Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dead space, a game done well.

So, with Dead Space 2 coming around the corner and Halloween coming around the corner, I figured it's time to take a look at what I consider to be a very good example of a survival horror game.  Now, this game has been out for quite a while, so I'm going to go into the story a bit to help explain what makes this game well done.


So the game takes place in deep space.  Your answering a distress call from a planet cracker ship, and your playing the lucky engineer who is going along for the ride.  Your girlfriend is also on the ship, so that's the hook they use to draw your character onto the ship.  As soon as you land, your hit by how empty the ship is, and how in eerie it all looks.  No one is around, and everything is abandoned.  Not so much that it's been a long time, more like just recently everyone tried to run away and never quite got there.  So the usual shenanigans go down.  The monsters pop up, chase you away from everyone else, and you spend the rest of the game chasing your girlfriend, following orders of people as you repair just about everything there is on the ship, and dealing with all of the weird monsters out to carve you into tiny pieces.

So, as I had talked about earlier, a few things make a good survival horror game.  We've established the first part, atmosphere.  The ship is very well made, and really does make you think people could live on it.  It's believable in size and scope, and the furnishings do a good job of conveying just how swiftly this all seemed to go down.  You can see the remains of people lying about, and even run into a few living people, all insane and scared by what has happened on the ship.  The monsters themselves help to bring forth this atmosphere.  They are twisted shapes of dead people, turned into killing machines by a mysterious alien technology/biological thing that seeks to establish more of itself.  Since it can only infect dead humans, it seeks to kill more of them.

Sound is something this game does very well as well.  The music is light and fits the atmosphere, and the general sounds you hear are either sounds from the machines around you, creature skittering about, or what works even best, dead silence in space.  The only sounds you can hear are from inside of your suit, and nothing else even makes a peep.  This is such a small thing to overlook in some games, but done well fits in so properly, whenever I see a game that does not do this I end up shaking my head.  The voice acting is done well, emotions pouring out of the characters.  Your character does not ever talk, but that's forgivable.

And finally, the controls.  Now, I've been trying to not try to write angry rants or anything in this blog, as it's not what I am trying to portray.  But controls, this is one of the things that will drive me mental in a game.  We've had games regularly coming out since 1985 (The nintendo system, atari before that as well) and yet, I still see games coming out with just poor, sloppy control schemes.  I should be able to move while I shoot, or at least dodge.  Item selection should be simple, maps brought up nicely, and status screens easy to read.  So many games just don't get his (I'm looking at you Resident Evil 5, yes you).  Dead Rising gives you an easy to follow status/item menu, combat controls that work freely and well, a decent physical attack that actually makes sense to use.  Your also not invincible, and can easily run out of ammo if your not careful with how you use it.  The ammo is a nice touch as well, you only get ammo for weapons your using.  So if you have a mine layer, and never use it, you never get ammo for it.  This makes inventory management a bit easier to manage, and makes sense from a game play perspective.  This makes both combat and exploring the station alot easier to handle.

This is one of the few game I own that I've actually played through multiple times, not just for achievements but also because the game was just fun to play again.  This game is honestly a very good example of how to do a survival horror game right.  Next time we're going to look at two games that I think belong in the bottom of the barrel in terms of survival horror games.

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