Monday, December 14, 2009

Dead Space - Gameplay

Comparing Dead Space to other Survival/Horror games, one bullet point at a time:

- Typical S/H games have gimped controls, with controller inputs that are purposely awkward to make the game less about twitch reactions and more about...well, survival. Dead Space largely breaks from these traditions by featuring tight, intuitive controls. The camera does turn slowly though, occasionally creating issues in those "There's something right behind you!" moments.

- Dead Space really de-emphasizes melee combat. You can pat impotently at enemies with your gun, doing negligible damage while they gnaw your face off, or you can SHOOT THEM. I recommend the latter. There is a footstomp which is occasionally useful for downed enemies, but it still isn't as effective as bullets.

- All the "enemies jumping out of nowhere" stuff that you've seen in other S/H games is repeated here, albeit more often. Those evil aliens have a real knack for falling right out of the ceiling on your head, eliciting a startled jump and a bunch of panic fire from the player.

- Despite that, the enemies are not terribly competent at dealing damage, at least at the normal difficulty level. They telegraph their attacks, they back off after they've hit you once rather than finishing the kill, and unless you get swarmed you won't die often. While this may sound boring, it actually fits well with a theory from one of my favorite game bloggers Shamus Young, who once wrote about how "perceived danger" is more scary than "deadly danger" in video games. The idea is that it's far scarier to feel like you ALMOST died in a video game than to actually hit the game over screen and realize that now you just have to reload and replay that section. Dead Space hits this note well.

NOTE: Shamus Young's site gets my highest recommendation for people who are interested in video games or other aspects of geek culture.

- Speaking of reloading, most S/H games have infrequent save points so punishment for failure is high. Some even tie saving to disposable items (ex. typewriter spools in Resident Evil) so you have to decide for yourself when you should use a precious save. Blech! Dead Space has frequent save points that you can use freely, as well as checkpoints between saves. Death means replaying just a couple minutes tops.

- The difficulty settings are also well done. My playthrough on normal was pretty simple...I only died a couple times due to environmental puzzles, and not once because of enemies. I'm a pretty experienced gamer, so most people would be mildly challenged. There is an easier setting as well for beginners. I'm now playing on the highest difficulty, and it's very challenging. I wouldn't say death is "frequent" but I do need to replay certain sections a few times to pass. For those who prefer a challenge, it's definitely available.

- NO QUICKTIME EVENTS. That's so important that I feel like I should say it again. Quicktime events are (unfortunately) a staple of S/H games. They are not fun. They are the opposite of fun. Dead Space doesn't have any. Three cheers for Dead Space!

Overall, Dead Space is a very well made game and a solid example of the S/H genre. It's without a doubt one of the best S/H games on the 360 (not the highest praise in the world, but still sincere). Just bear in mind that it leans more towards a shooter than a Silent Hill clone and you'll be on the right track.

Next time, nitpicks!

1 comment:

  1. Whoa! I just looked up and watched a monster rip off your head. Nitpicked it right off your neck. I hope to hear something of the odd kicking about that your character will do. One of my favorite parts of the game was watching you kick around dead bodies. Very bizarre!