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Deep Space 2: Resident Evil … in space?

September 13, 2011

Among /many/ other games that I bought during the Steam summer sale, I picked up Dead Space 1 & 2. Having finished the main campaign of GTA 4, I figured I’d give DS1 a try.

So far so good. The graphics are good, performance is good, and the gameplay is fairly solid. It has a striking resemblance to the Play Station classic Resident Evil 1. You scoot about narrow, poorly lit corridors with the future equivalent to a 9mm pistol, waiting for zombie-like monsters to pop out of space windows or space vents. If it weren’t for the space theme, I’d have a hard time believing this was anything other than revamped Resident Evil 1 with _significantly_ better voice acting (and story).

The similarity to RE1 isn’t really a /problem/ for me. In fact, it feels nostalgic, given that I haven’t played any of the RE games since RE1 (I’ve dabbled a little in RE2, back in 1998). I don’t feel like I’ve missed out much by not playing the RE sequels (though I will probably give 4 a try someday).

If nothing else, Dead Space definitely provides solid atmosphere and makes the player feel like they are on a monster filled ghost ship… in space. While I don’t enjoy the zero gravity fights (since I don’t see the point to them), I do like the outer space, no atmosphere fights. There’s almost no sound (other than your own breathing), which is the first time I have EVER seen a modern game or movie depict space as (mostly) silent. One big science nerd point for Dead Space.

I was surprised that the game had an RPG element, but that is a welcome surprise. The only problem I see with it is that you have to scavenge for the limited upgrades, forcing you to be efficient with their use. This probably means the only way to “win” is to pick one or two weapons to upgrade, because having a slew of poorly upgraded weapons will likely leave me dead in space (HAH), as opposed to having one or two maxed out weapons that can 1-shot monsters.

The only real issue that I’ve had with the game is how clumsy melee combat feels, and consequently combating those little f-ing swarmers. Melee in Deep Space consists of the protagonist (Isaac) swinging WILD haymaker punches with all of his body weight, like a drunk cowboy in a sloppy bar fight. If a monster gets too close, it will grapple Isaac and you have to either continuously pound the E key, or hold it down (I can’t tell which). Lame. Isaac’s terrible, girlish melee skills mean that fighting several dozen baby aliens becomes a huge chore, something to be avoided at all costs.

Otherwise I really like this game so far.

UPDATE

So, a few interesting things about the game.

– There are “Emergency Supply” caches throughout the game. They often contain nothing but money. The Dead Space developers must have done this as mini-joke, or the game just randomly generates what is inside. Nevertheless, that’s awesome that on a mining space station, CASH is considered an emergency supply.

– The game has a SLIGHT console port feel to it. I looked up the company that developed it, and they do almost entirely console games, /some/ of which get ported. The port job in this game is so good that it’s hard to tell it’s a port, at least once you turn off V-sync (something true to ALL console ports, I’m finding). Ironically, the XBox 360 gamepad feels bad in this game, in contrast to every other console port I’ve played, where the gamepad easily trumped keyboard and mouse.

– The invisible relationship between the non-vocal protagonist and his girlfriend feels forced. There’s some disembodied video head that pops up every so often, pleading for help. Yet it’s never established who she is or what her relationship is to the protagonist. In other random video and audio clips that you pick up throughout the game (System Shock style, not a bad touch, but not really original) there is mention of various /other/ females. So, what, is Isaac just a space pimp that has been hooking up with all of these space station chicks? I can’t keep them all straight. Nicole, Elizabeth, etc. Ultimately the whole “I have a girlfriend(s) on this ship” feels like the developers were just fulfilling some mandatory game development pre-req – as if EVERY game must have _some_ kind of romantic plug. I think the game could have done without it, but it’s not worse off for having it.

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