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Dead Space Ignition

Score: 50%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Visceral Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local Only)
Genre: Miscellaneous/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Dead Space 2 is at the top of my wish list for 2011. Not only because it's one of the first big titles slated to come out of the gate for the year, but because it's the sequel to a franchise that can already be called classic -- despite the fact that it's only two years old. Dead Space Ignition is what some would call a "midquel." Its mere existence is testament to the fact that the people at EA and Visceral Games really care about this new IP and want to do everything in their power to expand it. Unfortunately, Dead Space Ignition is not only the weakest link in the series so far; it's a disappointing release in its own right.

Ignition is being billed as an interactive graphic novel. That's all fine and good, but the quality of the art doesn't quite pass muster. Remember the miniseries that precluded Dead Space's release, and how good it looked? By comparison, Ignition looks drab and robotic. Facial features in particular seem to have been scribbled in a hurry, resulting in a jarring lack of consistency. The main character looks like a different man nearly every time you see him. Still, it's better than anything my idiotic fingers could get out of a pen. Ignition's got a simple but effective interface that looks nice and clean, and the visuals that accompany the actual gameplay aren't bad. But that's really all that can be said.

The Sprawl sounds an awful lot like the U.S.G. Ishimura. Much of the sound design, including the music, seems to have been carried over from Dead Space. That's not a bad thing; it's actually got the nostalgia factor working in its favor. The voicework is good, though some moments aren't convincing at all. The sound effects for the different hack types work just fine, but they aren't anything to write home about.


Gameplay:

Dead Space Ignition takes place on a massive space station called the Sprawl, which of course, is Dead Space 2's setting. The story follows the exploits of a computer specialist named Franco Delille, and his love interest, Sarah Andarsyn. All the events in Ignition take place during the day of the initial Necromorph outbreak on the station. Surprisingly, there isn't much depth to the storytelling. In an interesting choose-your-own-adventure twist, you can have Franco go down a number of different paths. However, all paths culminate in the same ending.

I'm not exactly sure I'd call Dead Space Ignition a game, but the components that give it game-like qualities aren't very good. Dead Space cleverly casts the player as an engineer who is forced to use the tools of his trade in order to survive by any means necessary. In Ignition, Franco lets Sarah do all the bloody work. He just messes with electronics here and there. This opens the door for three distinct gameplay types, or "hacks" if you will. When you're not watching a cutscene, you're completing a hack in order to get to the next one. That's really all there is to Dead Space Ignition.


Difficulty:

Dead Space Ignition isn't hard to finish; anyone should be able to blast through it in less than an hour. There's even an Achievement that rewards players for finishing the game in just under half an hour -- cutscenes excluded, of course.

So what is difficult about this game? It's kind of evil what they've done here: you'll want to see what happens next, but you'll always want to skip the hacks. They aren't fun, and worse yet, they throw off the pacing of the narrative. Most of the hacks aren't difficult, but you simply won't want to have anything to do with them. It says a lot about a title when you don't want anything to do with the interactive parts. Still, you'll feel the need to finish Ignition; completing the game will earn you some unlocks for Dead Space 2.


Game Mechanics:

Dead Space Ignition is hardly a game, but the mechanics that drive the hack types are varied. There are three hack types: Trace Route, System Override, and Hardware Crack. Each of them is a puzzle of sorts, but none of them are much fun to play, unfortunately.

Trace Route is my personal favorite of the three, though that's not saying much. The object is to guide a consistently moving bit of code to the end of a linear maze. You'll need to move laterally to avoid data libraries, which slow you down. There's a host of other obstacles that will get in your way, but there's a way to deal with all of them. For example, if countermeasures get ahead of you, you can draft behind them to gain speed. You can also drop firewalls to slow them down or deploy other attacks to confuse them. Be careful, though; lots of those attacks can be used against you.

System Override plays out like a tower-defense game with a major twist; you are the attacking force. Your job is to deploy a number of virus types in order to overwhelm the system's defenses and get through whatever it is that's impeding Franco's progress. Standard virus types fire at enemy emplacements, while others can disable or confuse them.

Hardware Crack is a variant on the classic mirrors-and-light puzzles that are often used in Zelda games. You'll have to get certain colored beams to their proper receptors through careful placement of mirrors and junction boxes. Sometimes you'll have to use a special device that splits beams; other times, you'll have to use those same devices to combine two colors into a whole new one. It's dull and occasionally confusing.

If you don't see yourself playing through Isaac Clarke's next adventure next January, ignore Dead Space Ignition. If you know you're going to be purchasing Dead Space 2 and want to see what this is all about, proceed with caution. There are two ways to try this game out. It's being offered as a free reservation incentive to those who put a deposit down on the game. The less appealing way to get it is, of course, to plunk down some Microsoft Points. It's cheap, to be sure, but free or not, you won't get much more than your money's worth. Still, it won't even come close to putting you off the series as a whole. Dead Space 2 can't come soon enough.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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