Dead Space: 10 Years Ago I Screamed In Space

10 years ago on this day in North America, Dead Space was released. Do you feel old yet? I do. I remember playing this on the day it came out in the UK. I also remember playing this at night and then realising I’m too much of a coward to continue. The next day I returned however and continued my romp from the Ishimura.

With it being Halloween I thought it was only fitting to briefly talk about this fantastic and genuinely scary game. Dead Space was a 3rd person horror/action game by the studio now known as Visceral Games. Rather fitting name don’t you think? It originally released on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

The game closely resembles the Alien franchise specifically the 1st one. As a side note, Dead Space 2 continues this pattern as it was more action focused like Aliens. The gameplay is over the shoulder similar to Resident Evil 4. In the game, we played as Isaac Clarke, space engineer as he journeys through the Ishimura, a planet cracking vessel.

The story is very basic but works well with the atmosphere. This is a game that wants you to feel isolated. Isaac boards the ship as he had received a distress message from his partner, Nicole, who was aboard the vessel herself. When Isaac boards the ship all he finds is desolation, bodies and the Necromorphs.

Necromorphs

Necromorphs are a fantastic monster design. Throughout gaming we’ve been told to inflict pain on the head for big damage or aim for the biggest target, aka the body, usually. The Necromorphs are beings that you need to dismember to take out. Arms and legs are the first to go as these nightmares are dangerous but also agile.

Dead Space stands out because it did so many things different. It was horror in space which surprisingly was a barren zone for games. Isaac wasn’t a space marine, he was an engineer and the weapons he used were modified space tools. He didn’t board the Ishimura with intent to kill. He just thought the ship was malfunctioning and he’s the man to fix it. As I mentioned, there is little story or dialogue as the developers wanted the player to feel alone and vulnerable. But what they did put into their game, was oodles upon oodles of unease.

Mild spoilers for this game. I highly recommend you play it if you haven’t. Throughout the game Isaac catches glances of his partner Nicole. As you progress these sightings become more strange and unnerving. I won’t spoil it but the team did a great job with this aspect. And if you want an extra spoiler/tid bit have a look at this article from last year Trivia- Dead Space: Chapter Cryptology

Dead Space, for me, is a template for horror/action games. What it really hit on the head was the atmosphere and build up. You don’t go in guns blazing and the first hour of the game might be one of the scariest and most oppressive hours of my life. The creaks of the ventilation system (which the Necromorphs use to get around the ship), the mad scribbling’s on the walls and the lack of sound in the game just gives me that paranoid feeling where I’m inching around corners.

dead-space-limbs

Dead Space will forever be on the mantle of games that scared the hell out of me. It’s quite a crowded mantle but Dead Space is one of the best and its sequel is a fantastic follow up, building on the psychological aspect magnificently. I really do hope we see this series again some day. Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts on Dead Space in the comments.

Yakuza 0’s Cabaret Is Taking Over My Life

What’s more fun, being a rugged ex-Yakuza brutally beatings thugs on a quest to solve a mystery…..or dressing up women and saddling them with rich men for an hour? A few days ago I would have said being a roguish gangster but Yakuza 0 has proven me very wrong. In Yakuza 0 you play as 2 characters. Stoic Kiryu and the dangerous Majima. I’ll probably review the game one day so I won’t get into too depth of a description. Once this blasted mini game releases me from its sweet, alluring embrace I’ll get round to finishing it. After you do a certain story mission you switch to the other character and you begin a new chapter. I’ve been playing on chapter 8 with Majima for over a dozen hours. I’ve nearly forgotten how Kiryu’s distinct fighting styles play. At a certain point in the game Majima inherits a cabaret club. Now for the uninitiated, a cabaret club in this universe, revolves around men paying for the pleasure to have a woman sit and chat to them for a bit.

As Majima your job is to recruit the girls around your district and utilise their natural charms to appease the local male clientele. Each lady has stats. HP, Talk, Love, Party, Skill are what govern each individual girl. Every time you open your cabaret doors to customers, you choose a team of 8 women. As you progress through the game you will unlock new clientele targets, which will have certain tastes and will prefer particular stats over the other ones. There are different kinds of customers too; Poor, Average, Wealthy and Mega-Rich. Obviously the aim of the game is to appease the wealthiest and rinse their pockets of their money. Whenever you put a certain girl into the roster for the night, she will level up when the shift is done. When this happens, her stats will increase. The max level is 30 and once there, the stats won’t increase. Level 40 is the max level for platinum girls. Platinum girls you ask? Yes, all the women are ranked. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Platinum girls are very special and there are only 8 in the game. These girls are special and have side story content and dialogue attached to them. Platinum girls are also the only girls that you can dress up and customise. You buy them clothes and accessories so they can earn you more money. You gotta spend money to make money in this business.  With Platinum girls you also get the opportunity to train them in their banter with customers or even take them on faux dates to boost their confidence. But be a perfect gentleman! If you don’t banter well enough with the wonderful ladies, they won’t level up as much as they could. Just like real life.

Mana

You still reading? Good. I think I’ve got the basics covered. Now onto business. Before you open the cabaret doors, you need to select a team of 8 gals. It’s kind of like Pokemon. You want the heavy hitters in your team but you also want the less experienced ones to be there to gain experience and evolve. That metaphor went a lot better than I anticipated. But don’t push the lovely ladies too far! You over work them and they may become sick and absent. Not only that but if you overwork them their mood will go down which in turn will affect the customer’s mood and your wallet will grow less than The Grinch’s heart that fateful Christmas. Once, the doors open the customers will come in. They’ll stream in at an even pace which is nice. You have 6 booths and they will fill up steadily. When a customer sits down you will be given a brief criteria and also his financial status. He may be seeking a laugh for the night and therefore he’d like a girl to talk too and he may want a longer than normal session. If he’s Mega-Rich he may ask for a certain girl so as you can tell, the more you play the tougher it gets. Difficulty increases based on the customers finances. That’s why levelling up your gal pals is important. When, a customer is seated a little timer will appear at their table. During that time your cabaret worker may call you over for assistance. The lady will then prompt you with a hand gesture and you have to decode the gesture and select the correct option out of 4. There are a rotation of answers but some include a menu and a refill of ice. Doing the correct action will allow your worker to recover some of her health as working causes that to drain. It will also make the customer happy or yield a bit of extra yen. When the timer is up, the customer will want the check. You will have a choice of options here. You may be given the option to offer the guest an extension with his hostess. Maybe, you could give him a gift so that he spreads the good word of your workplace, providing more customers. Praising your worker is an option so she recovers health. And other choices. If you guest isn’t with a lady he likes though he may kick off and you will have to try to appease the guest and situation so choose who you sit your guests next to wisely.

Hostess-Stats

There’s a lot to go over with this mode so I’m going to skip some details but you get the idea.  There is also a spending spree party mode juice that you accumulate over time. When you have enough, you can use the juice to send several random customers into a spending frenzy. Timing is important with this as there are tiers of party mode juice. Level 1 will put 2 random people into Mister Spendalot’s. Level 2 will do the same for 4 and level 3 will put all tables into a merry time. This is key to making the most money as not only does it let you increase your cash flow for a brief time, it also raises the guests moods and recovers HP for your seated workers. I’ve not even got started on the competition! You aren’t the only cabaret club in town. There are several districts which each have the top dog cabaret club of that area. As you earn more fans from those areas you will be challenged to a cabaret club-off where you will compete with your current rival. If you win you will gain their best worker and they will be gone from the story, which in turn will progress the cabaret club side mission which is consuming my life. To defeat these might cavaliers of the adult industry you must recruit the help of local businesses. By investing money into a business you can team up and they will help spread the word of your club, garnering more fans and more customers. This cycle of earning money from the cabaret club, spending money to raise awareness of your club and repeating creates a very satisfying loop. It’s immensely fun earning millions of yen in one Yakuza 0 evening whereas 10 hours before that 1 million yen seemed like a fortune.

All of this combined has created an endorphins drip into my brain. The numbers go up, wallet gets big, I raise awareness, number go up more, wallet gets fat and repeat till satisfied. I’m currently on the last cabaret club so I believe my side mission is coming to an end. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop playing the cabaret club scene! Not only is it incredibly satisfying, it rakes in big quick money and it’s just fun to play. If Yakuza 0 had a 50 hour cabaret club DLC, I would be a very happy chappy. Until then though, all I can do is sing its praises and if you have Yakuza 0 and you have the cabaret club a miss, I highly recommend it. It’s similar to The Witcher 3’s Gwent in addictiveness so be careful with that. Anyway, thanks for reading and if you’ve got anything to add feel free to sound off in the comments. Cheers.

Spider-Man PS4 Review

Amazing? Spectacular? Even Superior? The answer is none of the above. Before you close this article, I did really enjoy this game. There are just a few things that hold it back that are substantial.  Firstly, this is a fun game. Since playing Spider-Man 2 over a decade ago, I’ve craved another game that provides the arachnid hero’s feel of mobility. Insomniac has done a tremendous job here of make traversal as Spider-Man, the highlight of the game. Swinging around New York is an absolute blast. Even when I had a way marker on the screen, rather than going the direct and quickest route, I would be frolicking all the way there. They nailed what it’s like to be Spider-Man.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should set the scene and talk about the story itself. So in Spider-Man on the PS4, you play as Wolverine. No wait that’s the wrong hero isn’t it? Obviously you play as the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and Spider-Man doesn’t need to be explained, we all know his powers and who he is. Also, I’m getting sick of typing Spider-Man and when the main character is the titular title it becomes extra annoying so from now on, when I refer to Spider-Man himself it’s SM! SM is the main character, with a few occasions the player takes control of Peter’s ex Mary Jane and newcomer in Peter’s life, Miles. Without giving away too many story beats, I was really surprised by the narrative. It’s not a video game classic but the story is well told and full of nuance. There is a good story here and quite a mature one at that. It’s a classic, good vs evil story but there’s a lot of different threads which weave nicely into a cohesive, well told tale.

Not only does the cutscenes and dialogue fill us in on SM’s life but the oodles of side content help to characterise our hero. It weaves a world that feels lived in by SM/Peter Parker. This isn’t an origin story, in fact SM has been Spider-Man-ing for over half a decade. And through side content and collectables, a life of a web slinger is fleshed out. here is a plethora of backpacks, photo opportunities, combat scenarios and my favourite…….pigeon chases. Seriously a group of side missions have you yanking a pigeon out of the sky. Me thinks using a pigeon’s body weight as an anchor or pulling the pigeon to yourself at high speed would pulverise the winged critter but apparently they’re built to last in New York. Also, just to annoy you, try to get the Hanna Barbera song Stop the Pigeon out of your head next time you go for one of those bad boys in Spider-Man.

You’re welcome.

New York itself is a character and Insomniac has done a great job of creating a large playground. I would have liked there to be more unique buildings for fun traversal but what they’ve created is a very good emulation of the big apple. Which, brings me to the web swinging. I like the fighting of this game, I love the swinging. The way SM moves and flows through the air is something else. I don’t get bored with how it feels. Leaping of a web swing right at it’s highest point or dive bombing from a skyscraper just looks and feels the business. There’s fast travel in this game and I don’t think I’ll ever use it. The swinging is the best part of the game and it amplifies my enjoyment of the rest of the game. There is a ton of side content in this game and actually getting to that content is so much fun. A bit more variety in the side missions would be appreciated but the swinging saves the tedium. In other games I could barely care about finding a backpack or repetitive side missions where I swing through smoggy areas for samples. But most of the side missions involve more opportunities to sling webs and I want to indulge in that. Going to a funeral isn’t fun but if you got to drive a monster truck there then that’s a different thing. The combat is fantastic. It took me a while to get used to it as well as I did with Batman Arkham Asylum but once you get used to the controls it flows really well. It’s very similar to the Batman games but with Spider-Man charm. It’s a delight to watch SM’s acrobatic moves when dispatching thugs and the array or gadgets and suits keep the combat from getting stale. As a quick mention, the different suits in the games are a great addition and look amazing. The fact that most of them come with a unique power as well, it’s these little additions that show that Insomniac know how to make a character fun to play.

Spider-Man-Noir-Suit
Currently my favourite suit.

Which, brings me to which characters aren’t fun to play. And one of the main things that holds this game back for me. The Mary Jane and Miles missions. Not all of them. There’s 1 Miles mission I liked and I think 1 Mary Jane mission but that was because it involved SM and had a nice gimmick to it. But the other times, you have to play as these characters skulking around, looking for information or just trying to evade capture from enemies.  They are just not that fun and I don’t oppose to playing as side characters in games. It gives instances to show unique gameplay or story. But the scenarios they’re in and the tools at our disposal need to be interesting or fun. Most of the MJ or Miles parts can be summed up as *wait for guard to look in opposite direction before moving* or *make a noise to draw attention to a spot and then move towards objective*.  It’s a flow breaker after playing as a fast, capable character. You feel stilted and robbed of more SM time. I wouldn’t mind as much if it was one or two in a 15+ story but it seemed to be every 2-3 hours a slow mission reared its head. To the point where when dialogue started leading to a ‘I wonder what predicament Mary Jane has got herself into this time’, I would start mentally asking the game to just show me a cutscene of what happened to her. Please game, take the control from me and show a brief scene that gives me the exposition!  I was never bored when playing as Peter Parker because they were brief and interesting. Hell I would play as one of the pigeons! That’d be a great introduction to that side mission. Getting chased through Central Park by a man in red and blue spandex.

The game also doesn’t have enough ‘WOW that’s what it’s like to be a hero’ missions early on. The last 4 hours or so of the game are so so good. They have SM, a super hero, doing super hero level things. Saving citizens and stopping robberies is hero stuff but I feel like the grand scale missions were all mostly on the back end. It made for a great few hours but now I’m thinking on my new game plus that those first few hours are going to seem like a bit mundane in comparison. Like I said, the swinging and combat are both excellent so I’m sure it won’t be an issue but a few great missions with bigger scope peppered throughout the early hours would have been appreciated. Instead of the aforementioned Mary Jane and Miles missions. When all is said and done though, Spider-Man is a well crafted, fun game. It has a great story, looks beautiful, the music score is on point and overall it is a fun game. I would very much recommend this one and I just hope that Insomniac rethinks some of their mission choices for the sequel. A fantastic game let down by a few missteps but a fantastic game nevertheless.