Tag Archives: Visceral Studios

Game Review – Dead Space

Dead_Space-ishimuraOverview: When we first started talking to Electronic Arts (EA) about our platform powering the Dead Space pre-launch site I was hooked on the concept. Born from a rouge EA team, DeadSpace is a bold step forward for EA. It is a brand new IP and it is a true survival/horror title which has an M rating. When gameplay videos and art work were posted I knew this would be a game worth the price of admission.

Set in the distant future, Dead Space revolves around Isaac Clarke, a space engineer who works for the Concordance Extraction Corporation (C.E.C.), a company that operates giant mining ships throughout the galaxy. When the C.E.C. receives a distress call from the USG Ishimura (a “Planet Cracker”-class ship that destroys planets in order to extract valuable ore), Isaac and four other C.E.C. employees set out on the USG Kellion to rendezvous with the Ishimura in orbit above Aegis 7. Their assumption is that a mechanical failure is the only problem. At the beginning of the game, Isaac is seen repeatedly watching a video sent to him by his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Brennan, who is currently onboard the Ishimura.

Shortly after crash landing on the Ishimura flight deck, the crew of USG Kellion is attacked by hostile creatures called Necromorphs. These creatures reproduce by infecting deceased human bodies, violently mutating them into one of their own. Isaac escapes down an elevator and kills a Necromorph by trapping it in the elevator doors, but is separated from the rest of the team. At this point, Isaac, Kendra Daniels, and Zach Hammond are the only surviving members.

I really enjoy titles that I can become immersed in the back-story. DeadSpace offers those that want to go beyond the game to understand what led to the events on the Ishimura and the planet they were sent to crack. There is a DVD, Graphic Novel and the http://Noknownsurvivors.com micro site that will allow you to take your experience beyond your console.

Gameplay: The real hook for this title is around how you engage the necromorphs. The traditional “fill’em full of led” mindset just does not work and there is not enough ammo to go around so you have to strategically target the various, and I do mean various, limbs of the necromorphs. This is where the interface again is extremely efficient. You have laser guided targeting (Think Predator) that combined with Stasis can lead to quickly dispatching your would be attackers. And yes there is an achievement for using stasis 50 times on an enemy.

With this being a 3rd person shooter (Think Gears of War & Resident Evil) I cannot reiterate how smooth the interface is. The in-game assets (video, text, and audio logs) are managed through a holographic interface that moves with you so you are not slowed down. There is essentially not an onscreen HUD. Your health and stasis are built into the back of the main character’s RIG. This is one of the best titles I have played in recent memory. The graphics (Both PS3 & Xbox version) are simply amazing.

The environment also plays a significant role in the gameplay. As you creep down a dark corridor, lights flickering, sounds and moans emanating from the background, you can hardly see in front of you and then….. is just the norm in this title. It is an eerie sight to see a slow moving necromorph wandering in the distance then before you know it they are on you. There were a few times where I literally lost my head while walking into an area without being overly cautious. I recommend saving often (especially on the harder game modes). Similar to a vitachamber from BioShock, when you do happen to get decapitated, over-run, roasted, or lost in space due to a bad jump you will start from a pre-determined checkpoint close to a save point.

The gameplay is smooth, the game itself is all about objectives. From starting a Tram system to fixing communication relays, Isaac is an engineer after all be prepared for a large number of scavenger hunts. luckily one of the best features in the game is an objective marker. Simply hit R3, and you will often, and you will be on your way to your next objective.

There are many points in the game where you will encounter Zero Gravity and be forced to complete objectives while being attacked and trying to maintain some semblance of orientation. This leads to a very interesting element of gameplay as it becomes a 360 degree event. You will also reach decompressed areas of the ship which trigger your backup O2. I recommend upgrading your air capacity with your RIG as this is just as important as health in some areas.

The Boss Battles are not epic, although one is in Zero-G which makes it quite interesting but otherwise they are nothing out of the ordinary. What is frustrating are the times you will assume the ships cannons to stop asteroids and aliens. The controls are sluggish and the cannon tends to overheat quickly. Good luck pursuing the 50% hull integrity achievements x2.

Online: There is not an online mode available

Weapons: For mining tools they sure come in handy for taking out necromorphs. There are seven weapons in the game: Plasma Cutter, Pulse Rifle, Flamethrower, Line Gun, Ripper, Force Gun and the Contact Beam. Each is ideal for different scenarios. Use the flamethrower on small, fast enemies. For the big guys the line or force guns are good to have. The Ripper is my favorite weapon in the game by far… It launches a saw blade that you control to make quick work of your alien attackers. The Plasma Cutter is definitely a weapon that you can use in almost every situation. It has range, but is very efficient in close quarters. When it comes to upgrading your arsenal start with the plasma cutter. You will not be disappointed. In fact there is an achievement for completing the game with only the Plasma Cutter (40 points).

Similar to BioShock you do have some telekinetic abilities. Stasis allows you to freeze or slow down fast moving objects and enemies and you have Kinesis to grab and move objects. As the game progresses this is a core element to complete some of the puzzle elements of the game.

You have the ability to upgrade your RIG, weapons and kinesis throughout the game. This is done through Power Nodes which are found throughout the game or purchased through the store. The upgrades follow a Too Human approach of various node paths that you select to optimize your weapon to your liking. I always focused on Damage and Capacity while trying to max out one weapon at a time.

During gameplay you will more than likely locate a number of different schematics. They allow for increased armor, ammunition and health to be purchased through the various stores. Some of the schematics associated with your armor allow you to increase health and inventory slots which is very helpful. So far I have upgraded through to a level 6 military suit that looks like the captain from the Valor. This was awarded for completing the game and cost $99,000 in the store but it was well worth the price. (See images below)

Achievements: From an achievement standpoint you can collect anywhere from 500-700 points on your first play through. My first play through took 9 hours 38 minutes. I cleared 37 of 48 Xbox 360 achievements for 665 points and 22 trophies on PS3. The achievements follow a finish the chapter get points and kill x number of enemies with all weapons, etc…. It took roughly 5 days (9 hours to finish). There are also a number of secret achievements tied to boss battles and other interesting ways to engage with the environment and enemies.

Downloadable Content: I enjoy DLC that allows me to change the skin of my player. Especially with 3rd person based games. The DLC for Dead Space offers 2 new level 5 suits. The first was an exclusive Xbox Elite suit which offered a lighter gray & green visor combo. The second was the Scorpion Suit (one of my favorites outside of the military skin). This level 5 suit cost 200 Microsoft points and is red of course with a scorpion insignia on the back of Isaacs helmet.

Pros:

  • One of the best HUD experiences I have ever experienced
  • Stunning Visuals
  • Great environment (sound, lighting, ambiance) this a great game to play late at night with the lights off
  • Visually one of the best 360/PS3 titles to date
  • Objective Marker – As in Army of Two it is very helpful to know where you need to go
  • Zero Gravity – The zero gravity elements are executed to perfection
  • In-Game Assets – Takes the BioShock asset management and interface to another level with movable holograms
  • The Ripper… I love this weapon
  • One Button Health – Instead of pulling up the inventory, press X or Square (PS3) to use your lowest available health module
  • Strategic Striking – Instead of emptying your magazine into an enemy it is faster to dismember them
  • DLC – New Isaac Skins (Elite,  Scorpion)

Cons:

  • Errand Boy – It is a constant get this, go here, blow this up, hit this switch type of experience but that still does not detract from how well executed this game is
  • Melee Attacks are lacking.. by lacking I mean slow
  • Boss battles are average (Minus a certain battle in Zero-G)
  • Asteroids – This can be one of the most frustrating elements of the game. You will know it when you get there
  • Monologues – Certain characters like to “monologue” at certain points of the game. I would like to option to fast forward to the action

Rating:

Xbox 360 – 9
PS3 – 9.5

This is one of the best games that I have played on the PS3 to date. For the 360 this is one of my top 10 Xbox 360 titles. It is challenging (Especially on Impossible Mode), visually stunning and at some points will seriously surprise you. I would highly recommend it. You don’t need to be a fan of the horror genre to appreciate this title. Biowhat???

Level 6 Suit – Front

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Level 6 Suit – Back

DeadSpace_Level6back

Dead Space

One of the other game titles that I am very excited about in 2008 is the new EA title Dead Space. It was recently announced that the game will launch on October 28th of this year and the games site DeadSpaceGame.com just launched.

Dead Space is a new IP launch for EA and is the first Sci-Fi Horror game that the company has ever launched. It follows Isaac Clarke and is a survival horror epic. Isaac, a space engineer who works for the Concordance Extraction Corporation (C.E.C), a company that repairs “giant mining ships”. His company receives a distress call from the USG Ishimura, a “Planet Cracker” class ship that takes dead planets, and destroys them to extract valuable ore for the company.

In the assumption that the ship has had a mechanical failure, Isaac soon realizes that this is no ordinary distress call. He soon finds that the ship has been overrun by a mysterious alien race. This routine check becomes a race for his life….

The game features some familiar aspects such as we learn the story of what happened through in-game assets similar to Bioshock, and the main character Isaac is not a soldier. He is a common man and his tools are his weapons which leads to simple, brutal and effective combat. He is no super soldier which gives his character a sense of vulnerability which adds to the games believability (If you call deep space mining and alien infested ships believable). This title is definitely not a shooter. You will be outnumbered and low on ammo so the main point is to survive.

Regarding gameplay, that is where this title will really excel. Since this is not a fragfest you might ask how will you “survive”. Simple… dismember anything that moves with your plasma cutter. Yes, you will sever arms, legs, heads and just about anything that protrudes from the alien “Necromorphs”. This as you can imagine is a very complex system as there are multiple animation sequences that have to be considered meaning that you can dispatch an enemy in a number of ways. So this is the element of the game that will receive the most attention from the EA team.

Definitely check out the site to view, rate, share and comment on a large collection of Dead Space media including screenshots, concept art and trailers. The site features a daily blog from the Dead Space development team as well as video diaries showcasing the games origin.

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