By HandsomeDead 8 Comments
Having just this minute finished Dead Space, I feel incredibly underwhelmed and disappointed. During the first chapter, the game does a great job of using a lot of cheap jump scares to get you into a panicked frame of mind but from as early as halfway through Chapter 2, I started to guess where the enemies were going to jump from and what was going to happen next, so here's a few of my ideas regarding what I think would have made Dead Space a much better game, so, obviously, spoilers ahead.
1. Less is more: From start to finish, the game completely bombards you with things to kill which is obviously what a third person shooter should be doing, but with the game aspiring to be survival horror, notably demonstrated in the semi-gimped controls and use of inventory, the killing eventually becomes tedious. Especially so during the later chapters where the game threw so many enemies at me that I had slow down. This just totally kills any mood the game tried to set because you're so busy chopping off limbs that it stops being scary, tense or anything besides a chore. Had the kill count been toned down, the enemies would have felt more like a threat rather than something stopping you from getting from A to B. To compare it to films, the game would have been better if it could be compared to the horror Alien rather than a action based Aliens.
2. Increase fluidity: Another thing made clear from the game after the opening sequence is how basic the mission structure is. Having Issac going from place to place just to get a key/switch/item and bring it back to activate the next area was something so stodgy and old that it harked so far back into Resident Evil that I may as well have been on the USG Sencer. This is made worse with every section clearly punctuated by the tram which felt like a meta version of the fetch and carry mission structure. Had the tram been something similar to the bathyspheres from BioShock and been in different places every time, then there would have been less of a backtracking feel to the game and more of an exploratory one.
3. Interesting NPCs: During the opening sequence when the Issac and the boys are crashing into the Ishimura, I was under the assumption that the game was going to be slightly squad based. Not to the point of Gears of War or something but I presumed I may have a wingman to guide me along but instead, the horror cliches come thick and fast and everyone gets separated. This could have been interesting in one way or another but instead, all you get are people barking orders at you down the holo-Codec. Why not at least have them give some exposition and interaction rather than 'Oh shit, X is broken! Issac go get Y to fix it.' What was worse was when you did encounter people who weren't infected, they were even worse. The survivors didn't seem to want saving and the Drs. and such that you do interact with as part of the plot just monologued on the other side of glass while inexplicably trotting around the ship unharmed. This killed the immersion and, again, made things feel incredibly basic.
4. Coherent plot: I'd heard from many sources that the game borrowed ideas from movies and games in order to make it some kind of ultimate sci-fi horror and sure, borrowing concepts from Event Horizon, Alien, Aliens, The Thing and more worked well, having a plot filled with moments from these is terrible and incredibly unsatisfying. Having cliche after cliche makes the game's already minimal tension disappear when you can tell from the opening video clip that Nicole was already dead. The most disappointing part of this particular story strand is how they try to make it a twist towards the end and that just makes me confused. If you haven't been keeping up with recent events, Nicole, Issac's girl, is pretty much confired as dead during the opening but throughout, she keeps appearing on screens telling you she loves you etc. Now, this is fine and could easily be addressed as hallucinations, but when she turns up in the flesh and starts opening doors and operating panels for you, that takes it into a whole different spectrum of fucked up and for a period of time, I thought this was incredibly clever. I thought she was like Newt in Aliens (Sorry to mention it again) and was hidding in the nooks and crannies of the ship, occasionally reaching a panel with enough time to contact you and reassure you she was still alive, but when it is finally confirmed she's dead, it just makes the game seems stupid and cheap. And that's not to mention Kendra's awful heel turn and Hammond just being totally pointless even though he's supposed to be the captain of the mission. And, finally, another stupid thing which annoys me every time is how whenever the Marines or trained forces arrive on the scene in these kind of things, they get absolutely destroyed, but the main character who has no combat training whatsoever can survive the whole thing. Just for once, i'd like to see the professionals being professional.
It's a shame that all these key points in the game ranged from just not right to completely broken because as it's the only new IP this year that looks worth a shit (Mirrors Edge looks to be playing the unique =/= good angle), I really wanted this to be my GOTY, but instead, I never really want to play it again.