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March 6, 2012

Dead Space

As has elsewear been mentioned on this blog, I’m playing through my older games with the goal of either beating or getting rid of the ‘back inventory’ before I actually purchase any new games. Currently I’m tackling the Dead Space series, having purchased the entire available catalog en masse sometime last year;

Dead Space (one) has now been tackled, and I’m damned glad about it.

ON WHY DEAD SPACE (ONE) IS FRIGHTENING AND I'M GLAD I FINALLY BEAT IT

As was also previously mentioned, I’m arriving very late to the series. I see this as beneficial because (similar to watching television show’s released on DVD) I now get to play through the complete series (to date) without having to wait 18 months at a time for new games to be released.  And since the Dead Space series has bounced around a bit timeline-wise, I also get to experience the story in a linear fashion, which is cool.  I beat the ‘first game’ in the narrative last year (brief review here); Dead Space: Extraction was a shooter on rails that turned out to be pretty fantastic. As a prequel to 2008’s Dead Space (which I’ll refer to as Dead Space 1), it gave a great deal of background on a few of the events that had occurred in the narrative. It’s storyline concluded with the arrival of the spaceship USH Kellion, and aboard it the main protagonist of the series; engineer Isaac Clarke.

You control Isaac throughout Dead Space 1 as he winds his way through a nightmarish death-ship called the USG Ishimura, battling monsters called necromorphs. They come in a number of gruesome shape’s and sizes, and are prone to leap out at you from dark corners, around shadowy bends in a hallway, or from flimsy ceiling tiles. All told the game was very good at making me jump, which is something that’s new to me in gaming. I usually stray away from your typical ‘survival horror’ game on account of the fact that they usually make your character extremely slow and cumbersome. This is by design; they want you to creep slowly down hallways waiting for things to leap at you from shadows. But Dead Space 1 struck that balance where I felt I could get around, and I only slowed down when I was already really freaked out, gun drawn, unblinking and holding my breath. Honestly I’m kind of glad I’ve beat the game and it’s over with.  Full disclosure though; a huge part of why I was even able to beat the game is because I chose to play on the easiest setting. Besides the fact that I’ve never really been that skilled at playing video games, the ‘going easy’ choice had a lot to do with the lack of man-hours a week I have to commit to playing my backlog of games. If I play every game at ‘Normal’ or ‘Hard’ as I usually do, this project would take forever, and I wouldn’t be able to purchase BioSock Infinite the second it comes out (as I fully intend to do).

All told I really like the Dead Space series so far, and I started the ‘second’ game in the series, Dead Space 2, this evening. Despite my efforts to remain fully ignorent of anything to do with story or design for the second game, I did hear lott’s of good things about the opening. My first impression, which is actually my crystal-solid, for-all-time impression, is that the beginning is kind of neat, but I hate the voice actors, and I really don’t like it when you have to race through a level and don’t get to play ‘video game archeologist’. Which is what I am – I crawl over every inch of a level, looking in corners, studying the posters on the wall and the small squarish books on the shelf, becuase I want to know 1) everything there is to know about the narrative I’m experiencing, and 2) how the level designers and environment artists spent their many hours while putting the game together. So when at the start of the game I had to blindly run through a medical bay, compeltely ignoring entire ROOMS of beautifully rendered stuff, it kind of broke my heart. Ah well. ALSO the game is really, really shiny. I liked the supremely grimy look of Dead Space 1, but I’m only about a half hour in and so shouldn’t cast judgment on the overall look of The Sprawl just yet.


January 18, 2012

TOO. MANY. GAMES.

APPARENTLY, I buy a lot more video games then I can play, so I’ve foolishly decided to take each of my games and either 1) beat it, or 2) sell it BEFORE I purchase any additional games. I’m limiting this to solo campaign’s on my PS3 and XBox360 titles, or I would never buy another game again.

 

HERE'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT...

Xbox 360:
* Gears of War 2 – looking forward to this
* Gears of War 3 – I put this down as soon as I realized I hadn’t beat the second one
* Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – I’m about halfway through the solo campaign
* Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – same here
* Saints Row – Hah yeah I stopped playing when I began working on the sequel
* Saints Row 2 – Embarrassing. I never beat the one AAA title I actually worked on.
* Saints Row 3 – This is going to rule – best in the series by a mile
* Red Faction: Guerrilla – I think I will actually beat this one
* Red Faction: Armageddon – I will almost certainly sell this one back. Jumping aliens freak me out.
* Rayman: Raving Rabbids – I will likely sell this one
* Kinect Adventures – Is there a solo campaign? I just got this and it’s kind of awesome.
* Red Dead Redemption – This is great – I think I’m halfway through (in Mexico!)
* Dead Space: Extraction – this is an on-rails prequel. I’m looking forward to wrapping this up so I can move onto the original title. Beaten February 4th, 2012
* Dead Space – Can’t wait Beaten March 1st, 2012
* Dead Space 2 – Assuming I like the first one as much as I think I will, I can’t wait
* Rainbow Six Vegas 2 – Loved the first in the series. Looking forward to it.
* Halo3 – I hate The Flood so damned much. I hope they’re not in this.

PS3:
* Little Big Planet – this game is infuriating. I will sell this game long before I beat it.
* Metal Gear Solid 4 – this game is also difficult but still really, really pretty
* Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 – I will almost certainly sell this
* Crysis 2 – Same here – this game is pretty but drives me nuts
* The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena – Looking forward to this (the Dark Athena side, I beat Butcher Bay when it was an XBox title)
* Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time – Almost done with it
* Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One – This will be dependent on whether or not I can get Gussie to play this with me.

 


April 5, 2011

Extraction

Playing through Dead Space Extraction. It’s called a shooter ‘on rails’ which means you have no control over the camera, and are basically taken on a ride and required to shoot, grab and interact with things and people along the way. So far I’m getting a huge kick out of it; the camera becomes another character, realistically jerking and swaying as you run and duck, wearily panning around as you search for enemies, and flipping about as you’re attacked. While logic would dictate that this lack of control robs you of the immersive experience, I’ve found that it elevates the story, successfully directing your attention to key narrative points while simultaneously upping the sense of urgency and terror.


March 28, 2011

Linear Dead Space

A great deal of my enthusiasm for video games can be traced to my overall belief that they have the potential to someday communicate narrative-based experiences better then any other form of popular media. And while multiplayer, co-operative play and the internet at-large have radically changed how people share in the gameplay experience, it’s with an interest in the evolution of storytelling that I continue to study, play and create games. With that focus in mind, this month I’m at long-last jumping into the broad world of Dead Space.

 

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I’ve tried to get into the survival horror genre, but the gameplay mechanics have always bothered me; my characters feet act as if they’re made of lead while their arms are overly sensitive and I always wind up pointing the gun / knife / chainsaw at the sky instead of at the advancing zombie. What little I played of 2008’s Dead Space Dismemberment Demo allowed me to navigate just fine, but I still couldn’t figure out how to actually kill anything. Choosing to keep my distance from the horrifying creatures that scuttled at me from dark corners I fought back with a handgun, but shooting the body had no apparent effect, head shot’s were difficult thanks to the enemies skillful dodging abilities, and I died frequently. On top of this there had been no introductory text or movie to explain what was happening. Frustrated, confused, and thoroughly creeped out I deleted the demo after two attempts.

Several years on and the world of Dead Space has grown to include comic books, two movies and a planned novelization. When gameplay footage for Dead Space 2 was released late last year I found that people were somehow freezing enemies before strategically hacking off their limbs. This looked like a decent strategy. I asked a friend if this was an option in the first game.

“You mean stasis?” He asked.

“I guess yeah. Freezing the enemies, shooting their limbs off before they jump all over you.” I said.

“Yeah, thats stasis.” he said. “That’s how you play the game.”

So. Apparently I had avoided a game that 1) was firmly embedded in one of my favorite narrative genre’s (space horror), 2) busily expanding it’s storyline beyond games to include comics and novels, and 3) was by all accounts awesome.

This oversight must be remedied. To that effect I’ve made some calls, knocked on a few doors, and finally this week have acquired the following horde of transmedia entertainment;

  • Dead Space – the comic mini-series (issues 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 of 6)
  • Dead Space: Downfall (feature length animated prequel to Dead Space the game)
  • Dead Space: Extraction (a rail-shooter prequel to Dead Space the game)
  • Dead Space (the PS3 game)
  • Dead Space: Aftermath (feature length animated sequel to Dead Space the game)
  • Dead Space 2 (the PS3 game)

This weekend I’m jumping in, and will be moving through the narrative in as linear a fashion as possible.