Demo Daze

I’ve been loving these free PS3 demos if only because they tend more often to convince me NOT to spend $60 on a game that in concept seems perfect for me, but in execution, fails.

Resident Evil 5:

There is just too much going on in this game.  RE has slowly been evolving from a suspense-based series to an action-based series.  Unfortunately, it isn’t working for me.  The designers of RE5 have not changed the gameplay mechanics much, but they have thrown more enemies at you.  This makes the game more difficult and challenging, but not better.

The anachronistic controls can’t compensate for this type of gameplay.  To aim and shoot your gun, you must be stationary (ridiculous).  There is no shooting on the fly/strafing while firing.  Secondly, the targeting is clunky.  If you want to make RE5 competitive as a shooter (e.g. Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance 2, CoD World at War) you have to update the mechanics.  Making characters in an action-based game stand on a stationary vertical axis to shoot in this day and age is not just unacceptable, it’s lazy game design.

Thanks Rez Evil 5 developers!  You saved me $60 but ruined my all-time favorite franchise by refusing to modernize!

Lord of the Rings: Conquest:

This game is awesome–if it was meant for the PS2.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t measure up to the PS3 platform.  Another great concept that fails in execution.  The fighting is clunky and confusing.  The pixelated characters can’t stand up against the great graphics of the great games on PS3 (MGS4, CoD World at War, Fallout, Heavenly Sword).

It’s too bad, as the character classes (warrior, mage, scout, archer, and unlockable “heroes”) would make for interesting gameplay, if the gameplay itself didn’t suck.

The Demo doesn’t allow for it, but you can play as good guys (elves, men, ents, dwarves) or the bad guys (Sauron, Ring-Wraiths, Orcs).  Again, good concept.  I think I’ll replay Heavenly Sword instead of buying this.

*Note to developers:  Stop Releasing Half-Baked Games.  Take the time to make a good, polished, finished product.

Supernatural: Flowers Under the Deliverance Stairs

The following is an exchange about the Supernatural (one of our favorite shows) episode 4.11, “Family Remains.”

—–Original Message—–

From: Gregor
To:Eugene
Sent: Sat, 17 Jan 2009 5:56 pm
Subject: Re: Flowers Under the Deliverance Stairs

I thought it was really bad. Except for the very beginning and the end, it didn’t even matter that the main characters were Dean and Sam. They were so generically written that it could have been any crappy horror movie or TV show.

The plot was so predictable. Of course the uncle was going to die, and of course the father would have to kill one of the baddies to be a hero to his family. And some of the crap just made no sense. How do these grown-up animal kids know how to spell, and why would they know to search and empty the trunk of the car of all weapons (but not the flashlights)?

All in all, a very sloppily written episode. And I also think the retconning of Dean — “I didn’t just torture because I had to; I liked it!” — is a lame, lazy direction to take the character. It felt like an outside writer wrote this episode, so I hope it’s quickly forgotten and ignored by the rest of the writing staff.

I heard Smallville was actually pretty good. Guess it was opposite night on Thursday.

Tonight’s BSG night. Last night’s episode is at OnDemand for free, so we’ll be checking it out.

From: Eugene

To: Gregor

Subject: Re: Flowers Under the Deliverance Stairs

I found it to be tense, but stupid.  It was like a low budget slasher flick.  And how come those kids could move without making any noise (when the uncle was killed) through narrow crawlspaces–they didn’t have supernatural (pun intended) stalking powers, they were just human tunnel rats.
The trunk weapon theft pissed me off too.  First off, they had only a few minutes to steal everything, right?  That’s a lot of stuff to take.  And Sam and Dean’s stash is in a hidden compartment in the trunk…how’d feral tunnel rat(s) know that?!?!  Good catch on the spelling…what school did those freaks go to?

And the family seemed particularly blase at the end of the episode.  They were just hanging out at the house where their brother/uncle was MURDERED a few hours before.  Any other family would have been like, “Let’s get the F out of here now!”  It seemed the episode implied they were going to stay at that house…are you kidding me?!?!  And how were they going to explain the dead uncle to the authorities?

Throwaway episode.  I too hated Dean’s “I loved torturing” line.  What was that?  Totally out of character and unnecessary, especially considering he already opened up about Hell.  Are we going to have a new revelation every week?

In The Gaming Industry, Common Sense Is A Major Breakthrough

Holy shit! Nintendo just filed a patent application for a system that would allow all players — regardless of skill level — to enjoy and finish even the most difficult games.

The application proposes in-game video hints, to help guide you through the tough parts of a game. Though you can already find tactical help at YouTube or GameFAQs for most games, I appreciate the convenience of having the assistance right on my TV.

But the big breakthrough mentioned in the patent is that Nintendo would offer players the ability to skip to any section of a game at any time — even if you haven’t “earned” your way there. (As if I didn’t already earn the right to see everything I want when I plunked down sixty bucks!)

If you’ve been here before, you know that we think it’s about goddamn time that someone started doing this.

Let’s hope Nintendo follows through on the idea. And let’s hope Sony, Microsoft, and the third-party game developers find some way to follow suit.

Guitar Hero World Bore

I got GH World Tour for Xmas (guitar only, not full band).  It’s a great game to play with friends (we bought an extra guitar to play cooperatively and head to head).  What a blast!  My wife, who hates videogames, and was making fun of us while we faux-guitared ourselves to exhaustion, actually tried it out an loved it.  She’s played several more sessions with me in my basement gaming/video dungeon over the past week.

However, the “World Tour” career option is  pretty boring and redundant to play through.  Every successful gig ends with that same “You Rock!” signal and there’s no set up, personality, or variance between gigs.  Sure, you can customize your character but that doesn’t do too much for me, since she’s still just a voiceless cardboard (albeit blue-skinned and pretty) cutout.  There are no groupies, no puking backstage, no rock ‘n roll antics, no egomaniacal clashes between band members in between sets.  It’s just random gig at random place after random gig at random place.  No character development whatsoever.

Again, the set lists at gigs are so random as to be ridiculous…you’re going to end up playing lame songs you hate (Band on the Run and Steely Dan for me) along with the ones you like (Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins).

I’m definitely having more fun just setting my own playlists and creating my own gigs.  I’m a metal guy, I don’t have time for lame-ass Steely Dan flute rock (oh, wait, that’s Jethro Tull…well, they both suck).

Finally, the fact that most of the songs are not available to you when you purchase the game (you have to unlock them through play) is unacceptable.  I bought this game, which means I bought the music, and I want to play it RIGHT NOW!

Yes, I know there is a cheat code to unlock these songs, but this goes back to Gregor’s point that “You Bought That Game But You Don’t Own It.”

Dead Space: A Conversation

The following is a series of emails between Gregor and myself discussing Dead Space. [WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS]

Eugene says:

I played like 6 hours of Dead Space yesterday.  I’m really enjoying the game.  Sure, the store is dumb, and necromorphs dropping cash money and plasma packets is lame, but I can get over those plot conveniences.  I ended my night last night by blowing up the huge boss in the zero g tube in horticulture.  That chapter was kind of annoying, what with all the running back and forth to blow up the necromorphs who had flatulent backsides.

I love the zero g launching (it can get confusing!).  And thank god for stasis cheats, or I’d have died a lot more.

My favorite gun is one I downloaded…it’s called the Big Force Gun.  I’ve powered it up a bit.  At close range it just shatters the necros into pieces, though it’s useless at long range.

It is tough to choose what gear to use your power nodes on, that is for sure.  I wish there were a few more laying around to make it a bit easier.  Heck, I even used a cheat to get 10 extra nodes and still wish I had some more.

The little things I enjoy are the vid screen when your buddies talk to you and the video logs.  It’s cool how they are just a mini green screen in front of you and you can still interact w/ the main game while they play.  It’s also jarring sometimes when they first call you up…the static from the initial comlink sounds disturbingly (I’m sure this is intentional) like a monster sneaking up behind you.

It’s also freaky how the necros appear out of nowhere.   My default maneuver in shooters is to walk backwards while strafing and shooting baddies coming at me…but often in DS they are right behind me too!  Yikes!

Gregor says:

A powered up Force Gun would be pretty unstoppable, at least at close range. I used the Line Gun most of the time, after noding it up all the way. But I liked having the Force Gun as my readied gun, most of the time. So if something jumped out right next to me, I could demolish it without worrying too much about aiming — or wasting my line racks.

The Contact Beam and Pulse Rifle were useless to me. And I never even tried the Ripper, though I heard it’s fun.

How did you like the Regenerator guy in Chapter 5? Personally, I hated him, at least while I was in the pitch black lab where I had to kill the other guys, too, before Kendra could unlock the door. The cryogenics lab was more fun. But I just didn’t like that there’s a monster that’s indestructable, by normal measures. It changes the game’s tacit agreement with the player: monsters get to scare you, and you get to kill them. Then again, that was probably the point, letting you know that there are no hard and fast rules, so you always have to be worried. I know a lot of people love him.

I actually enjoyed the hydroponics area, if only because it was a change from fetching items. I guess fetching noxious fart monsters isn’t really any different, but it changed how I played, for some reason. I decided not to use the right stick to clue me in on where to go next (which I did compulsively the rest of the game). Instead, I just explored every inch of that level to find the guys. It was like hide and seek. There are are no other levels like that though, so you’re safe in that regard.

The game’s interface — the pop-up with the menus, videos, and map — really is fantastic. I hope other games start to use something similar, so you don’t always have to have a HUD onscreen. I also like that time doesn’t stop when you’re browsing that stuff, so you feel just a bit of tension, in case something jumps out at you.

The zero-g sections are the best. I could’ve spent most of the game in zero-g.

And yeah, I did the stasis cheat all the time. I wasn’t above giving myself extra oxygen, too.

Node management is tough. I spent every spare cent on nodes, even if it meant having to use the plasma cutter more than I wanted, to conserve my other ammo and keep me from buying any.

Eugene says:

I’m glad you mentioned the indestructible monster!  I almost brought that up in my email to you.  It pissed me off.  I mean, I had already largely suspending my disbelief for this game, but I have liked how the necros are created by feeding off dead persons flesh, or how the huge one is using the hydroponics lab to grow.  But one thing that always bothers me about these types of games is how they throw out the law of conservation of mass…If I blew that creature’s arms and legs off, he cannot regenerate new limbs w/o a significant amount of “new” (well dead) flesh to regenerate new ones.  Now, if he was crawling around reattaching the ones I blew off, that might be ok.  But I don’t think he was.  If he’d done that, it woulda been cool if you had to obliterate him, or separate his limbs into different rooms, or burn him.   Anything but spontaneous regeneration w/o new organic inputs.  That always irked me about Res Evil 4…one of the bad guys (if you played it, you’ll remember), was this Napoleonic little freakshow.  He then grew (like Apache Chief from Superfriends) into a 50 foot monster out of a human body.  Now, if these games were about magic, I’d give it to them, but they try to be science-based.  The necromorphs are an alien race, as far as I can tell, not a magical faerie species.

Now, the cryogenic freezing of his ass was a cool solution, I’ll admit, but I’m pissed I didn’t get to shatter him.  I’m assuming he shows up again later….

The pulse rifle was useful on the boss, that’s about it.  It probably makes sense to power up the plasma cutter, since the ammo’s so readily available, but it just gets boring.

I like the mines on the Line Gun, but it’s too slow for me and the ammo is pretty darn scarce..  I used the saw gun and found it confusing and not to my liking.  I don’t even have the contact beam yet.

I really enjoyed that one of the gas bags was hiding underneath the feeding platform in the hyrdroponics area, and that you had to activate the food-jug lift, stasis, look down and shoot the guy.  I stood there for a minute and kept loading food jugs before I realized there was a dude down there!  I was like, “Pretty sneaky sis!”

Oh, and the shoot the asteroids mini-game….stupid.

Gregor says:

[Eugene said]: But one thing that always bothers me about these types of games is how they throw out the law of conservation of mass.

Thank you! That bugged me about him, too.

[Eugene said]:  I really enjoyed that one of the gas bags was hiding underneath the feeding platform in the hydroponics area

That was cool. Kathy actually spotted him, early on in that level. God knows how long I would been hunting him, otherwise.

[Eugene said]:  Oh, and the shoot the asteroids mini-game….stupid.

Ugh. I hate when games add mini-games that are requirements to go onward. A lot of people have gotten stuck at that part, because the skills you need to get past it have nothing to do with the rest of the game. Okami had some mini-games that actually prompted us to quit it. We just got sick of fishing and other crap

Eugene says:

On Dead Space, I watched Yahtzee’s review last night.  I agreed w/ it to a degree, but I don’t think the game was trying to be all that original, and I clearly enjoyed it more than he.  I do agree w/ him that unsympathetic, robot characters, do not a good game make. By not having Isaac speak, we don’t give that much of a shit about his existence.  He’s just a suited up killing machine.  Upon reflection, how great would it have been to have Isaac be scared shitless (as any normal person would have been), and have him freaking out, hiding in corners during cut scenes.  I mean, the non-reaction when faced w/ bloody people smashing their heads into walls was too little, not too much.  I don’t know why games do things like this–create a cardboard character.  Resistance’s main character is the same, no talking.  Developers must think they are being creative and original by doing this, when it really just makes the game unemotional (a mistake in my view).  It’s a nice conceit for a one hour game, but not for the development of a franchise.  I mean, wasn’t the main character the one of the best parts of Uncharted, Ratchet, MGS, etc? Why make a game w/ a character people don’t care about?  Big mistake.

Eugene says:

Yes, finished Dead Space.  I enjoyed that game for what it was.  Sure, I had my quibbles (how could anyone mistake these necromorphs and their hive-mind for “God”?!?!?! What was the chick I went into the mission with doing stealing the Marker…that made no sense when she saw the clear results of rapid necromorph infestation (imagine if these things spread to more ships). And why did I have to drag that dumb Marker all over in the anti-climactic final stage?).  Then the big, dumb, stupid, monstrous last boss.  But danged if I didn’t love just being creeped out!

Gregor says:

I totally agree with your assessment of Dead Space. The religious aspect was silly, the plot twist of my traitorous crewmate was stupid, and the marker dragging made no sense. But I really liked it for what it was, too. I beat the final boss on my second try, using nothing but the plasma cutter. (I died the first time when he grabbed me and ate me.)

The DLC I’d Like To See

I’ve written before about how game developers are, for some reason, still reluctant to give us players control of how we use the content we’ve bought from them. Now, there’s a perfect solution that gives them financial incentive to cater to players like me, but it’s not yet being used to its fullest advantage.

Many of us — maybe even a quiet majority of us — who buy videogames are more tourists than explorers. We don’t need to master each and every game we play. We just want to get through them, picking up some skills and enjoying the highlights along the way. This is especially true for us gamers who work full time, have gotten married, and have less time to dedicate to each title we hope to play.

When I vacation in a new city, I take advantage of maps, books, and guided tours, and I don’t feel like I’m being shortchanged on the experience. I know it’s not the same as taking up residence, immersing myself in the culture, and learning about my environs through trial and error. But I don’t expect it to be. If I don’t have the money or time to go native, an assisted visit is still a major step up from vicariously traveling via a Rick Steves special or a magazine article.

I often play games like a tourist, too. There are plenty of titles that have inspired me to perfect my skills (e.g., Shadow of the Colossus, Gladius, all the Final Fantasy games, etc.). But with many games, I’m happy just to get through them — and to do so with a reasonable amount of speed and ease. If I need outside assistance, like walkthroughs or cheat codes, so be it.

As online access has become ubiquitous for this generation of consoles, publishers have started offering downloadable content (DLC) for their games. For a small fee (usually topping out at a few bucks), players can buy additional costumes, weapons, songs, and other items for games. So long as the add-on content isn’t stuff that should have been included in the game in the first place, I’m fine with the concept.

DLC could, and should, be the perfect vehicle for giving me the gameplay I want — and at an extra profit for the developers. But they haven’t gotten it quite right, at least not yet.

A couple of weeks ago, EA posted several DLC packages at the PlayStation Store for Dead Space. Some of them were pretty cool and useful. Eugene, who’s playing through my copy of the game, bought a supercharged version of the force gun, which is already one of Dead Space’s best weapons. Additional packages included upgraded armor and overpowered versions of the game’s other weapons.

Those packages are decent. I applaud EA for making some game-enhancing DLC available at all. Most games still haven’t latched onto the trend.

But EA didn’t go far enough in their efforts. They missed a shot at offering the one option I would have bought immediately: invincible armor. If you’re going to offer upgraded items, why not offer the ultimate in upgrades? Why only go partway?

I enjoyed Dead Space, but I probably won’t be replaying it. However, were invincibility available, I just might feel like revisiting the game, whether playing it seriously or just for laughs. It might be fun to put the game on Impossible difficulty and just run through it weaponless, killing everything with my bare hands. Or maybe I wouldn’t kill much of anything at all. I’d see how many creatures I could get to follow me through an entire level.

And it’s not just for replaying. Even for my first go-round, I would always purchase invincibility (or its offensive counterpart: weapons that kill everything onscreen in one shot) for those games that are too difficult or that take too long to finish in the first place.

Sometimes, I really do want to play through a game, but I don’t think it’s quite good enough that it’s worth spending more than a few weekend hours to suss out how to beat it (Conan and Viking come to mind). DLC could be the solution. Similarly, it’s a great way for publishers to make some money off of those players who rent or borrow a game and only have a limited time to finish it.

In the future, I hope developers will consider offering this kind of content. It’s worth it for players like me — and for them. Satisfied gamers who finish games quickly are customers who will be happy (and ready) to buy another game, soon!

Dead Space: Press Button, Receive Beacon.

I don’t scare easily. I used to think I didn’t scare at all. Hell, I’ve watched every minute of every episode of every season of Dancing with the Stars, and I sleep just fine. (Lame excuse: My wife covers DwtS for her blog.)

But Dead Space changed all that.

It isn’t scary in the Silent Hill sense: eerie, foreboding, cerebral, and lonely. Dead Space is more along the lines of a Universal Studios amusement park ride or a high-budget haunted house, and about as subtle.

As you walk down a mostly predetermined path, shit jumps out at you, you scream “Eff you!” at your TV, and then you dump an entire clip of hard-earned ammo into something that you could’ve killed with a couple of well-placed shots — if only you weren’t still so ratcheted up from the last time this exact same thing happened, two minutes earlier.

Basically, it’s about twelve straight hours of this:

For the first several chapters of Dead Space, I could only play for an hour or so at a time. The game wasn’t too creepy or gross, but it made me so tense that I started to get a headache. Eventually, I was able to remind myself that videogame death, while undesirable, is often inevitable and always temporary.

A good deal of credit for the game’s effectiveness goes to the sound design — specifically the music. There’s almost always music playing in Dead Space, though you often won’t even notice it, because the music matches your mood so well. It’s more reactive than evocative.

In most games, music is used to elicit feelings: excitement, joy, sadness, dread. But in Dead Space, the music seems to react right along with you, reinforcing your emotions rather than altering them. When you’re in a safe area, the music is almost unnoticeable. When you accidentally kick a metal box in in a dark hallway, the music thumps and swells a bit, like your heart in your chest. And when a creature drops from the ceiling right in front of your character, a string section squeals (likely in sync with your voice from your couch). The cacophony lasts until you’ve killed the beast and taken some time to catch your breath.

There are few actual musical themes in the game. The score feels largely aleatoric (random and/or improvised). Combining this randomness of content with the reactive nature of the music makes the score almost feel more like sound effects than an orchestral soundtrack. It’s an interesting approach, and I loved it, in concept and execution.

The game looks good, too. The ship’s interiors and exteriors are detailed and gorgeous, the characters are well-designed, and the game’s humanoid monsters, called necromorphs, are suitably nightmarish. The occasional epic set piece really does look epic, even on my measly 32-inch screen. (The game’s concept art is well worth checking out, too, once you’ve completed a playthrough.)

Occasionally, though, I felt that the creators mistook dark and claustrophobic for atmospheric and spooky. Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Disaster Report, Raw Danger, and Indigo Prophecy (Hey, the first half of it was good!) have shown how true atmosphere allows the coolest and creepiest moments to happen in plain view.

But Dead Space doesn’t always trust itself enough to scare you with the lights on. When you’re in an empty room, and some necromorphs suddenly drop in, the ship’s security system locks all doors — to quarantine the area, sensibly — and then…shuts off the lights. Why the hell would the ship’s designer make it that much more difficult for the crew to spot, capture, and kill invaders? There is no reason, of course. It’s just an obvious excuse to stack the deck against the player, and it brought me out of the game whenever it happened.

And it took about two chapters (of the game’s twelve) for me to get tired of the long, twisty, cramped hallways between almost every set of rooms. Even if there were no monsters onboard, it would be a chore to make it to the nearest bathroom in an emergency.

Fortunately, the game’s designers added a cool technique for navigating the ship. Instead of the little maps that often appear in the upper-right corner of some games (e.g., Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy), you press in your controller’s right analog stick, and a line lights up on the ground, directing you to your next destination. You never have to worry about the frustration of being lost or wondering what to do next. I sometimes depend so much on those little maps that I watch them more than what I’m supposed to be looking at. Dead Space’s on-demand pathfinding was much better for keeping me immersed.

And I was immersed, despite a story that kind of sucks. The mythology of the game is interesting, if cliched: something about mystic artifacts, religious zealots, and eternal life. And I liked learning about the Ishimura’s last days from the video, audio, and text logs you find laying about. But your own story is just stupid.

You play Isaac Clarke, an engineer on a small spaceship, the Kellion, that responds to a distress call sent from a big spaceship, the Ishimura. After crash landing on the Ishimura, the Kellion is disabled, so you need to find another way home for you and your surviving crew members.

Your ex-girlfriend, Nicole, happens to be stationed on the Ishimura, so I guess you want to save her, too. At least I’m assuming that’s the case. It’s hard to tell, considering that Isaac never says a single word throughout the game. There’s never any reason for you to care about Nicole — or Isaac, for that matter.

And why make Nicole my ex-girlfriend? What kind of incentive does that give me? You couldn’t get me to lend one of my real life exes twenty bucks, much less run through a ship of zombie-aliens. Nicole should have been a family member, or at the very least your current girlfriend, so there’s some sense of emotional consequence connected to her survival.

Apparently, the only way to save Nicole and get off the Ishimura alive is to embark on a series of fetch quests. Your Kellion compatriots order you to get this part and that part to fix this machine. Then, get this chemical and that chemical from different labs to make a poisonous solution. And so on. Each of these quests is, of course, really just a way to set you up for a series of ambushes by the necromorphs that lurk inside the ship’s ventilation system.

When the necromorphs show up, it’s time to start shooting. Isaac has plenty of weapons to choose from, though you’ll probably settle on a select few that you like best. I just used one, the Line Gun, for almost the entire game, because it could hit from long range, did a ton of damage (after upgrades), and had a wide enough area of effect that I didn’t have to worry so much about my horrible reflexes and aiming skills. It was the one weapon that didn’t really have a downside, except that its Line Rack ammo was sometimes at a premium. When I was low on Racks, I temporarily switched to the game’s default weapon, the Plasma Cutter, a laser pistol for which it’s almost impossible to run out of shots.

When you can’t find the ammunition and med packs you need inside one of the Ishimura’s many supply boxes or strewn among the viscera of slain enemies, you can always purchase them from one of the automated stores stationed around the ship. I felt a little guilty that I always seemed to have enough money to buy the weapons I needed to commit monster genocide, and yet the hundreds of Ishimura crew members before me were so poor or foolish that they apparently never combined their meager resources to buy themselves a few guns and some armor.

Speaking of armor and feeble civilians, I’ve always thought it was silly in videogames that the faceless extras in cutscenes always die from a single gunshot or stabbing, while the main character can somehow take a dozen bullets to the face before slowing down. In Dead Space though, this actually makes some sense. Isaac himself isn’t any more invulnerable than a normal human. His armor, however, is. Your hit points aren’t really yours; they belong to your armor. It’s a small detail, but I appreciated it.

Dead Space’s standard combat is fun. The mechanics are similar to other third-person shooters (e.g. Resident Evil, Uncharted), and the difficulty is well-balanced. There are spots where you’ll die a few times. But because the necromorphs are programmed to pop out of the exact same place at the exact same moment each time you enter an area, it’s easy to prepare yourself for subsequent attempts after a restart.

The trick to fighting in Dead Space is retraining yourself to keep from targeting the usual body parts. Unlike most shooters, going for the head or chest hardly does anything to your enemies. Instead, you kill them most efficiently by going for appendages: arms, legs, tentacles. This can be tough, especially when your instincts scream for you to blow off the head every time something jumps into view. But that’s part of what keeps the game fun and tense; you decapitate an enemy, and he still comes running at you.

If things get too frantic or your ammo gets too low, you can use Stasis and Kinesis powers, which allow you to slow down enemies and hurl nearby items (including detached body parts) as weapons, respectively. I didn’t use Kinesis too much. But I grew addicted to Stasis. It gives you a few seconds to duck out of the way of an incoming attack and put yourself into a better position for retaliation. Your supply of Stasis Juice (or whatever gives you the ability) is limited, but I used a cheat code to get more whenever I was in real danger. I’m not proud.

Though every enemy encounter seems like an event of some magnitude at the beginning of the game, the sameness of the hallways and small labs and control rooms — and the endless battles that occur within them — eventually seem like filler to make sure the game lasts at least ten hours. Almost every chapter is essentially the same: fetch this, fetch that, fetch the other thing, and then leave the deck. And sometimes, even the locations are the same. By the fifth chapter, you’re already revisiting areas you’ve previously scoured.

But amidst the filler, there are some truly epic set pieces and some innovative twists on typical shooter gameplay.

At several points in Dead Space, you’ll enter zero gravity areas. In these, your magnetic boots turn just about any surface into a floor, from your perspective. So, you can leap to a ceiling a hundred feet overhead, and the room will flip over for you. This adds a truly three-dimensional feel to the game, it can make a single room feel like like several different ones, and fights become much more complex — and less predictable.

The scale of some of the set pieces is awesome. In particular, a task that consists of placing an SOS beacon on an object suitable for launching into deeper space provides one of the most memorable sequences in the game.

And all of Chapter Six (Hydroponics) is a blast. Rather than strict fetch quests, it’s more of a Hide and Seek or Capture the Flag level. Plus, it has what may be the best battle of the whole game. I enjoyed that chapter so much, I was a little disappointed when the fetch quests returned.

Overall, I enjoyed Dead Space a lot. Sure, I have some complaints, but I almost always have complaints. The combat was fun, the visual design was fantastic, the music was outstanding, and — most importantly — it was truly scary. At twelve hours, it did feel a little padded. I’ll take a tightly executed four (Portal) or eight (Heavenly Sword) hour experience over a longer good-but-repetitive game every time. But, all in all, it was twelve hours well-spent.

Election Day Surprise–Resistance 2 in the Mail!

Sweet.  I’ve been waiting for this game to come out since I finished the amazing Resistance 1.  My bro got this for me for my B-Day and it came today.  Wasn’t expecting it until tomorrow.

One thing that I’m mad about is that you can only carry two guns in R2.  I understand they want you to make strategic decisions and this makes the game more “realistic” as you couldn’t carry four huge guns at once, but I hate this much realism.  I would’ve at least liked the choice of 3 weapons.  I know in R1 I LOVED the sniper rifle, but w/ only two weapon slots, I doubt it makes sense to hang onto that option much if they have it in R2.

I’ll be interested to see what I think about the limited weapon slots….I’m willing to be open to it, but can’t say I’m happy about it now.