adding vsync will cause the game targeting to lag. In either case, the game runs great, and it looks good.
There's no demo out for the game unfortunately.
The only bug I know of is the vsync bug. The game only has one patch, so I'm guessing they stopped caring regardless. There aren't any mods available, though playing a second time unlocks a few items.
The game's on sale on Amazon for $15, but I purchased the game for about $9, which seems about fair.
Dead Space goes an overall good job as an action horror, but the game is unnecessarily long and the controls are still pretty clunky. And, despite the many original elements inputted into the game (breadcrumbs, new weapons), it still feels like a blender of various games and movies, and feels like something I've already done before. Those looking for a Event Horizon themed game, or Doom 3 done right, you'll be happy to know that this game applies to you.
- Make the game a FPS. This will improve the controls of the game.
- Don't force the player to use TK/Statis powers to complete objectives. This just feels gimmicky.
- Compress the game to make it shorter.
There are no comments on this entry