I finished this game recently and thought I might say a few words about it.
(And for that matter, I plan on saying a few words about every video game I finish from this point on seeing that I spend anywhere from 5 to 24 hours on each one that I play through to the end. I guess I feel obligated to have something to show for the effort. At least I got a blog post out of it, right? In thinking about doing this and making it a regular feature I hesitated to call the write ups “reviews” or “critiques”; There are professionals out there at IGN, Joystiq, and Game Informer that are way better than me at “reviewing”. I thought about calling them “reflections” but c’mon – ‘reflecting’ on a videogame? I’m not sure that’s possible. And even if it is, do I really want to be the kind of guy the ‘reflects on videogames’? So I’ve settled, for now, on calling them “some thoughts”.)
Anyway, on to Dead Space. This game was released during the Christmas 2008 season, but was quickly overshadowed by Left For Dead and although it had very good reviews I think that it has yet to be discovered by quite a few people.
The bad? Well, it took me just under 12 hours to complete, and as a reviewer at IGN noted, it really should have clocked in at 6 or so. A lot of running around hallways that look suspiciously similar to hallways traversed a few minutes earlier but are actually different hallways. A lot of killing creatures that really have no purpose except to make the game longer.
Otherwise, there is a ton of good fun to be had. Imagine the original Alien mixed with two parts Resident Evil, and a dash of 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown in for good measure.
Goretastic killing of imaginatively, deformed creatures and even gorier gore when they kill you – tearing you literally limb by limb, and then, often, in half. During the final boss, I kid you not, when you lose the kill animation tops 30 seconds of beautiful, graphic violence sparing you nothing – although now that I think about it there’s not a single eyeball-popping in the game. (I suppose that they’re saving that for part 2.)
Plotwise this is not quite Bioshock (which in my opinion, though very cool, much too much has been made of its literary Ayn Rand connected plot) – but it definitely touches on the same territory with a glimpse into the fictional religion of “Unitology” which bears quite a few similarities to the worst things that have been written about Scientology. From wacky, post-modern beginnings, to levels of holiness, not earned, but bought and paid for. Within the game you actually find a Unitology article that is a long and fascinating read within the fictional context of the game – and you can clearly see where the creators are going with it. Hopefully, as the sequel pans out these things will flesh out more than they did in this first game.
The graphics and sound design were great – you do get the feeling of being in space, particularly during the zero-gravity sections. The retro-50’s/60’s feel of the space suit, which you spend the entire game looking at was nice, and the control scheme was complicated enough to be interesting, but not so complicated I had to think about what I was doing. The only exception to this was the stasis power which slowed enemies down – which, for some reason, I always had to think about and plan to use – it never came second-nature to me. The nearly perfect mechanics paired with a save-point a minimum of every ten minutes made for a good gaming experience. (I’m big on save points – I tend to want to quit playing when I need to, not when some game developer thinks I should. You hear that videogame makers? Players have jobs too and often have to get to them and don’t need you to dictate when they should stop playing.)
The ambitions of the project are in trilogy-form, with not only the Dead Space videogame, but also a comic book, and this cartoon:
– which I did watch – and alone is not worth your time, but in the context of the game is neat to watch as many of the physical spaces and plot-points touched on in the game are expanded upon cartoon. We even get to meet some Unitologists who really seem to be a harmless bunch. Unfortunately, it could have used some script work as the sheer abundance of f-words became so ubiquitous they actually detracted from the experience, pulling me out of the movie. If someone told me that the dialogue was written by a bunch of 13-year-old boys, I’d have a hard time not believing them. (What’s funny is that the humor of the Billy May’s Dubs from my previous post is almost entirely derived from the inappropriate use of the F-word. As a rule, I have no problem with filthy language, I just asked that it be used properly, effectively, and with purpose – throwing in a bunch of swears just because you can – well, that’s just stupid.)
So there are my reflections on the videogame Dead Space and I hope they help you spend your videogame dollars wisely.
Here is the trailer for the game:
And here is the trailer for the cartoon “Dead Space: Downfall” which is currently available on demand on your computer at Netflix if you are a member as a “watch instantly” selection.