Feb 19 2009
Inspired by the recent Dead Space for Wii trailer, I’ve decided to tackle the original game in this week’s Breaking Down the Best. For a survival horror game, Dead Space does just about almost everything right. But there are nagging little issues I’m forced to blow way out of proportion, so we’ll just run with those for the duration of this article.
1) A More Relatable Protagonist
Sure, kill him. What do I care?
In one of the first interviews with the creators of Dead Space, I remember them saying something along the lines of “This guy’s not a space marine, he’s just an engineer thrust in an extraordinary circumstance, he’s just a regular guy.” This “non-space marine” mentality was supposed to add to the terror of the game, as you were supposed to be just an everyman grabbing nearby power tools that happened to function perfect zombie alien dismemberment machines.
However, by making Isaac a hulking, armored mute, they kind of threw all of that out the window.
But seriously, how can you expect to relate to a protagonist who can’t talk, or even express any sort of emotion besides muffled screaming? I understand that he looks much cooler all armored up, but in the end your just a faceless, voiceless dude running around with overpowered weapons. Sure, he has a “backstory” searching for his missing “girlfriend” who may or may not turn out to be “alive” at the “end of the game.” Alright, sorry I’ll stop.
But give him a voice, have him take off his mask more than once per 12 hours, and then, maybe then, we’ll care if he gets decapitated by a baby-headed octopus.
2) Play Around More with Dismemberment
“This is why I never wanted kids.”
Dead Space did shake up the survival horror genre with it’s “strategic dismemberment” philosophy, but when all was said and done, there was really only one object, go for the legs. Nearly every marauding monstrosity in the game would slow to a crawl (literally) if you took out it’s legs, and you quickly learned that there was hardly ever a point to aiming above the waist.
Besides the legshot? Other than shooting the needle flinging tentacles off of the long range goons, there really wasn’t much else done with the dismemberment, and more often than not “shoot until they’re dead” works just fine every time.
Overall I do have to praise the system, it’s a hell of a lot more fun anything Resident Evil has to offer. If they just played around with it a bit more, it could graduate from a novelty to a real innovation.
3) Needs to be Longer
Isaac’s survival odds greatly improved when he learned how to piss fire.
Well, this is simple. I’d say I took down Dead Space in about 10-11 hours. Not bad, but not great either. About the same length as a God of War or a Devil May Cry. But it just seems like it’s over so soon, and the incentive of playing through again with all your shit is at least some motivation to keep going, but with all the environments looking the same, it’s an exhausting prospect to start the game over again, which brings me to…
4) More Diverse Environments
“Oh good, another poorly lit brown corridor.”
I understand the thing is taking place on a ship, but come on, I can only handle the same level layout so many times. The Event Horizon set pieces of crazy crew members killing themselves are a nice touch to spice things up, but every time I ran into one of them, I really, really wished they wouldn’t die just so I could have someone to talk to for once that wasn’t a hologram coming out of my arm.
I get that dimly lit corridors are the stuff of horror legend, but there has to be a way to get a bit more creative with the terror. The anti-gravity parts are a good effort, but navigating them was really annoying to me, as I often find myself launching into an electrical current, outer space or a previously unseen enemies’ loving embrace.
Bottom line, next the next chapter needs to leave ships behind. Although don’t replace it with some abandoned scientific facility with all the same scenery plus a sewer level.
5) The Ending is Beyond Predictable
Until next time.
Uh, *spoilers* duh.
I think that most of the plot of Dead Space is phenomenal, even if it is mashing together Event Horizon and Alien into a survival horror stew. I think the Scientology references beat you over the head a bit too often, but I am interested in the mythos of it all, and I’m interested to see where the sequel(s) go.
However, the end? Atrocious. Did anyone really think that Isaac’s girlfriend was anything other than a hallucination when she showed up near the close of the game? “Oh hey Honey, good to see you, I’m going to fight these monsters off you even though you’re a ghost or something. And could you get that door for me?”
I’m all for the “save the princess” story that has been the backbone of video games for eons now, but to pull a Tyler Durden in a game like this was anything short of stunning, and her “surprise” zombie jump out at the end has been the ending to about fifty bad horror movies pulling for a sequel. I would have given you a trilogy without that, Dead Space, really uncalled for.
Also, can we all agree, no more self-destructing enemies in any game ever?
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