Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dead Space - The Survival/Horror Genre

One quick note: I passed the 80,000 point mark while playing Borderlands last night. Six figures is definitely in my sights.

I've been pretty negative on the blog lately owing to a string of frustrating or outright crappy games. So I thought it was time to talk about a game I'm enjoying: Dead Space.

Dead Space falls into the Survival/Horror genre (at least, to the extent that you can shoehorn games into categories these days). I like this particular genre, but I'm forced to admit that for every gem (Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil 4) there's a lot of junk (the other Resident Evil games, anything featuring the words Alone in the Dark). Dead Space happily resides much closer to the "gem" side, not really in the same class as the two aforementioned Hall of Famers but a strong candidate for the All Star team.

S/H games fall into two broad categories based largely on gameplay. The first is the "Badass in a Freaky Situation" game (example: Resident Evil 4). In this one you'll usually play as a special forces operative, a police officer, or some other character trained in combat. The game will feature a number of weapons (probably guns), and the main character will be proficient in each of them right away. The game will play a lot like a shooter, but the controls will be a little awkward (purposely so) and the enemies will come lurching out of the shadows or popping out of closets to scare the player. Essentially, these are shooters with "atmosphere"...they're scary because of the ambiance but get less frightening as you realize that your character is equipped to handle the waves of enemies that they'll face.

The second category is the "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" game (example: most of the Silent Hill games). In these games, you usually play as a helpless civilian with little combat training. Weapons are mundane, generally melee (bats and crowbars are common), and the resources are carefully portioned to insure that you're always one major screw-up away from death. These games are emphasizing the "survival" portion of the genre by giving you a few enemies, very limited resources, and a sliver of hope that you can make it through alive. The gameplay is usually very awkward and unintuitive, especially in combat, to capture the feeling that you're controlling a helpless idiot that has wandered into a situation well beyond their abilities. These games are most closely related to adventure games, because they're less about killing enemies and more about exploring the environment, solving puzzles, and advancing the story.

Dead Space falls into the "Badass in a Freaky Situation" category. The protagonist, Isaac Clarke, may be a space engineer (I'll get more into the story in another post), but he acquits himself pretty well with the weapons you'll find. The game involves a lot of fighting, a little light puzzle solving, and a horde of monsters that love to leap out and say "Boo"...then tear your face off.

Next time I'll talk about how Dead Space went right where a lot of games in this genre go wrong.


  1. I just wanted to comment that it might not be entirely correct to try and put RE: Leon into a list with other games as I'm quite sure not a game on the planet gets even close to RE: Leon in awesomeness.

  2. Congratulations on passing the 80,000 mark. Only 20,000 more to go.

  3. Rachel, did you notice how I gave Chuck 200 achievement points (on facebook) for mastering house husband?