Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dead Space (Final Thoughts)

Alright, I want to blow through this. I got videogames to play.

Here's ten thoughts on Dead Space:

1) Isaac Clarke? What, was Arthur Asimov too obvious?

2) I was wrong: the game does lose a lot of its creepy in the second half. Part of the problem is that the developers recycled the monsters for the second half of the game, making "burnt skin" versions of each baddie, which are tougher and harder to kill. I spent the last three or four chapters thinking, "Oh great, it's one of these assholes again," when I should have been thinking, "AAAHHHHHH!!!"

Also, I didn't care for a single character in this story. And all but one of the story's twists were telegraphed far too early. I do have to give EA credit, though - I knew exactly how the last cutscene would end, and it still made me jump.

3) For the last few years, every action game I've played from EA has featured upgradeable weapons, and Dead Space isn't any different. But this is the first time it actually made sense and was properly balanced. In their other games with this feature, you started the game with your weapons being ridiculously underpowered and ended the game with these same weapons being ridiculously overpowered.

The weapons felt just right throughout the game, and finding that next power node was one of the highlights of the game.

4) 200 Microsoft points for a special level 5 suit with enhanced armor? That's just damn greedy.

5) The little touches and nuances are by far the most enjoyable part of Dead Space. The lack of a HUD and the way all menus and video are displayed via a holographic projector from within the Isaac's suit really does immerse the player in the game.

6) Speaking of which, I like that there's no HUD...but isn't a bit silly to think that the manufacturers of these survival suits would put all the crucial monitors and gauges on the back of it? You know, right where the wearer couldn't see them without the aid of a trusted friend or several conveniently placed mirrors?

7) Where's the chainsaw? True, it's an oldie - but it's a goody, damn it.

8) I'll say it three times to make sure you remember it.

Conserve your ammo. Conserve your ammo. Conserve your ammo.

9) Boss fights are too easy. The final fight was especially disappointing, because the creature design is truly enormous and formidable, yet it went down like a chump. It's so easy that when I beat it on the second attempt (the only reason I didn't kill it the first time was because of an insufficiency of ammo), I thought it took a dive on purpose, like it was working for some kind of zombie Don King.

10) To my knowledge, this is the first truly great game that EA has made in-house in many, many years. It delivers the scares, the controls are solid, the production values are top-notch throughout, and the weapons kick a whole lotta ass.

You did a great job, EA. Keep it up.

But next time, come up with some of your own ideas. Combine equal parts Alien, The Thing, and Event Horizon with System Shock 2, Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and Resident Evil 4 - and you've pretty much got Dead Space.

True, there hasn't been a game exactly like Dead Space, but that's because it's a unique blending of obvious inspirations, instead of actually being original. The only exception is the weapons, which are truly unique.

* * * *

That's it, people. I recommend renting Dead Space over buying it, unless you're a real horror junkie. But you gotta play it. It's one of the best games of 2008.

And remember:

Conserve your ammo. Conserve your ammo. Conserve your ammo.

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