Game Pile: Dead Space

It seems appropriate that the first game I get my hands on enough to pass an opinion when I am in this inordinately foul mood is a game that I paid for myself, before the summer sale. I don’t have to mollify my words because a friend bought it for me. It’s even a scary game, meaning I don’t have to worry about two of my friends even playing it.

You know how I whinged about, and did not finish, Lara Croft and the Guardians of Light because its PC port was so bad that its control scheme worked at odds with itself, up and down? Or how Prince of Persia‘s terrible PC port made it so I couldn’t build any flow in a game that is about flow and terrible combat? Well, Dead Space, a game I wanted to like, tried to like, and repeatedly went in to bat for against all warning signs, seems to be a terrible PC port.

It might not be. It might just be that my computer – which is newer than Dead Space – can’t handle the gloriousness of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised, what with more recent beasts like The Secret World refusing to get out of bed on a computer that can still somehow render Bioshock Infinite on high detail. Yet, despite this, running on the lowest details, with nothing else running in the background, Dead Space has still managed to not run for more than 15 minutes at a time without a crash to desktop. The first one happened in the opening cut scene.

Now, as an insight into how I put these reviews together, I have a notepad I keep on hand, in which I scribble notes. Games that are immersive tend to have a few notes at the beginning, then maybe, one or two quotes from the middle of the game to remind me later, and then the end. Games that are really bad and deserve a good beating tend towards a more itemised list of problems. The best games to complain about are those that are competently constructed, but have something really offensive or bad in the storytelling which merits analysis and complaining – games like that tend to have lots of well-constructed notes, with interconnected pieces. There are a few games, rarely, which list points in sequence, but are surrounded by circled notes noting things that are worth talking about, drawing them together. In fact, the only game to get that kind of note list is Spec Ops: The Line.

The notes for Dead Space are:

  • No expression on frightened person’s face. Bad expression in opening cutscene.
  • Crash in opening cutscene. Great.
  • Good idea making Isaac engineer, excuse to have him fix things
  • Love interface, hate buttons
  • Crash
  • Crash
  • Aiming is arsey
  • Crash
  • Reinstalled, testing, gunna power through
  • Crash
  • Crash

Now, say what you want about me, but I don’t think it’s my fault that I gave up on the game at this point.

I have no meaningful verdict on Dead Space. It was hard to play, and harder to enjoy because its own inherent threat and menace were not as worrying as the threat that it might suddenly dump me to desktop when I had no recent save game available. While there are things it does that I love – like its no-pause menus, and its all-on-screen method of displaying information, – it has some big problems. The interface is cludgy, things don’t impact, combat is flaily, the enemies aren’t very threatening or scary after you’ve seen them – and you see them early – and the mouse is, well, I hesitate to use any word for it but ‘drifty.’ It hovers on for a few seconds like it has momentum which seems novel, but is fucking annoying when you’re trying to, say, adjust mouse sensitivity.

I have big problems with this game, but don’t take this as a verdict on the game. It might be great on a console.

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