Thursday, February 10, 2011

Something To Scream About

I love my survival horror video games! Oh sure, I enjoy my Tomb Raiders, and God of War types but I can never get enough decent …boo’s. I guess I just enjoy being scared. I don’t mean ‘threat of nuclear war’ scare, or ‘why won’t this rash go away?!’ scare. I’m talking good old fashioned ghosts and monsters type of frights.

So when Deadspace was released (for Xbox, PS3, and PC), I thought this could be right up my dark demented alley. You play as Isaac Clarke (named after sci-fi authors Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), who is part of a rescue team sent into deep space to figure out what happened to the mining ship, USG Ishimura. It seems they decided to stop sending communications after they brought a giant ancient artifact onboard. Maybe it had something to do with all the ships crew turning into disgusting monster/zombie/aliens.

There is a lot that is familiar in Deadspace because they borrow heavily from other horror movies and games. But is it an homage, or rip-off? I see bits of Event Horizon (one of my favorite movies), Silent Hill 2 (one of my all-time favorite games), Alien, and Bioshock sprinkled throughout. But this game seems to lack the soul of its source material. There are constant moans, groans, growls, rattles and bangs heard throughout the ship as it slowly falls apart around you, and there are plenty of ewwww moments as well. But is it as scary as a Silent Hill, or the Fatal Frame series (one of my other all-time favorites)? I think I jumped maybe twice during gameplay, (but I did so in a manly sort of way of course).

The overall story felt a bit drawn out to me, especially when you pretty much know how it’s going to end. And nothing is more annoying than being an errand boy, because everyone seems too lazy and/or terrified to walk out of their comfy safe zones to fix anything themselves. I spent most of the time just following the ‘objective path’ clicking on things without really knowing what I was doing or why.

They did do a lot of things right however. One of the best parts of this game is the way they keep you totally immersed in it. That means no opening up your inventory to catch your breath and get a quick health drink! Sure you can open your inventory, but it’s done as a heads-up-display. So while you’re enjoying a cool refreshing beverage, an alien/monster can tear your leg off. Even the cinematics are all rendered within the game, so there are no put-down-the-controller-and-watch-a-cool-movie moments, because you don’t know when things will suddenly throw you back into the action again. And yes, the visuals of the ship and space were very impressive, but I still miss the fully rendered movies.

I also enjoyed the over the shoulder camera for this game, (I prefer this style over a first person shooter, I guess because I want to see my hero getting his ass kicked). Once you get the hang of dismembering the alien/zombies, it is actually a lot of fun. There are a few different weapons available for purchase and upgrades, (purchase?!? Seriously?!? So in space, nobody can hear you scream but apparently they can hear you swipe your credit card!). Don’t worry too much about cash, because the monster/zombies carry tons of it so you can pick their pockets when they’re dead.

But most offensive to me, was the voiceless, faceless hero, Isaac. Didn’t we do this in Bioshock, Halo and Metroid? Being the strong silent type is one thing, but with so many interacting with him, why wouldn’t he speak?!? I want a hero with attitude I can look up to like Kratos, or Dante, or Lara Croft, or Mario… well, maybe not Mario so much. So Isaac as a character is a bit of a disappointment for me.

I would still recommend Deadspace, if you’re into this kind of thing. Maybe I’ve been a bit desensitized over the years and maybe for the average person, it is a terrifying game. There are also plenty of cool mini-games and replay-ability, (and the zero gravity stuff is a mix of fun and disorienting!). But seriously, for the current price of $29, how scary is that??

Moan groan growl rattle bangs… boo,


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