Monday, June 3, 2013

A Review: Dead Space (PC)

Yes, I know that Dead Space 3 came out a couple of months back, but you know what, I heard that the original Dead Space was a fun/frightening game and I had really wanted to play it for some time.  Then, Steam had a sale last December (or was it November?) so I went ahead and purchased the initial two games in the franchise.  I began playing Dead Space last year in December and only in the last couple of weeks did I pick the game back up with the intention of taking the game to the end.  So now, here it is, everything that's already out there in the intertubes about a game that came out back in 2008.

But why bother reading a review of a game that came out 5 years ago that everyone and their third cousin has already played and written about?  Because you value our opinion.  And because some people may not have played it when it first came out (like this guy right here) and want to know if the game has held up since it's release.  Yes, yes it has.

You know what.  I'm not going to give our standard "Full Review."  This game's already been reviewed into the ground and the last thing the Internet needs is another review.  I'll just talk about things that I really liked (and didn't like) about the game.

The universe.  I like the universe created for the series.  Even though my experience in the universe is only based off of one game and the information is limited to what is found on the USG Ishimura, USM Valor and the Aegis VII Colony.  There are allusions to things happening on Earth, but not many and those are mainly snippets of information about the Church of Unitology.

Actually, the Church of Unitology is something that I was only slightly disappointed in.  Upon hearing about the Church of Unitology (from in-game, not from the mock-Chick tract that I got from PAX in 2010), I was really hoping that it wouldn't be a pseudo-Scientology-type religion, which it did turn out to be, but only in the way that there are special tiers that members are able to attain within the religion.  That's really all I know about Scientology and I'm not about to assume that I know more.

Back to the game.  Another thing that I really liked and felt was a bit of a departure from other survival horror-esque games.  Your character, Isaac Clarke, isn't some bad ass super soldier sworn with protecting the world from unnameable evils.  He's a middle-aged repairman/engineer whose girlfriend is on board the USG Ishimura, which is purely a coincidence (at least it is after the first game).  And your primary weapon?  It's a Plasma Cutter, which uses plasma energy to cut rock.  Yes, eventually you're able to purchase a legit non-mining tool/weapon.  Even the other mining tools that would be used/described as "magic" in another game, are explained well enough that you don't question why a miner would have the ability to have kinesis module or the ability to slow time at a directed object.

Oh, another thing was this:
 What are you looking at?  It's a maintenance inspection card for the elevator.  We've all seen them anytime we go into an elevator and probably shrug them off.  I'd just gotten into an elevator and while hoping that a necromorph wouldn't pop through the ceiling and attack, I noticed this little thing that wasn't anything beyond set decoration.  But, for me, it helped to maintain my investment in this universe.  That, even in this fictional universe, it is good to know that elevators are still maintained on a regular basis.  It's little details like that that help me to enjoy the game for more than what it is.

I also really liked the layout of the ship.  That it seemed plausible that the layout of the ship was how it was, um, laid out.  I don't know how else to explain that.  I never questioned why something was where it was or what it was that I was doing and why.  Every mission within the ship was pretty straight forward.  Can't send out a distress signal?  Go find out what's wrong with the communications array.  Even the NPC's started getting annoyed at how many things seemed to be going wrong and how much time it took just to get something done.  I liked that.  A lot.

Oh yes, how can I forget the intro movie.  Shots of the USG Ishimura with a slightly creepy woman singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."  Each line sung sounds like it's an effort just to keep going and to finish.  And, upon hearing the song over and over, I began to wonder if the words were the actual words as they almost sounded too creepy to be from a children's song. Alas, the words are in fact the real words, which I thought was pretty cool.

Science? SCIENCE!!

Lastly, I'll talk about my time playing the game and how I went through it.  I spent 23 hours playing the game, but only 14 hours was saved, meaning that I had spent 9 hours trying to get through different areas many, many (many) times and failing.  Specifically the first time with the ADS Canon and when you run into The Hunter in the large medical bay.  Conklederp can attest to my bouts of "Fucking fix it Hammond!  I don't care about your hangups, fucking. . . fucking damn it!" and "Run, fucking unlock the goddamn door!"

In the game, there are a number of weapons that you can purchase from the ships store, although I stuck with the the Plasma Cutter and the Pulse Rifle.  I did purchase the Ripper, although not really knowing how/when to use it, I sold it back to the store, probably to purchase additional med packs or power nodes to upgrade my equipment/gear.  For the most part, I didn't feel the game was too difficult, with the exception of the two mentioned times involving the ADS Canon and The Hunter and having played through the game on Normal/Medium difficulty.  Even the final boss held to a distinct pattern that once I got over the massiveness of the thing, I was able to calmly defeat the creature.

I will add that there were some aspects of the game that I didn't actively "participate in."  Apparently using parts of the necromorphs as projectiles with the kinesis was "a thing."  I rarely used the kinesis module except when moving heavy equipment or to acquire items that were out of range.  Also the secondary function on the Pulse Rifle apparently could do a lot of damage and the only times (used twice) I was in close quarters and when it fired an energy pulse into the air, I thought it was being used to light dark areas, so I practically never used that function.

Lastly, I will say that while Dead Space was a fairly frightening game, it didn't have a lasting sense of fear and terror.  This is most likely due to the fact that the game primarily took place in outer space and the monsters were horribly 'mutated' humans.  They were nothing that I could possibly run into, in a setting that I will probably never be in.  Those elements made the fear only present in the game and not outside of it.  That's not a criticism about the game, just something I felt like pointing out.


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