Friday, 25 April 2014

Dead Space: Game Design Review

 I enjoyed the extremely tough (and unfair) System Shock 2 for its survival horror elements, I enjoyed Bioshock for its solid action and atmosphere and I also enjoyed The Thing with its action and creepy atmosphere. Dead Space is basically a cross between all three. It's more simplistic than System 2 or Bioshock as there are fewer types of upgrades and less RPG elements. In terms of atmosphere, its most similar to The Thing where you fight zombie like creatures that spawn out of body parts.

It's not bad but there are a few areas which I felt are worth pointing out:
Not really horror- It's more of an action game that is horror themed. Having the necromorphs jump out is almost predictable throughout the game that it quickly takes away from any potential scariness.

Melee Combat- Melee combat is very clumsy. For example, you could run up and swipe or stomp an enemy but more often than not you'll actually miss due to the way the collision detection work. Its also very difficult to attack smaller enemies.

Needs better autoaim- Isaac's inability to properly autoaim means the small enemies are even deadlier than the normal. You end up wasting ammo and dying from tiny enemies rather than the big ones.

Lack of environment interaction and damage- In games like Bioshock, fire spreads and water can be electrified. Compared to the Thing or Bioshock, fire and the flamethrower seem underpowered. In both previous games, fire had a truly deadly effect on enemies, causing them to panic and run away. Here the Necromorphs show no fear or reaction to fire and there isn't really anyway to spread fire. There is telekenesis in the game which is a good idea but difficult to use in my opinion.

Enemies feel overpowered at times- I found the enemy balance occasionally a bit off. Sometimes they were really hard, other times way too easy.

Story doesn't make sense- Unfortunately in most horror games, the plot doesn't make sense, unfortunately Dead Space's final chapter and plot twists make no sense whatsoever. *Spoiler alert here*. The Earth sends a military ship to seceretly deal with the Necromorph problem but they quickly get overrun but a single necromorph? They were sent there to deal with this problem, surely they would have been briefed on how to manage the situation. The Earth manufactured the beacon but somehow allowed the ship to mine in that sector anyway? Why not just send a normal excavation team rather than an entire mining ship? One of the characters was secretly an agent? Why not have this person in the military ship? Why steal the beacon if Earth knows  how to manufacture it? All of this makes little sense. It would probably have made more sense if there was more than one faction at work here rather than just the miners and the Earth government.

I find Dead Space an interesting idea somewhat shallow game in my opinion. Just different enough from other mainstream games but never really seizing the chance to really break away from its 3rd person action shooter roots to innovate like Bioshock or the Thing. Like a B action movie, this game plays second fiddle to the other shooters. Go play Bioshock, System Shock 2, The Thing or Resident Evil in my opinion.

Medal of Honor: Game mini-review

Having recently picked up MEdal of Honor as part of the Humble Bundle. I finally gave it a chance. I'm going to give a quick review of the game and my thoughts on it.

Standard and linear action- It's extremely linear game with lots of scripted sections. Unlike games like Farcry or Crysis, you don't really choose the approach. If its an action section you will be shooting. If its a sniper section you will be sniping, if its a steath section you will be sneaking. If you don't follow the scripted sequence, you will fail the mission.

Confusing storyline- The opening sequences are very confusing and don't really help explain the characters, situation or plot very much. It also doesn't help that the opening sequence takes place in the night time.

Lack of squad control- You work as a squad but you can't control your squad members which is a shame really.

Is MOH propaganda?
One of the criticisms of the game is that its America propaganda. Compared to Homefront with its cartoonishly evil concentration camps and brutality or Spec Ops: The Lines criticism of the FPS genre I find MOH occupies more of a 'war documentary' space.

 The more I played it, the more I feel its more similar to compare MOH to a documentary based around interviewing soldiers. Although ficitionous, MOH is based on a real operation in Afghanistan. As I played I felt that MOH is trying to show players how soldiers felt about the conditions of fighting in a mountainous terrain against a Taliban army and the various difficult scenarios they encountered while doing so.

Unlike other war games like Brothers in Arms however MOH lacks the educational aspect of a documentary. Aside from some cutscenes between commanders, there wasn't really enough context about what they were doing. No mission briefings or maps. If anything I felt kind of sorry for the Taliban I was shooting up. You are part of the US army, a hi-tech force with drones, powerful guns, helicoptors and airstrikes. The Taliban on the other hand, look like they are dresed in traditional garb, live in primitive houses, use old tanks and are having their villages and houses bombed to bits by the US army.

Everything in Medal of Honor is competent but the linearity and somewhat confusing storyline  makes it feel more like an interactive movie than a game. I don't mind linear games, I enjoy games like Serious San, Painkiller and Brothers in Arms which are all linear but the extremely restrictive nature of MOH and lack of any real gameplay innovation just makes it feel unmemorable. I can't recommend it unless you really enjoy mediocre shooters.