22 November 2008

Thoughts On: Dead Space For The XBOX 360

Since I just wrote down my thoughts on the recent overhaul of the 360's appearance, I thought I'd also jot down a few remarks of my latest game rental: Dead Space.

Dead Space is a 3rd person shooter (a bit of a rare animal). It's very much in the survival-horror mode of play. It has great visual polish, nothing new or interesting going on in its story-line, terrific sound design and a gameplay same-ness problem that kicks in right around the two hour mark.

For the first hour it provides truly tense, truly nerve-wracking gameplay. It's one of those games--like the slightly superior Bioshock--where after a while you just stop reading all the damn log entries you keep finding, and all the audio recordings from the dead people. The back story is recycled hokum. Who cares why the hideous monsters are trying to kill me? You know it's all gonna boil down to some Pandora's Box/Frankenstein type thing. Somebody did something they weren't supposed to, things went to hell, then you showed up. 

Like every other shooter, Dead Space steals a little bit from everywhere. There's even a Halflife gravity gun that is so much of an afterthought that I never used it once except when puzzle-solving demanded I do so.

I did like the zero-gravity sequences, though. In those you must jump from metallic surface to metallic surface in "gravity boots", providing for effective disorientation. Also, the game designers helpfully included a neat button that lights up a path to your next objective. Ideal for gamers like me who grow so tired of the plot so fast that often times I have no idea what I'm gonna be doing when I get where I'm going, except to run up to the glowing panel and pressing the A button.

I'm also willing to give big points to any game that does away with the standard HUD. Here, since you're viewing your man from the back, the lights on his suit provide you with your status/health updates.

Also, the 3rd person thing helps with the game's scares, since it makes panning around slower and sometimes heavily inhibits your "in-game peripheral vision". The game's getting very high ratings--and it IS a tense and well produced game. However, like the much, much inferior Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, I find its production values are allowing it to garner much higher critical marks than it deserves. It's a decent rent, but it has almost no replay value. In hours five, six and seven, it kinda feels like you're replaying it already.