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Dead Space Highlights Disparity Between Plot and Gameplay 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-is-bob-see-bob-kill-aliens dept.
Gamasutra is running an opinion piece praising recent horror-action game Dead Space for its pacing and gameplay while simultaneously criticizing the plot and the attempts to scare the player. Quoting: "What Dead Space is, is carefully and stylishly unoriginal. You'll love playing it, but when you aren't playing it, it's hard to say what's so great about it. It has some really great set pieces, some sweet effects, solid gameplay, an amazing interface and that's all. Anything and everything having to do with dialogue and story comes off as rote. ... You get the feeling the developer are trying very hard, though. When I see a dark shape in the distance, which turns and disappears, I don't get scared. I know he'll pop out of a vent later! Likewise, when I find a scientist who promptly slits her throat because of the horror, I just check for an item drop. None of the survivors ever surprise you and go hostile (which I think would have been a brilliant scare), so you never have to worry."
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Dead Space Highlights Disparity Between Plot and Gameplay

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  • Porn movie (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The plot is not that important. That's the answer Dead Space demonstrates.

  • At least it's a change from the usual, which is either a great plot with little gameplay (Final Fantasy), or the same old FPS action with no plot.

    • by philspear (1142299) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:35PM (#25936025)

      Don't know what FPS games you've been playing, but there have been some great ones or at least well fleshed out ones. Halo has a strong plot that I found interesting. The half life games as well. I'll give you that most FPSes have little plot, but most games of all genres are crap that should not be purchased or played.

      Also, I have issues with saying final fantasy games have great plots. They seem to be nonsensical japanese poetry about an apocalypse revolving around androgenous bad guys with liberal translation errors and vagueness giving the impression there's more going on than there actually is.

      • by malkavian (9512)

        Japanese games, written primarily for the Japanese culture.
        If you don't dive into the culture, you'll miss a lot of the relevance of the games (though they're still great entertainment, as a personal opinion).

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        are we talking about the same halo? a strong plot? what the fuck did you smoke before you played it?
        • Apparently millions of teen and preteen zombies swearing at each other and tea bagging the dead in multiplayer is what passes for a strong plot in an Xbox game these days.
          • Well, that would be the multiplayer plot I guess, I was talking about the single player "story" mode.

            What you said was like saying "I just watched the 'citizen kane' dvd. What a terrible movie! It was just text saying 'DVD menu: Play, Options, and Directors commentary!'"

        • are we talking about the same halo? a strong plot? what the fuck did you smoke before you played it?

          Look, of course not everyone is going to like any given plot. I'm assuming you didn't. You have to admit though that Halo had more plot than say, Doom, Super mario bros, or metroid. There was an actual story. Characters. Stuff happened. Literary devices even. That's not the case for many games, current games included. Even the newest Mario and Metroid games had almost zero plot.

          If Halo had little plot, then theres really no way for an FPS to have much of a plot and still be a game.

        • by Gulthek (12570)

          Yes, Halo. Yes, a strong plot. Just because a game is on a console doesn't mean that it lacks depth. Remember that this game is coming from the developers of Marathon, one of the richest FPS universes ever created.

          The Halo games provide a fantastic lens for focusing on one aspect of the plot. The books provide another. The audio drama provides yet another. Honestly, there is actually quite a bit there. Moving, inspiring, and with tremendous gravitas; Halo presents the story of the supreme soldier and his tr

      • I'm not saying all FPSes are bad. I love Halo, and I love Half-Life.

        Nor would I suggest all JRPGs have good plots.

        But your examples prove my point -- how many games are there like Halo?

        90% of everything is crap...

      • by ChrmnMa0 (951030)

        Don't know what FPS games you've been playing, but there have been some great ones or at least well fleshed out ones. Halo has a strong plot that I found interesting. The half life games as well. I'll give you that most FPSes have little plot, but most games of all genres are crap that should not be purchased or played.

        Also, I have issues with saying final fantasy games have great plots. They seem to be nonsensical japanese poetry about an apocalypse revolving around androgenous bad guys with liberal translation errors and vagueness giving the impression there's more going on than there actually is.

        score!!!!

      • by knails (915340)
        Not all Final Fantasy games are about androgynous bad guys and an apocalypse. In fact, that's pretty much just FF7. Sure, the crystal series, games 1-5, which you've probably never played, are about the destruction of the world due to the corruption of man abusing the power of the elemental crystals. However, 6, and 8-12, are more about political action and the consequences of war. Final Fantasy will always be about saving the world, hence 'Final', but they don't necessarily have to be about an apocalypse.
      • If Halo had a plot, I completely missed it. Half-Life has an great plot; if only they'd give it a friggin' ending.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Zekasu (1059298)

      You're right.. Just like I've never seen a FPS in the last year and a half with no plot whatsoever, and a JRPG with no gameplay.

      Seriously, just because ice cream's banned, the only person with ice cream is some guy whose offering you free ice cream with his shit on it, doesn't mean you have to enjoy it or eat it.

      The problem I see with most FPS is the fact that you'll end up shooting the same thing over and over, with little surprise because, dun-dun-dun, after you pull that lever, a monster pops out. I mean

      • by feepness (543479)

        the guy you couldn't kill in Resident Evil? You'd run like hell if he was chasing you, because you couldn't beat him (until the very end, that is).

        Dead Space had a boss you couldn't kill until (his) very end who chased you around for awhile.

      • by Fred_A (10934)

        I mean, is it more fun to act in a movie or watch it being acted out?

        Few places are more mind numbingly dull than a set (except for the few minutes every hour when something actually happens). So that's a no brainer.

        If watching films was as exciting as making them the whole movie industry would have died out in the 1910s...

    • by manekineko2 (1052430) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @08:12PM (#25937941)

      Try the Deus Ex or System Shock series. Good plot, good atmosphere, good action.

      For something more recent (and with better graphics) Bioshock.

      • stalker: shadow of chernobyl

        excellent shooter, good graphics, coherent plot, and a sandbox environment. they created an interesting world, and you get to deal with it however you want to, for the most part. i haven't played the new one yet, so i can't vouch for it.
      • I second Deus Ex, excellent story, quite engrossing although I'd argue it wasn't an FPS but a 3D adventure game with shooting (just because you don't spend _most_ of your time aiming at things to shoot).

        Bioshock tried too (I know, I know, some people loved it), and Half Life does fairly well too.

        Personally, I liked the minimalistic story telling in the Resident Evil series as a perfect balance of "why you're doing this" and the shooter/horror mechanic.

        That said, Dead Space has an excellent lead-up story (th

      • Kudos on the System Shock reference. I have only played the second one, but to this day I still fear the sounds of lil primates yelling at me, fearful that they may try to telekinitically throw "things" at me.
    • Well the movie, Dead Space: Downfall [imdb.com] doesn't even have the enjoyment of any gameplay. The animation is interesting (1990's hand drawn cartoon style, sort of like Aeon Flux, with some CG sets and ships), but the plot is predictable, since it's a prequal, and you already know that everyone on the ship dies because that's how the game starts.

      It does have Bruce Boxleitner, which is why we watched it in the first place, but should have turned it off after he died 20 minutes in.

      Lots of blood, guts, and gore, an

      • by sammy baby (14909)

        It does have Bruce Boxleitner, which is why we watched it in the first place, but should have turned it off after he died 20 minutes in.

        I HAVEN'T SEEN IT, YOU INSENSITIVE oh who am I kidding. I wasn't going to watch it anyway.

  • "Likewise, when I find a scientist who promptly slits her throat because of the horror, I just check for an item drop. None of the survivors ever surprise you and go hostile (which I think would have been a brilliant scare), so you never have to worry."

    Worry is when the characters break the fourth wall and come after you.

  • Saves me $60.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not sure the game is worth $60, but it definitely worth picking up. It is a blast to play. Honestly, this isn't a game played just for the plot.

    • by Rurik (113882)

      Picked it up this weekend for $30 at Target's Black Friday sale. Saturday night the stores still have tons of Dead Space in stock. I would never pay $60 for any new game (well, maybe Fallout 3), but it was definitely worth the $30. Especially when you can beat it and sell it used for $45 :)

  • A dark shape... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tcopeland (32225) <{moc.dnalepoceelsamoht} {ta} {mot}> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:44PM (#25936119) Homepage

    From the article:

    > "You get the feeling the developer are trying very hard, though. When I see a
    > dark shape in the distance, which turns and disappears, I don't get scared."

    I thought the F.E.A.R. developers did this very well... when Alma would scuttle by in my peripheral vision it was almost always good for a start of surprise. Now if only my laptop had been able to play it with all the dials turned up...

    • Never got around to the expansions but holy shit - that ending! So great.
    • by XMode (252740)

      I have to say, out of all the games I have played F.E.A.R. was by far the scariest. There was a part where you are going down a ladder. As you step on the ladder your view swings around so you are facing the right direction, and Alma is standing where you were seconds ago. I physically jumped back in my chair (and let go of the keyboard and mouse). I loved it.

      • Second this. I've played that game at least 4 times, and every time I not only jump out of my chair, but I hit some key on the keyboard that makes my guy fall down off the ladder.

        If you've played the expansion the scene with the weird alien things killing your partner really freaked me out too.
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Personally I could do without the "horror" game genre.

      When effective, it creates an atmosphere in which I'd rather just turn off the game than endure an hours-long exercise in maintaining stress levels.

      When ineffective, it creates an atmosphere in which I'd rather just turn off the game than endure an hours-long exercise in maintaining wakefulness.

      In other words, I already have a job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @04:58PM (#25936231)

    While I felt the story was not very interesting I felt the mythos of the story was. How the unitologists came to be, and their beliefs and the mausoleum ships. How the marker came to be on the colony, and how it seemingly aids the original science station into preventing the spread of the necromorhps and others to stop the spread. I like the semi dystopian future earth has, it has the height of technology but many live on dreary space ships like the ishimura just to get enough resources. All the log drops from the other engineer on the ishimura is the story the game should be, the story would be better if you were that other engineer and had audio log drops of the woman you are trying to save.

    Sure a lot of this is just basic sci-fi or veiled criticism of scientology but combined with the entertaining gameplay and pretty and dreary scenery of the planetcracker and aegis 7 I feel like it is a great universe to play games in.

  • by rubber side down (1304501) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @05:21PM (#25936471)
    While I understand the points made in the article, I have to disagree with their conclusions about the "horror" elements, as well as their assertion that it is unoriginal.
    I found the 3rd person aspect framing very unique, having your character near to the left. I also enjoyed the lack of a HUD, and found their solution of displaying the health of the character along his spine very creative. This technique created a far more immersive experience as you are always looking at your environment and not a radar screen or ammo count. Also, typical menu items like maps and inventory are displayed in front of your character in a holographic display. While this is a nice stylistic choice, it also changes the gameplay, as you are still in the game environment and thus not safe while using them (see: things can still kill you while you browse your inventory).
    As for the horror, you will get as much out of this game as you can to put into it. Play it on a 32" tv with the lights on in stereo sound, and it's not so scary. Play with the lights off on a big display with 5.1 surround turned up, and it does a great job with ambient sounds to keep you on edge. Yes, you get used to things jumping out of vents, and thus you tend to be less surprised when something bursts out of one. But the level design, inventive game elements (zero gravity is good stuff), and amazing audio production make this a great title for fans of the genre. For me personally, this is the best survival horror title I have played since Resident Evil 4 (and that includes F.E.A.R).
    • I agree completely. I have a 50" plasma with 5.1 surround in the basement and it has a nice jump factor. I didn't know quite what to expect when I bought it, but I have to say I am glad I did.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I gotta tell you, the game doesn't have many good selling points...

      First, the Interface: I know there are some who feel its special that the developers are trying to immerse you by not having a hud...but a Glowing Bar on your back and a gauge for the Gimick gun is just as bad, if not worse, for doing so. Keep it to the tab or inventory button, or don't put it in there at all.

      Secondly, Did I mention the Gimick Gun? Not only do you have to use a gun that slows down objects for 90 percent of the puzzles, but a

  • Too much work is done creating some story that surrounds the game and not enough on the game itself. I thought we learned our lesson in the 90s with FMV games putting more importance on that, but these days we just call the FMV "non-interactive cutscenes" and do pretty much the same crap as before.

    I miss the days where you hit start and BAM, you're playing the game. Maybe a small story gets told at the beginning (preferably skippable without losing anything, just some framing story that says why you're th

  • Games don't tend to be genuinely scary. It's because there's no genuine danger.

    Dead Space is an example of a game that completely succeeded in everything it was trying to do. The game mechanics were fun. Even in a year full of games with superb graphics and sound, those elements in Dead Space stood out. The story tied it all together well.

    No one complains about what Dead Space was. You'll read complaints about what it wasn't. And sometimes you'll hear that someone just couldn't get into it.

    Games are s

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So perhaps maybe you would like to implement a feedback device that administers a jolt of electricity based upon the amount of damage received by the player?
      If it's for Xbox Live or PC gaming the game can keep track of damage/jolts then automatically contact 911 when a limit has been exceeded or if the player is no longer responsive at the controls.
      If the player quits they're asked "Are you feeling alright?" and then prompts with "Quit? [y/n]" to prevent contacting 911.
      Heck, implement another failsafe that

      • by apoc06 (853263)

        thats funny. i remember some doom or quake-like game from the mid 90s that asked you why you were quitting. too intense? the options it gave you would were something along the lines of "it got too intense" or "let me frag one more [enemy name]".

        ive played too many games over the years, i should remember that one... =\

    • by KDR_11k (778916)

      No danger to the player's life maybe but some games definitely manage to make you feel scared by putting your character into serious danger that you need to pay attention to avoid (or mess up and suffer some serious damage or even die instantly). I don't count games like FEAR or Doom 3 among them though, a gun is a pretty powerful way of eliminating dangers and their threats weren't that dangerous (at least not because you might not pay enough attention, I got annoyed in FEAR by enemies that go melee and ha

      • by Toonol (1057698) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:00PM (#25938307)
        My teenage son (17 years old at the time) was playing Call of Cthulhu on the XBox. His younger brother (13) and about a half dozen friends (aged 10-13) were in the room watching him.

        If you're not familiar with the game, it's a first person game, but you pretty much go the first half of the game with no weapon. There's a sequence where your character is in a hotel room, and the whole inbred town decides to kill you.

        You're defenseless. You run into rooms, open doors that lead to more villagers that you run away from. You lock doors behind you, they splinter after moments. You're helpless, you're just trying to escape, and it's not working

        The screams from the children were delicious. They were in no more danger than from any scary movie; but scary movies can be scary indeed.
    • Games don't tend to be genuinely scary. It's because there's no genuine danger.

      Dead Space is an example of a game that completely succeeded in everything it was trying to do. The game mechanics were fun. Even in a year full of games with superb graphics and sound, those elements in Dead Space stood out. The story tied it all together well.

      No one complains about what Dead Space was. You'll read complaints about what it wasn't. And sometimes you'll hear that someone just couldn't get into it.

      Games are something you play for fun. If you're playing them to write self-aggrandizing articles about how you're above it all and ahead of all the rest of us, then Dead Space is a good choice because it's a great game. But it's not the best game at everything every game does well. And you can pat yourself on the back noticing that.

      Personally, I might have enjoyed it more if it were a rescue story instead of an escape. But the story belongs to the authors, not to me.

      "Disparity between Plot and Gameplay" is an example of an article that completely succeeded in everything it was trying to do. The literary style was outstanding. Even in a year full of articles with superb wording and syntax, those elements in Disparity stood out. The statements of each paragraph tied it all together well.

      No one complains about what the article was. You'll read complaints about what it wasn't. And sometimes you'll hear that someone just couldn't get into it.

      Reviews are something you rea

    • by Kelbear (870538)

      (*side note* I don't see anything trollish about parent's post.)

      While the control setup in RE4 fixed a major issue in the franchise, it enabled the player to trivialize the threat he/she faced and the same thing happened in Dead Space, which used similar controls. I'm not saying that bad controls are the good thing, I'm saying that the fixed controls exposed a new problem. Good controls allow skilled players to leverage their inventory to the point that there's not enough challenge left.

      In these games, some

      • by krenshala (178676)

        After having played a couple hours of L4D (i only got it two days ago) I'd have to class it as a survival-horror game that happens to be a first-person shooter. I agree with you that having the game decide what is a challenge based on the players progress so far definitely makes things challenging (when the zombies rush, OMG a LOT of zombies rush!).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        I don't know about you but when I lose at a game because the controls suck I get angry, not scared. Bad controls are a design failure. Tension comes from the feeling that you have no margin for errors and must play with all your ability, not the feeling that you have to fight inadequate controls just to do something that seems like it should be a lot easier than it is. Knowing there is an enemy around and knowing that when he pops up and you don't spot him fast enough you lose creates a lot of tension and f

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kelbear (870538)

          I agree that bad controls are nothing to be missed. I'm just saying that it's exposed a new problem to face.

          As for dynamic difficulty, L4D scales encounters, but also has different difficulty scales for the game to apply. The game "director" will still merrily murder you if you're not up to snuff. Expert is still for experts, only 2% of the player population has completed one of the campaigns on expert.

          One of the problems with static difficulty and static obstacles is that players tend to memorize what's ah

          • by KDR_11k (778916)

            Dynamic difficulty and dynamic level layouts are different things to me, obviously any PvE multiplayer game will need dynamic level layouts (how much the level geometry gets randomized and how much it's just placing enemies and spawners differently depends on the game design and how much the developer will/can do).

    • You've obviously never played Undying, alone.
    • Well, I'm not sure I would call this "elitism" any more than I would levy that charge against, say, a film critic. It's their job to analyze what's going on here--if you don't want them trying to tear it apart, don't read it.

      As for me, I found the game entertaining, but have to agree that it felt like it was written by committee. It was like they got a few writers in a room and then just told them, "Write us a sci-fi horror story in a big ship."

  • "It has some really great set pieces, some sweet effects, solid gameplay, an amazing interface and that's all."

    Oh really, that's all!? Well damn, I much rather play and talk about something with dull sets, cheap effects, cruddy gameplay, and a confusing interface. What do you consider a good game if you seem to think that these don't bundle into a decent play?

    I know the article praises the game as well, but really, that quote is the epitome of someone wanting to criticize something just for the sake
  • At last I know I'm not the only person to realise what a mediocre game Dead Space is. It really is survival horror by the numbers. In fact, it heavily rips off Event Horizon. I remember wandering back to the ship at the beginning of the game just knowing it was going to blow up. And it did. And then there was the stupid way you were conveniently separated from your fellow crewmen again and again.
    • by Kohath (38547)

      In fact, it heavily rips off Event Horizon.

      So what?

      (I swear people just say stuff like this because they've impressed themselves that they noticed two similar things.)

      And then there was the stupid way you were conveniently separated from your fellow crewmen again and again.

      Again, so what? What's your point? You should never be separated from the others in the crew? All stories are bad unless everyone stays together?

      What should they have done instead? Who did a better job of a similar thing? What did they do?

  • I haven't been scared by a game since Heretic :) And it was pretty much completely from the sound effects.
  • by Bigbutt (65939)

    I got quite a few new games when I built my new gaming rig. Dead Space, Fallout 3, Red Alert 3, Bioshock, C&C Kane's Wrath. A few of the games that just reached the limits of my old system look and play quite a bit better, Doom 3, Quake 4, Half-Life 2, C&C 3.

    So when I got stuck early on in Dead Space and the little puzzle was too much for my FPS brain to handle (especially with all the new stuff), I just moved on to Fallout 3.

    I've been getting Starcraft back up again and touching on Fallout and Quak

  • by blincoln (592401) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @08:33PM (#25938117) Homepage Journal

    My take on Dead Space is that it was made to be the most awesome homage-in-game-form to sci-fi horror ever. The two most obvious influences are the Alien series and Event Horizon, but it's also got a lot of Solaris (the original and remake), Sunshine, and virtually every other film in the genre.
    The author of TFA basically admits up front that it succeeds at this. Is it possible that it could be even more awesome if it had a more original story? I guess, but then it wouldn't be the same kind of game.
    It seems to me as if someone went to see Michael Bay's Transformers or Armageddon, and then complained that the giant robots should have had deeper and more believable motivation or that they saw Bruce Willis' tearful goodbye a mile away.
    I like originality and interesting stories as much as (nearly) anyone, but I also think that it's OK for a game or movie to be fun without a lot of either of those things, as long as the execution is top-notch. It's one of the reasons I love The Criterion Collection - the same company releases films as disparate as Solaris (the original) and Armageddon, and they treat both equally in terms of additional content.

    • I'm not sure I buy that as an excuse. The way you're using "homage" sounds a lot like "knockoff" in my vocabulary. For me, when it comes to entertainment media, a decent "homage" is going to present the familiar to you in a way you haven't experienced yet. Like, you might describe many Akira Kurosawa's movies as being "homages" to Shakespeare and American westerns. And I think the whole point of the article is that, by that standard, this game doesn't quite make the cut, and ends up feeling more like by

  • It has some really great set pieces, some sweet effects, solid gameplay, an amazing interface and that's all ...and my lamp.. just my lamp.

  • I had to take breaks from the game, often at fifteen minute intervals, because I was just less comfortable than I wanted to be for a game.

    Next time, try HARD level.
  • I did enjoy Dead Space a fair amount. I felt like they actually pulled off the camera perspective better than just about any other game that's tried it, the combat was pretty fun and the weapons were fairly unique and handled in interesting ways. The basic plasma cutter's vertical/horizontal switch was really neat.

    It was also really quite a gorgeous environment, and came with an interesting backstory - that unfortunately really had no bearing on the actual fetch-and-shoot gameplay. The interface was also

  • The game might have a boring main character, the completely silent and faceless protagonist Issac, but they is no reason to pigeonhole the entire game's storyline as boring.

    The history of Unitology within the game is truly fascinating, a worthy back-story for any science-fiction universe. Combine that with the unique interstellar industry of 'planet cracking' where entire planets are explosively separated into giant floating rocks and you have an exciting premise for a futuristic dystopia.

    I've recently been thinking that too many games operate in the shadow of Aliens, especially in the atmosphere created by that movie's characters.

    The author doesn't

  • by Anonymous Coward

    True been told the story isnt there but am i the only one who die on purpose 2 or 3 time for each kind of monster to see every different way of being slaughtered ? the funnyest imo is the monster that grab your legs and slowly pull you toward a hole... well i kinda liked getting shred apart member by member by the freaking regenerating freak. Well the game is more gore than frightening thats true, i pissed my gf because she saw me slaming the ground with my feet to dismember every cadaver i was finding "jus

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