Thursday, January 20, 2011
As I mentioned back in this entry, I recently downloaded the game Dead Space: Ignition, which is sort of a set-up title paving the way to the upcoming sequel, Dead Space 2. The game only costs $5 and takes roughly 45 mins to complete from beginning to end. But the story has a branching plot, much like a choose your own adventure novel, so in order to see all the possible outcomes (a total of 4 different ones), you'll have to replay the game another 3 times to get the full picture.
Got it? Good.
I don't quite understand all the backlash this tide-over title has received since its release back in October. Complaints range from the game not involving any actual shooting or other action-y bits, to the art style being underdeveloped and "blobbish."
To that I say, whaaa? I actually liked the art direction. I wasn't expecting cutting-edge graphics here, not for $5. The story is told through the "motion comics" format, a style that might be familiar to fans of the recent Zack Snyder Watchmen film, which included a motion version of the graphic novel on the collector's home video set. Basically, the cutscenes are static comic book frames brought to life by minimal movements for dramatic emphasis. If you're into comics and cinema, you've seen this done before. It's no big deal. I don't see where all the hate is coming from.
Again, five dollars people! If you want to get an idea of what I'm talking about, check out the video trailer for this game by clicking here.
As for the complaint that this is not an action-shooter game -- big whoop! Why should it have to be? You want a shooter game, either replay the original Dead Space or wait for the sequel to hit next week. I was told that Ignition was going to be a puzzler, and that's exactly what I got. You solve a bunch of puzzles increasing in difficulty throughout the course of the game, all the while being fed the story via motion comic format in-between. The story is engaging and very much in spirit of the main games, complete with graphic horror moments, plot twists, and a whole heaping of betrayals.
Dead Space: Ignition tells the tale of two CPD employees aboard a space station named "The Sprawl." I'm sure there's a more official name for this place, but I don't recall hearing it during the course of the game. Nor do we ever fully understand what the "C" in CPD stands for, but we can infer from the dialog that the "PD" portion is Police Department. So, these two police officers--named Franco and Sarah--are coworkers. But, it turns out they're also lovers on the down-low. And while Sarah is the brawn of the pair, Franco is the brains. Or, at least, the technician. He's the staff engineer and, as such, he seems to spend most of his shift fixing computer terminals throughout the station.
When Ignition begins, Franco and Sarah are called to investigate a series of corrupted automated processes across the Sprawl. Franco hacks into the systems and hauls them back online. Sarah's job, on the other hand, seems to be standing around and making smart ass cracks. The voice acting is very good, however, and you do get a real sense of chemistry between these two.
Of course, because this is still a game taking place in the Dead Space universe, eventually there is a "Necromorph" outbreak aboard the station. These appear to be the same baddies Isaac Clarke came across in the first game. Necromorphs are mysteriously infected humans who mutate and turn inside-out and go on a general killing spree of mayhem and gluttony until no one is left alive. How the infection got from way out in deep space to the Sprawl is a mystery that is never truly answered in this game. But there are hints that the same saboteurs messing with the station's computer systems are behind the outbreak. Only Dead Space 2 will provide the true revelation, it seems.
Naturally this is where the game heats up. Franco and Sarah get caught up in the melee which follows the outbreak, barely having time to make sense of what the hell's going on before they're joining the other unsuspecting citizens in running for their lives. Although you never do get to wield your trusty plasma cutter and get hip deep into killing some baddies (that's Sarah's job, handled entirely through expository scenes), your job as Franco is to hack into various barrier controls and access panels in order to effectively escape the ravenous hordes of Necromorphs heading your way. This is where the challenge and gameplay aspects kick in. As an engineer, Franco's main expertise seems to be using hacker's tricks to bypass sabotaged circuits or safety overrides. In his arsenal are three types of hacks, which he'll choose depending on the scenario: Trace Route, System Override, or Hardware Crack.
And that's pretty much the sum of it, folks. The entire game is nothing but these 3 hacks being thrown at you in numerous variations. Some can be quite ingenious puzzles that are rewarding in the cracking, but most are annoying. To be honest, I only got enjoyment in being able to see the story progress after each solution. And trust me, the story gets pretty gripping at points.
Eventually Franco and Sarah end up in a really bad situation, which may or may not result in one or both of them meeting a horrific end. It all depends on the choices you make. Of course, if you play through all 4 possible story branches like I have, you start to see a certain pattern shared by all choices. This revelation, I'm sure (and it's quite the doozy, in fact) is going to pay dividends when it's time to play Dead Space 2. I can't wait to discover exactly how!
For your efforts at beating Ignition, you get a special hacker suit Isaac can use in the sequel. I hope the suit does what it sounds like. In the first game, you got special perks for various in-game items (like health, ammo, etc) depending on the level of your hacking abilities. So, if you're into that sort of thing like I am (hacking is always my favorite part of most games these days), this is even more incentive to play through Dead Space: Ignition.
And why wouldn't you want to? You get a pretty decent and quick offering for only 5 bucks (free if you pre-order the sequel), and the story sets up some elements for Isaac Clarke's continuing adventures. if you're a fan of the Dead Space universe and plan on returning there sometime soon, do yourself a favor and take less than an hour to try something a little different in the same milieu. Despite my hatred of the Tracer race hack, I still think the total package was well worth my investment.
Rating: 8.3 out of 10.
P.S. -- In case you're thinking of stepping right into Dead Space 2 without first playing the original, below is a video trailer which will catch you up on the back story to this universe. And, hey, it just revealed to me that the name of the space station is Titan Station, after the Saturnian moon it orbits -- kewl! Does this mean the Necromorphs are closing in on Earth? *gulp*