Friday, December 19, 2008

Dead Space

So, I wasn't planning on reviewing Dead Space, since it's... not really very interesting. It's basically System Shock II minus Shodan, psychic powers, and hacking. IE, a random repairman against The Many.

I was just gonna let it slide peacefully into oblivion but, but...

Then I met the Asteroid Shooting Minigame. A mandatory minigame where they put you in a seat and make you play Tie Fighter. Not the later ones. The original one. On the Apple II. The one that isn't even listed in Wikipedia, presumably because it was someone's basement hack.

I always hated that game, and I have not improved any with experience. So I've tried to beat this dumb, infuriating, pointless thing several times. Each time I think to myself, "IF I WANTED TO PLAY TIE FIGHTER, I'D TIME TRAVEL BACK TO 1988! SHUT UP AND BE A SHOOTER!"

But every time I die. And every time, I get a little further. Oh, good, maybe I'll eventually beat it!

Except your captain-type-dude is sitting in your ear the whole time. "Almost got it! Just a little more!" "You said that five minutes ago, dipshit, what's the point of lying to me? Just to fool me into thinking maybe I'll win this time, maybe I'll hold out long enough on this idiotic, sub-par minigame designed by brain-damaged, idiot monkey-men and implemented by sadistic, gibbering idiots and playtested, evidently, by savants with astonishingly good control over the MOST IRRITATING MOTIONS ON THE CONTROLLER? We'll call them idiot savants, just to keep with the theme."

Yeah, I'm really enjoying it.

So the game went from being "decent" to being "totally shitty" in one fell swoop.

Reading the walkthroughs, I find that not only does nobody have any useful suggestions aside from "not sucking", but there's ANOTHER ONE OF THEM LATER ON.

See, this kind of shit is just bad game design. The idea here is that they mix it up a bit, you know? Give you a break from the regular gameplay. Maybe the game needs it: the regular gameplay consists almost entirely of walking around slowly, then freezing and dismembering zombies. It's not exactly rapid-fire. The minigame certainly is.

But you know what? Mandatory minigames are a sign that your game design is fundamentally flawed. Doesn't matter what they are - quicktime sequences, turret fighting sequences, PRESS A REALLY QUICK sequences... they're all a sign of shitty basic play being desperately propped up by other shitty play.

You can put minigames in, sure. System Shock II, which Dead Space obviously wanted to be, had a hacking minigame. I'm sure it irritated some people. But you know what?


Man, I go on and on about weird, advanced little theories about game design, but then I go play a so-called triple-A game and I find they need BASIC DESIGN LESSONS.

I can't imagine the designers were really this bad. All I can think of is that they had a boss breathing down their neck and two days to do something. Because it's really bad. Ugh.


The funny thing is that every other review on the planet seems to have loved the game. Not only did they not even notice this minigame, they thought the game itself was better than I think it is. This is probably the most negative review written about the game, but even before I got into this dumbass minigame, I didn't consider the game to be so great.

Maybe I'm spoiled by the fact that I'm kind of a scifi-survival-horror specialist. All these people comparing Resident Evil to Dead Space. Nooo, you did NOT. No wonder you think it's good. Maybe you should play System Shock II again. Or, hell, Shadowgrounds is scarier than this is.

This artificially crippling the camera crap? It doesn't make the game scarier to me. At all. More responsive - even eagle-eye - cameras work just fine because in survival horror, a big part of sustaining the scare is in maneuvering. And there isn't any in RE4 OR in Dead Space.

It's just someone walking around shooting zombies.

And, you know, playing painfully retarded minigames.


Ellipsis said...

I think that's the highest proportion of capital to non-capital letters I've seen in a post on my google reader.

I didn't even pick up Dead Space, but it sounds positively delightful.

Ellipsis said...

Also, the captcha on here is kind of awesome. It gave me "welrot" and now is displaying "felves." Those would make awesome mook-NPC names.

Craig Perko said...


Textual Harassment said...

Yeah, that cannon sequence was mostly just training for a boss fight later on. I didn't think it was too difficult but then I was using a mouse.

The game itself was ok for a fetch-quest exercise. I never had problems with the camera.


Craig Perko said...

No, not problems with it, but if you compare that camera to most other games (and the best games of the genre, like aliens vs predator), you find that Dead Space (and Resident Evil) are horribly clumsy.

And they do it on purpose to try to make the danger feel more dangerous.

Greg Tannahill said...

I've got Dead Space and I'm expecting to enjoy it... but I'm glad you're jumping on the anti-minigame bandwagon. Either your core gameplay is good, or it isn't, and if it's good we don't need to be distracted from it, and if it's not then you should damn well fix it instead of wasting time on minigames.

Did you read my post on this a couple of months ago? Or was I reaching forward through time and channelling the spirit of your future self?

Craig Perko said...

I definitely haven't read that post, I think I'd remember a title like that!

I'll read it now, though.

Greg Tannahill said...

Actually I thought I had another post which was an expansion of my paragraph above about core gameplay but I can't for the life of me find it. Maybe I imagined it.

Greg Tannahill said...

Oops, here it is.

I discussed it in the context of escort missions, not minigames as such.

Craig Perko said...

Hmmm, I'm not entirely sure about that. I think it's true about escort missions if they're not the core gameplay, but I can imagine a game where escort missions are the whole point. That could be interesting, if you could manage to avoid some of the pitfalls.

Greg Tannahill said...

That game is Ico, which I'm still not sure was an inherently good idea. If your core gameplay is escort, you might end up with something pretty abstracted such as Snake or The Last Guy. I understand that Exit also integrates escort into the heart of the game but I haven't played that as the very concept of an escort-centric game turned me off.

Craig Perko said...

I'm not willing to write it off, but I can't say that I've got a counter example.

Anonymous said...

Minigames serve a great purpose in cleansing the palate and fighting player fatigue. Because they serve this secondary purpose, they don't need to be tests of skill or contribute to the learning curve. So make them easier! Minigames don't need to be as tough as that asteroid sequence.

Craig Perko said...

Anon: I'd appreciate you posting with at least a handle in the future, because you're right and I like to keep a running tally.

I don't think that minigames are the only way to do that, but they are a perfectly valid way. Moreover, optional or partially-optional minigames allow players with different tolerance for the main gameplay to play the minigame whenever they need to cool off, for as long as they need to, rather than simply tossing arbitrary breaks at them whenever you feel like you should.

MasterGammer said...

Hey got the game for xmas, wasnt sure and played the demo... my thoughts, very poor. sure dismembering zombies is fun, but when u have 3 bullets and headshots dont count worth shit, its pretty lame. so ima turn it in and get either RE5 or fear 2, most likely fear...

Craig Perko said...

I prefer FEAR because it doesn't have the really silly puzzles RE tends to.