Friday, 22 August 2008

Hype Pipe: Dead Space

Unfortunately for the team behind Dead Space theirs is a game that, for most, will never be more than the sum of its parts. Just one minute of gameplay footage makes it very clear that Dead Space is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve. But, when those influences happen to be Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon and Resident Evil 4, is that really so bad after all?

If you subscribe to the modernist doctrine of constant invention and innovation, then Dead Space is a game that will surely disappoint. However, if you're an oh-so-cool postmodern cat like myself and you enjoy such reinterpretation, then get prepared to cack your knickers.

What impresses me the most about Dead Space is that whilst it can't escape what it owes to stories, settings and mechanics that we've already seen, it still strives to prove itself. Clearly, this is one original IP that EA are not happy to simply push out into the big, bad world and leave to fend for itself. EA have taken care of this baby, providing the little blighter with its very own animated film and comic book. Not many newly acquired IP's can boast such treatment, and even fewer endeavour to make such things more than just promotional tools. The comic and animated film both take the form of prequels that tell the story of just how things got quite so deranged and for the time being, are doing a perfect job of setting up a smart, self-contained mythology.

What I've seen of the animation is hardly anything to write home about, but thankfully it is surpassed by the quality of the comic, which itself is animated and can be found on or the console network of your choice. The distinctive art style of Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) is a considered and informed choice and just goes to show quite how seriously EA are taking it. Whether you like it or not, you can't knock them for effort. More cue-taking can be seen in the Bioshock-esque advertising and safety posters that can be seen around the game's setting: The Ishimura, a 'planet cracking' mining ship. Whilst they lack the flair or depth of Bioshock's art design, I still applaud them for trying and for realising that every element in a scene should be considered.

Whether it'll scare me or not, time will only tell. But everything so far suggests that I will be massively entertained. The combat seems to take the 'survival' element of its genrevery seriously; forcing you to strategically disarm (literally) and incapacitate your enemies. The lighting and environmental design seem to be perfectly accompanied by some fantastic audio work and I have no doubt that what this game lacks in innovation, will be made up for with plenty of atmosphere.

You can, and should, check out the truckload of Dead Space media over at Gametrailers, including the aforementioned animated comics and specific documentaries on sound design and 'strategic dismemberment'.

The Faux Bot

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