Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Xbox 360 - Dead Space

Dead Space

My final review for 2008!

Parental Advisory: This game contains graphic violence and mature themes. Parental guidance is suggested.

As is expected from EA, this is standard third person shooter wrapped around an 'Alien' (movie) type story. What makes this one stand out? Nothing specific, but let's explore this game anyway.

Story

The story behind this shooter combines themes from Alien and Event Horizon to create this tale. You're a team sent to investigate what's happening on a floating scientific research station orbiting a planet. When you arrive at the station, bad things begin happening (expected). First, you almost crash into the station. Then, later, your ship explodes and you're stranded there.

As your character explores the station trying to bring the station back to life so you can leave, you find mutated Alien-esque creatures. Of course, you have to kill them.

Graphics

The 3D engine used here works quite well. The imagery and textures are very well done, if not a bit graphic. The lighting used is reminiscent of what's used in the Alien movies (lots of strobes, flashing lights, flourescent lights that flicker, etc).

Audio

The music and thematic elements swell when enemies arrive in the area. It is very cinematic in sound and the eerie sound effects add to the chill-factor. But, even as good as it sounds, it's not enough to save this mediocre title.

Gameplay & Controls

The controls work well enough through much of the game up until Chapter 4 (we'll get to that shortly) where the game completely breaks down.

The suit you are tasked to use has limited protection, but allows you to walk in zero gravity and has a small amount of air for vacuum space walks (nevermind the temperature issue in this game). Anyway, you start off with no guns and obtain them either as you find them (in containers) or you can buy them at the store.

Save Points

The save points are strewn throughout the levels attached to the wall (as if that makes any sense) and opens up to reveal a holographic save area. So, there are limited places where you can save. However, the save points do seem to be in convenient enough places that it's easy to save often. So, in this particular shooter, the save points aren't the issue.

Store

As you progress through killing aliens and opening containers, you will find various items including money, health, ammo and power nodes. Money allows you to buy things at the Stores in various places on the levels. The stores contain ammo, health, weapons, stasis replenishment and various other things. While you wander, you will also find schematics for new weapons and suits that you can buy. The idea that there is a store is ok, the way it's done sucks.

The problems with Dead Space

The problems with this game are many and varied. The primary problem with much of this game is that there is so little health on the levels that you're always one step away from dying. When you do find a store, the health is so expensive you have to practically give away all the money you've found just to get a small container of health. For example, you're lucky to have about 8000-9000 credits when you get to the store and a small container of health costs 1250. That price would be fine if there was abundant health on the levels, but there isn't.

Worse, as you progress through the levels, you end up finding more and more ammo and less and less health.... to the point at which, on level 4, that you don't find ANY health in any containers or after killing the aliens. This makes the game annoying at best.

Nodes

Again, here is another sore point. Nodes are used at work 'benches' throughout the various levels to upgrade your suit, weapons or abilities. The problem, again, is that there are so few nodes found on the levels, you really get no benefit out of the upgrades. Worse, at the workbench, the system forces you to waste nodes on useless node intersections just to get to an intersection that lets you upgrade. This is pointless and a waste. You find so few that you end up wasting over half of the nodes you find on worthless things.

Encounters

There are many times where the game continually throws alien after alien at you simply to use up your health and waste ammo. The encounters are not there to be a challenge because the weapons will eventually kill them. So, it's just a time, ammo and health waster. If the encounters were far less predictable and the weapons were far stronger, then I might feel less this way.

Map

The map is just plain annoying. At first, it seems like a cool idea to have this 3D holographic type map which shows your present level. Unfortunately, you can't leave it on while you walk as it prevents button presses. But, in order to find out where to go, you have to leave it on. So, you have to pray you don't get attacked while you have it open. You also end up having to waste time getting the map into the correct position so you can even see where you are and where you need to be.

Applying health

As you pick up containers of health, they are stored in your inventory. Your inventory is limited, so you will eventually run out of space, which is arbitrarily stupid. When you open your inventory to view it, the game continues to progress. So, the game does not pause and you continue to be attacked while the inventory is open and you try to apply more health.. which is, again, arbitrarily stupid. So, if you need to apply health during a battle, you do so at your own peril.

Level 4

Up until level 4, the game was pretty much a straight shooter with aliens jumping out at you from all over (at very predictable times). Through trial and error, you can work your way through the level by having the character die and then restarting the level. In fact, many sub-levels I had to do this just to try to figure out what the game wanted me to do.

However, after you traverse across the outside of the ship and make it across to the other side (without becoming asteroid smashed), you end up at a chair with a gun. Ok, so here's my BIGGEST gripe with this game. You're working your way through the levels as a typical shooter and here the game completely breaks that stride for a stupid chair based asteroid mini-game. Then, the mini-game starts you off with 85% hull integrity. Each asteroid reduces 8-10% hull integrity with each hit. So, you are tasked to blow up the asteroids and keep the hull safe while you wait for something to happen. That's fine, but the game starts throwing more and more and more (and even bigger) asteroids at you all over the screen. Not only do the big ones break up into smaller ones, like the old Asteroid game, they accelerate towards you faster and faster. In fact, it begins throwing so many at you so rapidly (while waiting), it's basically impossible to complete. All the while I'm thinking, "What the hell does it have to do with the game?".

To top that off, the gun has an 'overheat' mode that prevents you from firing 5-10 seconds at a time far too frequently. Ok, so what the point of this level is, I have no idea. It's not challenging, it's not fun. In fact, it's a stupid remake of an old Old OLD arcade game from the 70's which, in Dead Space, has no real point.

Worse, you've got your 'friend' chiming in saying 'Just hold them off for a little longer' or 'I'm almost done' or 'Keep it up for a little longer'. It's like, "Shut the eff up!" These little taunts are enough for me to take this game disk and run it through the shredder. There's nothing fun about being taunted while you're trying to concentrate on a near impossible task.

After all that, the gun controls don't perform well, there's no auto-targeting, you always way overshoot the mark and it seems to miss even when you actually are able to aim. Oh, and did I already ask.. What's the point to this Asteroid level?

Overall

This game has way too many problems to be fixable. Was this game even play tested? Did someone actually run this by human beings to find out if it was a passable game? These are the kinds of games that are throw-away commodities. This will be forgotten in less than a year and no one will want to play it. It will sit on Gamestop's used shelves and collect dust. Some random shmoe might buy one periodically to try it, but quickly return it in the 7 day grace for a full refund.

Score
  • Sound: 9/10 (best part of this game, keeps the suspense up)
  • Graphics: 9/10 (textures and figures are well done)
  • Bugginess: 10/10 (no bugs or major glitches found)
  • Controls: 6/10 (controls well enough until the Asteroids part)
  • Play Value: $10
  • Bang-To-Buck: 1/10 (if you must play this, rent it or buy it used)
  • Overall: 4/10 (inconsistent game play, tedious in places, predictable, not enough supplies)
Note, I would have given this game an even lower overall score, but the first 3 levels of the game were reasonably enjoyable. However, the Asteroids mini-game is so out-of-touch with the rest of this game, I no have no intention of finishing this game.

Happy New Year ... I'll see you in 2009.

2 comments:

Bull said...

Its quite funny reading your comments on the asteroid section, I was saying the exact same things, especially with the guy constantly telling you "nearly there" ballox. I have died 50 times and cannot get past this section, totally ruined the game experience.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with the above comments about the asteroid game. Considering the amount of effort it must take to make a game like this, how could they screw it up so completely with one completely uncool and boring, boring section?

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