After struggling to tear myself away from the computer here in the office early this morning, I decided to finally pop in Dead Space, which I’d picked up yesterday as a result of trading in some games that I wasn’t playing. I’d read nothing but good things about Dead Space and saw some interesting footage thanks to G4 On Demand which is what really made me want to grab the title if I could. After completing the first two chapters, I have to say that I’m impressed. It’s not (yet) the Oh-my-God-scary game that some have said that Dead Space is, but I will admit that there have been a couple of moments that made me jump a little.
The story is taking its time in revealing itself. It’s not like, say, Bioshock, where the story grabbed me early and never let go. I see a little of what’s going on here… a love interest, a gutsy commander, an alien presence… but I’m not yet identifying or have invested much interest in the background story and character roles and relationships. It’s a kill or be killed mentality, with occasional story information being trickled in. I’m fine with that, I guess, although Bioshock admittedly spoiled me in terms of a story-driven action game. (Uncharted was another one.)
Aesthetically, there’s no denying Dead Space‘s creepiness. The Necromorph designs are twisted and yet fit the game perfectly. Lighting effects really add to the tension that’s evident here… flickering lights, Necromorph shadows in the distance, and so on. There’s blood everywhere, along with a few unsettling sequences, such as ship personnel getting attacked or seeing a doctor perform a procedure on a dead patient, only to mysteriously then finish herself off. The sound design is great, too. Voice work is delivered very well, ambient noise ratchets up the tension, and the music has that horror feel to it. It all comes together during those “jump” moments when a Necromorph drops in out of nowhere and scares you silly.
The gameplay is interesting in that it’s not all about the headshot. Dismembering Necromorphs is the name of the game in Dead Space, so you have to retrain your shooter mentality to aim for legs or arms before the final headshot. You still have to be precise with your aim, but now you must decide whether to go for the legs and stop any advance or whether to go for other appendages to stop attacks. The game’s progression is also generally up to the player. Do you want to explore and find items, or just move from one mission to the next? Lastly, I’m really liking the weapon modification component of the game. Collecting power nodes and applying them to a progressive grid to augment each weapon’s power works well.
I’m looking forward to playing more of Dead Space when I get home from my karaoke gig tonight. Feel free to post your (spoiler-free!) thoughts… does the story begin to reveal itself more as I go? Are there any tips I should keep in mind? I’ll look forward to reading your responses.
Before I go, a couple of other things:
- Please check out my Twitter friend CrixLee, who stars in a pretty awesome video. The concept is pretty funny, and the results are just as funny to see. Make no mistake… these girls can PLAY.
- Congratulations to Adam Sessler on his promotion to Editor-in-Chief of Gaming Content for G4. Irregardless of what you may think of Adam and X-Play’s head-scratching selection of Fable II for their Game of the Year, he’s quite knowledgeable and will be a great fit in his new role.
- Dragon Quest IV on the DS is a welcome return to classic role-playing. It’s perfect for playing while in bed, either unwinding after a long day or first thing in the morning (or afternoon) when you don’t feel like getting out of bed. It’s definitely faster-paced than Dragon Quest VIII was, and that’s a good thing. I’m alternating between this and Chrono Trigger on my DS right now.
That’s about all I have time for today, as I have a karaoke gig to get ready for (and drive to despite some icy roads)… but feel free to follow me on my Twitter page.
Tuesday’s distressing Midway news sounded like a death knell. More layoffs. Game cancellations. Attempts to spin a bad situation into a not-so-bad situation. Frankly, Midway’s demise has been a painful one for me to watch because of the company’s nostalgic bond to me. So many Midway coin-ops ate my quarters and tokens while growing up (and beyond):
- Sea Wolf: According to Twin Galaxies, I still hold the world record for this game. A monochrome submarine shooter, the game’s score rolls over at 9,999 points. Sea Wolf is all about timing and memorization.
- TRON and Discs of TRON: These two coin-ops made excellent use of the film assets that they were based on. One arcade that I used to visit had a sweet pesudo-sit down cabinet for Discs of TRON that had pumping sound and a pretty immersive atmosphere.
- Arch Rivals: Before the arrival of NBA Jam, this game was a fun 2-on-2 basketball experience that allowed players to punch each other in order to steal the ball. Of course, punching is now the “in” thing in the NBA… just ask Ron Artest.
- NBA Jam / NHL Open Ice / NFL Blitz series: I won’t rehash what I wrote about these games back in September, but there’s no denying how much money I spent on these games between the coin-ops and home version costs. NHL Open Ice is still the standard for hockey-based arcade games (sorry, NHL Hitz 20-03), and I don’t believe that either NBA Street or NBA Ballers managed to duplicate the magic that NBA Jam and its offspring created.
That’s just a sampling of Midway memories. There are obvious (Mortal Kombat) and not-so-obvious (Gorf) ones, too… but I think that you can see my point about how Midway games were a big part of my gaming life. Unfortunately, Midway never seemed to be able to get past the demise of the video game arcade and spent all of its resources trying (and usually) failing at several different projects in order to try and step out from its coin-op history. Even 21st-century interpretations of Midway classics like Spy Hunter and Gauntlet just fell flat, despite the popular source material. NBA Showtime (the last of the good Jam-based titles) was farmed out to Eurocom for a terrible variation called NBA Hoopz, which was a travesty in every sense of the word– and then Mark Turmell scrapped Jam-style gaming altogether with NBA Ballers, which was only mildly successful.
My big question about Midway’s inevitable shuttering revolves around what will happen to all of the IPs that Midway has under its corporate umbrella. Is it possible that we’ll see more coin-op compilations similar to the Midway Arcade Treasures series if another publisher buys the rights? What will happen to Mortal Kombat– the one Midway franchise that still brings in consistent revenue? What about designers like Ed Boon and Mark Turmell? Where will they end up?
It really doesn’t matter whether or not Midway is able to rescue themselves from the financial armageddon that they find themselves in right now. The game maker will never be the same and has zero chance to recapture even a fraction of the company’s former glory and stature. They’ll be reduced to a footnote in the industry, leaving fond memories for some and a bad taste in the mouths of others. It’s a shame that Midway’s run has come to an end, but an end is where all good things eventually wind up.