Dead Space

Written by Joe Martin

October 21, 2008 | 07:10

Tags: #aliens #dead-space #scary #survival-horror #zombie

Companies: #ea #electronic-arts


Dead Space isn't an easy game to like and a lot of that is down to one very simple thing; the controls. The root of those control problems? Three words: it's a port.

That Dead Space was designed as a console game is pretty obvious and is evidenced by everything from the over the shoulder camera angle right through to the absence of a quicksave button. Take heart though; it isn't all bad.

Some console games have a design that can make the move to the PC platform quite easily and for the most part Dead Space is one of those games. The camera angle, while normally used more for console shooters, does a good job of limiting your field of view and making the game a bit scarier. It also gives you the field of view to make dismemberment easier. The savegame system works too – it's a hallmark of the genre.

Even though the general design of the game has ported over just fine though, there are still some technical issues which hold it back. Some of these are little more than just occasional annoyances, like the load times which are long enough that we have time enough to make a cup of tea with two sugars but infrequent enough that we don't end up diabetic.

Dead Space Dead Space - Conclusions

The controls however are a totally different matter; they are just plain awful. They are sticky, unresponsive and stiff – all of which would be leading in to a very crude joke about necrophilia if we weren't such serious journalists. Snigger.

Admittedly, the problem isn't as massive as it could be and once you get to grips with the stiffness of the mouse then you won't have problems with lopping off limbs with your lasers and lumps of lead – but it'll always be third nature rather than first or second. The problem isn't only with the aiming either, it's with the navigation too as turning and strafing isn't as smooth as you might expect it to be. It's clear the game would just play smoother and easier if it was being handled with a gamepad and not a mouse.

In the moment-to-moment gameplay, it isn't a huge problem. It's still easily possible to shoot off legs, arms and heads and it's just as easy to stomp those skulls and pistol-whip those alien beasties in the elbows until the rotten limbs litter the floor. When you get into some of the nitty-gritty though; the puzzles and areas, then it starts to become more of an issue.

Take the zero-g rooms, for example. These areas could be fun and easy and interesting as you run up and down the walls and explore the effects and usefulness of directional gravity. Except it isn't like that at all and you can't really run up and down the walls as you might hope – instead you have to aim at and launch yourself onto certain surfaces.

Dead Space Dead Space - Conclusions

That's fine when you're shooting from the floor up towards the ceiling, but it's a little more irritating when you're standing where the wall meets the floor and can't simply walk from one to the other. You have to back-up and jump the corner instead.Dead Space Dead Space - Conclusions

It's a problem; a real mix of love and hate because the game really is very enjoyable, fun and scary except for these control problems – and even that is a problem which is mostly tolerable and manageable. Like well-conditioned hair.

It doesn’t always work, but one thing Dead Space definitely does is try – and that’s important. In the past Electronic Arts has been slated for spewing out endless refreshes of the core franchises, but over the past year or so we’ve seen the company start to change that where it can with games like Spore. Dead Space is another important stage in that process, using a variety of gameplay styles and clever little tricks to do so.

Dead Space isn’t a perfect game. The controls are sticky, the levels are sometimes padded out needlessly and the atmosphere occasionally loses its scary edge – but it has strengths too. The graphics and presentation are top-notch, the violence is brutal and engaging and the plot is deeper than you’d expect. In the end, the game is just plain fun, so while it may not be to everyone’s cup of tea it certainly won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.
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