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Games Entertainment

Dead Space Highlights Disparity Between Plot and Gameplay 87

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 on Sunday November 30, 2008 @03:58PM (#25935675)

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

  • 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).
  • by davlastor ( 1420139 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @07:57PM (#25937807)

    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 read for fresh insights and general reading pleasure. If you're reading it to write self-aggrandizing slashdot comments about how you're above it all and ahead of all the rest of us, then Gamasutra is a good choice because it's a great game review site. But it's not the best review site at everything every review site does well. And you can pat yourself on the back noticing that.

    Personally, I might have enjoyed it more if it was in 13375P34k instead of English. But the story belongs to the author, not to me.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:40PM (#25938655)
    are we talking about the same halo? a strong plot? what the fuck did you smoke before you played it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2008 @01:52AM (#25940263)

    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 also a gravity gun!

    Third: Character Development! I can't go much into detail do to spoilers, but I Gotta say they try to make something relevent to you which isn't, because there hasn't been any character empathy developed!

    Fourth: Its a huge ship. Why do we have to revisit 4 areas 20 times?

    Fifth: CONTROLS AND MOVEMENT. I played the PC version, and the control scheme enforced by Dead Space's xbox upbringing left for a clunky, ackward experience. Even the cheatcodes for the PC version required an Xbox control :p

    Finally, Monster traps were heavily influenced by ID's Doom 3. At somepoint monster B replaces monster A for random popping out. Yay.

    That being said, the visuals are nice, the combat is interesting - The best fight saved for last. Theres a lot of good background that is poorly used throughout the rest of the game

  • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @09:42AM (#25943057)

    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 fear (little is scarier than the unknown, especially in a videogame). What games like RE4 tend to do wrong is make enemies more visible, give the player a lot of firepower and generally widen the margin for errors to the point where you can afford messing up and not noticing an enemy quickly because you can shrug a few hits off anyway rather than losing near instantly when you mess up. They turn you into the hunter instead of the hunted.

    Hell, if the enemies are dangerous enough when you don't react fast enough they can just as well go down with one shot and still be damn scary. Having enemies that are hard to spot early and possibly even scattering some "noise" that looks like the early warning for an enemy creates a lot more tension than a huge walking pile of corpses that won't go down before you unload all your ammo into it. Long fights need larger error margins because noone can keep perfect play up for that long and long fights tend to turn into pattern memorization and application so you're fighting a predictable enemy. Predictable isn't scary though it can still be damn hard.

    Dynamic difficulty levels aren't really something I like, high difficulties are meant to take lots of tries until the player has improved his play to the level where he can deal with the difficulty, dynamic difficulty would mean instead of requiring the player to get better you just scale the game up or down to the point where the player can just steadily progress without extra work.

  • by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @04:06PM (#25950295)

    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 ahead instead, so they win through memorization rather than being better at the game (this was noted in Valve's developer commentary mode, and part of the reason for the procedural enemy placement). For example, players preparing to shoot at a particular window because they know a monster will jump out from it.

    I definitely agree that these newer survival horror games need more tension. The Silent Hill series did a great job of teasing you with with unknown danger using fog, darkness, and sound. I also note that the player in Silent hill was also relatively underpowered, usually just swinging a pipe against 1-3 enemies at a time. I don't know about the new one with improved combat controls, but I'm going to guess it suffers the same problem that RE4 and Deadspace has.

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