Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Dead Space - A Second Opinion (Xbox 360)

As you may have gathered, we do things a little differently here at Parental Guidance. We all play games and we all have our own opinions, yet only one of us writes a review and usually they only focus on one format. We all still want to talk about a good game and we all play on different systems, so it is only fair that we tell you about the differences and thoughts we have on the game. Expect to see more 'second opinion' pieces about major or interesting titles on the site especially when important multi format games get released on several systems at once.

Today, I want to talk to you about Dead Space. We reviewed this recently on PS3 and gave it a 'Silver' award. I'm happy with that grading and as such I won't be challenging it. I did however, request the 360 version from EA so we could compare the versions and have a more open debate about the merits of the title.

Dead Space is a good game, yet it is only one of dozens out this Christmas so you might be wondering why I am bothering to come back to it when we have even more games to focus on in the near future. The answer is that at heart we are all fans of games and Dead Space whilst not perfect, is definitely individual and as fans, we wish to vent our opinions as much as you do.

So, what do I think of Dead Space? Well you already know I think it is good. What I haven't mentioned is how scary this damned game is. Resident Evil is no longer scary - I only jumped in a few sections (usually when regenerators were involved) in Resi 4 as it plays more like an action game these days. The regenerators were scary, but random village peasants were not. Fun to fight against yes, scary no. Dead Space takes survival horror back to basics and focuses on just one thing: Fear. There is no respite from it. Usually a horror game waits a few minutes before it throws monsters at you, giving you a tutorial and a gun before kicking you out of the plane. You don't get that in Dead Space. The introduction is all done with the in game engine and before you know it you are faced with monsters, but with no gun. Running for your life you will quickly appreciate how much this game WILL make you crap your pants.

I'm a grown man. I am 23 years old. I will only play this game in daylight. I imagine you will find this the case as well, unless you are so jaded by violence you no longer care. Whilst violent, (it's easier to kill enemies by sheer dismemberment and head shots do little in this game, to buck the trend) violence is not the focus here. Fear is. You are not a super powered space marine. There is no BFG to protect you. You are not empowered and you are most definitely vulnerable and alone.

The game-play could be described as similar to Resident Evil 4, but that's not really fair. Yes, the controls work the same and it is a 3rd person shooter, but Dead Space really is a totally different atmosphere. It's more like the GameCube Resident Evil 1 remake than any other Resident Evil title - fear is ever present and the entire focus of the game. Sure there is a tacked on romance sub plot but it really doesn't matter here. Sometimes the scares get predictable - you just know a corpse in a room is going to jump up and get you because that is the 'scariest' thing that could happen. This doesn't stop you tiptoeing around the corpse and hoping it won't jump up, so despite this predictability flaw you are still scared and in Dead Space, that's all that matters.

How does the 360 version stack up against the PS3 one? Strangely they are rather similar. Despite a history of inferior PS3 ports over the last few years EA seem to have nailed parallel game design on both systems. Games like Fallout 3 are often a lot worse on PS3 than 360 these days (just look at the lack of anti-aliasing on the PS3 version compared to the 360) and that goes back to the early days of the console war. The PS3 is not an inferior platform but it IS harder to program for and this shows often in any serious comparison with the same title. Even back at the start of the PS3's life cycle the port of Rainbow Six: Vegas told us we should be worried. It is good EA have actually taken this to hand and decided to do the right thing and put the extra effort into the PS3 version to keep it at almost the same quality as the 360 version, doing true justice to the PS3.

There are minor differences though. The Xbox 360 version does seem to be a little brighter than the PS3 version which can be good or bad, depending on if you prefer to see colour or nothing at all in your survival horror. The only real problem is the frame rate, which drops at times in both versions of the game but drops to a slightly lower level on the PS3 at times than the 360. This is only a small niggle but if you have both consoles I would have to recommend the 360 version over the PS3 one but only if you pushed me. Other than the lighting and frame rate, the games are practically identical. Whichever format you get it on, as long as you enjoy horror you will be scared and you will have fun.

To surmise: This game is basically fear incarnate, and very good on both platforms. If you think you can handle the scares this game throws at you, it is very much worth a purchase especially as it is a new franchise in a season full of sequels. If you don't enjoy being scared though, keep far away from this one. This is definitely not a game for children or people with weak hearts.

Article by: Edwin Jones

1 comment:

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