Dead Space..better late than never.

I have a hard time finishing games I start.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy them or I don’t wish to finish them, it’s that there have been so many this last year that have gotten my attention I just can’t seem to find enough time to play them all.

As it stands right now I am currently playing the following on my Xbox, but haven’t finsihed any of them: Grand Theft Auto IV, Assasins Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, CoD Modern Warfare 2, Tiger Woods 2010, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2 (still in the cellophane), Saints Row 2, and Crackdown (yes, i still play the original Crackdeon).  Most of these I am anywhere from 50-75% done, although I think Grand Theft Auto IV and Saint Rows 2 is way down, but they have such an unforgiving failure structure in missions, I get frustrated if I have to start over so far back because there aren’t any real save points.

It doesn’t help there are also a bevy of games that all have high ratings that all came out or are about to come out as well, that I really want to play, but these $60 price points are just killing me these days.  There’s Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Limbo, Gears of War 2, just to name a few. Oh, and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to two Wii games as well: Epic Mickey, and Kirby: An epic yarn.

All this being said, and realizing I need to get the most bang for my buck these days, I recently saw a preview for Dead Space 2. It looked pretty cool and then that seemed to trigger a lot of memories of all the positive buzz the original Dead Space got back in 2008. The whole action packed, horror/survival genre intrigued me and since I tend to get pwnd by players half my age anymore, the thought of me picking up the original Left 4 Dead and getting lambasted over the headset didn’t sound all that appealing to my ego.

I went to check out Dead Space and learned it is now part of the Xbox line of Platinum Hits, meaning it has a price point of $19.99, or a fraction (34%) of the original price. I went to Game Rankings and Wikipedia (89% favorable rate on average) to get their impressions and I was really surprised to learn that there is such a backstory and supplementary products and lore to support this franchise.

There are prequel comic books, an actual prequel novel “Dead Space: Martyr” (dated even earlier in the timeline of the comics), an anime movie, a Wii rail shooter (Dead Space: Extraction) that takes place days before the events of the original Dead Space game. In short, I love games or franchises that take on a life of their own and a new universe is created around them with so much deep and original content. I now have Dead Space fever and went out to buy both the Platinum Hits version of the game and also the novel, Martyr.

The book, Dead Space Martyr by B.K. Evenson clocks in at 414 pages and is a slightly oversized paperback. I started reading it today and am already enjoying the slow build of events that are taking shape all the way to my current page of 57. I will most likely read a good portion of this book by this week and it reall sits the tone and mood for events that I can only guess so far already took place just prior to the start of the game. So far it appears to me a very smart novel and not hokey schtick, minutae, or shovelware to get a few extra coins and milk this franchise. Already it makes me think of Indiana Jones meets “Abyss” meets the X-Files. Something spooky, mysterious, scientific, paranormal, alien, archeleogical, and conspiritorial all wrapped into one. If I enjoy this novel as well as I think I will, I just may have to buy the 6-issue comic collection and get the anime movie from Netflix to satiate my appetite and round my experience out.

Now about the game itself:  My initial impressions is that it is indeed very fun and a visual treat.  Right from the get go, there is a beautiful cinematic that sets up the initial quandry and within minutes I’m already tense.  This derelict planet cracking ship is quiet….too quiet.  With only the strained voices of my A.I. controlled, yet seperated from me crew members, its clear from teh get go I’m on my own and I need to survive.  From both lighting direction and sound design, my personal mental state is elvated on trying to be alert.  Not only am I being very cautious in my movements as I push the left analog stick forward, while looking all around with my right stick, I’m really trying to use my ears.  Everything makes an isolated sound, and the majority of the sounds are not that of a joyous ice cream truck looking to off load some delicious treats.  Nope, there are thuds, and scampering, and moan, and howls, and shallow breathing, and then nothing.  The silence is deafing, and even though I am on high alert, I am still scarred shitless at times.

The game is broken up into 12 chapters, and although I’ve taking my time (4 hours to complete the first 2 chapters), I have plenty aways to go.

The ship I am on, the USG Ishimura feels gigantic and vast.  I’ve only explored a few sections so far, but I am intrigued and in awe of some of the design and magnitude of the environments.  One minute I feel clausterphobic, pulse welder ready and aimed for discharge, the next I’m in a large mechanical ship bay, or medical lab that also feels too big, as if my sixth sense is telling me I’m not alone in here.

The environs are pretty diverse as well.  I’ve already experience both zero-gravity, and the dead silence of the vacuum of space.  I’ve run down blood stained cooridors, jumped when the lights flickered, and cringed at the sight of medically tampered fetuses in statis tanks.  There’s the sound of flies buzzing near body bags, cryptic blood drawn symbols on the walls, and then there is the occasional audio or video log tape that I find that fills in some blanks or drops a clue on what happened to the crew.  None of it is good.

The voice acting in above average, and the story is rich and tense.  No doubt the novel and anime will even do more to flesh everything out.  There are some criticsims that our protaginist Isaac clarke (an amalgam of Isaac Asimoc and Arthur C, Clarke me thinks) is a bit silent and uninteresting as we really never see his face or hear his thoughts, but in this case, I’m okay with it.  I hadn’t really noticed myself until I read that from other sites, and in no way do I think it affects my game.

Games controls are slightly different from other first person shooters I’ve played up to now, but the online ingame tutorial is both very unique and refreshing.  Once you get the hang of things, the U.I. actually seems very clever and intuitive and now I wonder why more games haven’t taken this approach before.  Here’s to hoping that EA keeps this formula in the sequel with only a few minor tweaks.

Weapons are unique to an extent and I like how they handle upgrade options in the game, either via used power nodes or found schematics.  Isaac’s HUD is really original as well, and really does have a futuristic feeling to it.  My only beef is with the amount of inventory he can carry on early in the game.  He’s very dependant on his plasma welder and thus needs to pick up ammo early on, but the ammo tends to take away from his ‘backpack’ space whcih can be frustrating early on until you get the hang of the game and work on your own personal strategy.  Now that I am starting chapter 3, I think I kinda understand the mechanics a bit better and I can do without as many plamsa clips.  The other weapons are pretty brutal as well, especially the line gun, alhough I’ve yet to buy/try the flamethrower.  You don’t need all these weapons thouugh…there is an achievemnt for completing the game using only the plasma welder which makes me believe the other weapons are for pure mayhem and eye candy value only.  However, that being said, the line gun has saved my ass a few times and I think a much better addition than the pulse rifle.

I don’t want to spoil anymore for you, but the necromorphs (aka bad guys) are downright scary.  While they may seem a bit repetitive (there may be more variety later on), they still seem gruesome in their size, stature, and movement when you do encounter them.  The animations of dismemberment and blood squirts and sounds are visceral to boot.

All in all, a great game, albeit from 2008.  A highly recommended buy for $19.99, and now I’m not sure if I can wait for Dead Space 2 to hit Platinum status in a year from now.  As a budget minded gamer, I may have to splurge at $39 or $29 when it happens.

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2 Responses

  1. While my gaming has dropped off significantly in the last few years this was one game that I really enjoyed and one that gave me that tense and fearful vibe the entire time.

    This was a great review.

    • Posky, I just watched the anime movie last night once I got home. I streamed it via Netflix over my Xbox. Pretty darn good…not perfect, but good.

      I played Chapter 3 of the game last night, and it was neat to now identify with some places amonsgt the ship and some of the audio clips I picked up made more sense now.

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