56 Reviews liked by Chef033

Shockingly competent.
Stop and ask yourself if, conceptually, a rail shooter spin-off of Dead Space exclusively for the Wii sounds like a good idea. It shouldn’t. It’s the kind of pitch that, by all rights, should have been thrown out of whatever boardroom it was first floated in. An M-Rated game on a console for children, based on a series that only existed on the competition’s hardware, and being made by the original developers despite being a completely different genre? Get real. Consumers agreed; there’s a reason that this game only pushed four-digit copies in its release week. But if you’re one of the nine thousand true sickos who heard that premise and thought it sounded promising, then welcome aboard. I did too, and you’ll be pleased to know that what’s here isn’t just passable, but also somehow manages to clear the Herculean task of being pretty alright.
While the business decisions behind putting this game out may be pretty questionable, I’m not an EA shareholder, so I don’t really give a shit. What I do care about is the fact that, from a gameplay perspective, turning Dead Space into a rail shooter kind of makes sense. What was Dead Space originally, if not an action-horror shooter with a focus on extremely tight, precise hotspots that needed to be aimed at? It almost sounds like a better idea to make it into a light gun game than to bind that concept to a gamepad. Of course, the primary struggle was going to be in developing a tight, universal pacing to be followed while also keeping a lot of the heft of the original combat mechanics, and Dead Space Extraction mostly succeeds in this.
The main complaint that I imagine most people are going to have is that this game is slow. It is ridiculously slow. A full playthrough is probably going to take you around six hours, which is pretty breezy by the standards of most games, but may as well be Pride and Prejudice when you compare it to other rail shooters. The House of the Dead 2 is an arcade quarter-muncher that only takes half an hour to beat; Sin and Punishment is an often-grueling affair designed from the bottom up for at-home play, and even that’ll cap out at around two hours tops. Six hours is a monstrous length, and a lot of that time is going to be spent with your character standing around gormlessly while the supporting cast looks into camera to talk at you like you’re Gordon Freeman. Shifting the perspectives around to multiple characters does pull a lot of weight in keeping things from getting too stale, though, and the game does manage to wrap itself up in time before it fully overstays its welcome.
Where Extraction really shines, however, is in how the characters of the weapons have transitioned to the rail shooter format. Dead Space’s original lineup of guns had a lot of personality to them, with each one serving a very strict purpose; the Plasma Cutter being an exceptionally strong all-rounder kind of invalidated most of its friends, but the Ripper still excelled in close-quarters, the Contact Beam worked to let you kill whatever you pointed it at so long as you could charge it up, and the Line Gun cleaved through packed enemies like three hundred amps through butter. All of these have been brought over faithfully into Extraction, with the only notable change being the reigning in of the Plasma Cutter and a few extra additions: the Rivet Gun is a heavy-but-bottomless single-shot projectile thrower, the P-Sec pistol works like your traditional spammy rail shooter handgun, and the Arc Welder is a chain lightning gun that cooks multiple enemies about as well as the phrase “chain lightning gun” should imply. Upgrades that you find in the wild seem to only affect ammo capacity, which is a little boring, but it’d be tough to think of a better way to implement them. Besides, you activate the alt-fires in this by turning the Wii remote sideways, which is so stupidly cool that I can’t help but love how the guns are handled. This is the kind of game begging for a Plasma Cutter peripheral that you can pop the Wiimote into.
It’s the kind of game that I can’t imagine anyone having an opinion at all more critical than “eh, it’s okay”. It’s simple, and a little over-long, but what’s here is perfectly serviceable. I’ll probably never play it again, if only because of how much downtime there is; that might be a killing blow for something in this genre, considering how replayability tends to be extremely valued in a rail shooter, but I don’t mind it being absent here. What’s here is solid, and that’s enough for me to be satisfied with it.
We ought to go back to a time where studios the size of Visceral could take a shot at making something out of their comfort zone without immediately going out of business.

An unintentional period piece.
Fair warning, I'm gonna be talking about the grim shit that happened during the war on terror. I'm also gonna be talking about 50 Cent's career. These two are intertwined.
I doubt there are too many people using this website who are young enough to have completely missed the meteoric rise of 50 Cent, but I'd be remiss to not make sure that everyone gets a primer. At the turn of the millennium, the golden age of gangsta rap was giving way to the bling era; what had become conventional in the late-80s to mid-90s was rapidly becoming less popular and less profitable than the revival of alternative hip hop. Of course, this didn't stop some artists from keeping their old sound in the face of new trends. Whether it was because they were stubborn, incapable of changing, or confident enough that they could keep selling exactly the way that they were, a genre shift will never be enough to completely unseat people from making what they want. 50 Cent had been making mixtapes for years, getting some notoriety from flipping the beats that other rappers had laid their voices on. He wasn't about to shift gears. 50 Cent kept his sound the same, and was rewarded handsomely: his debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, went 9x Platinum. The Massacre came out two years later and went 6x Platinum.
That was 2005, and it was the last time 50 Cent was relevant.
Blood on the Sand released in February of 2009.
A significant part of 50 Cent's fall is that, frankly speaking, he’s kind of a shit rapper. His style was already out by the early 2000s, and it’s only thanks to a fortuitous pick-up by Shady Records that you’ve heard of him. He’s not talentless, nor was he ever; his mixtape work prior to his studio debut is still good at its worst, and GRoDT is a solid-enough record (as much as I’ll get called an RYM backpacker for not saying it's outstanding). But 50 doesn’t really have any pen game to speak of. It’s more like crayon game. The guy writes like a fifth grader. The first bar off the first track in his debut album rhymes “off my chest” with “off my chest”. There’s another not even three minutes later where he drops the line “I'm the boss on this boat, you can call me skipper. The way I turn the money over, you should call me Flipper”. Christ. 50 Cent has a lot of friends in some really high places, but there’s a reason that Curtis couldn’t get certified in the year that Graduation went 5x Platinum; people were tired of him after less than a decade after his mainstream breakthrough. All of the Slim Shady and Obie Trice and Snoop Dogg features in the world couldn’t stem the tide that people like Kanye and Lil’ Wayne were creating, and 50’s monotone flows, GarageBand default beats, and garbage lyricism were reliquary.
But 50 Cent’s relationships are what propelled him, and they helped him build a legacy that he’s still controlling to this day. He made it big by starting feuds with virtually every other rapper he could on How to Rob, only delving deeper into his many, many beefs as he got involved deeper with Shady Records, taking up their fights as an associate. He turned getting shot for running his mouth into his armor — you become feared and respected in equal measure if the guy that puts nine bullets in you winds up dead before you do. He created a multimedia empire of television shows, of vodka, of luxury underwear, of investments in South African palladium mines.
And of video games.
Blood on the Sand originally had nothing to do with 50 Cent, and you can tell. It was meant to be a tie-in with a Jason Bourne sequel series written after the death of author Robert Ludlum, but the television show that was also set to release at the same time got cancelled before it could leave production. This left developer Swordfish Studios holding the bag; this is basically what happened with Croteam when they made Serious Sam 3. Swordfish had sunk two years of dev time into making their Covert-One game, and now they had nothing they could do with the prototypes.
Enter Vivendi Games, who order a sequel to 50 Cent: Bulletproof.
It's obvious while playing Blood on the Sand that 50 Cent was just kind of dropped into a product that already existed before he got involved. You have all of these wide, open vistas, with sparkling bloom effects casting rays of light down onto the sand-bleached stones. Dilapidated malls and bombed-out highways serve as the backdrops for stop-and-pop cover shooter segments, tearing up the surroundings with heavy machine gun fire. So much of this game visually tries to tell a story of beautiful landscapes, contrasting against the war-torn buildings and roads of this unnamed Middle Eastern country. It’s ripe for some gruff-voiced American special ops player character to glibly comment on war being hell and how the American invasion of this land is the only way to save these wayward people, mowing them down all the while.
50 Cent doesn’t give a fuck about any of that. 50 Cent just wants his fucking skull.
Blood on the Sand is honest. It's a puff piece for 50 Cent. It's a product that exists solely for the purpose of boosting his image and providing him with another brand tie-in he can point to as a marker of success. 50 Cent doesn't have any poetic musings about the nature of man or if he's the real monster for slaughtering all of these inexplicably Serbian and Slovenian goons. 50 Cent thinks this place is a shithole and he wants to go home as soon as he can get his $10 million jewel-encrusted skull back. The non-fictionalized 50 is on record saying that he loves the game because it shows him jumping out of helicopters and because his model has huge muscles.
The game attempts to answer the question of why 50 Cent is somewhere in the Middle East (the Covert-One books out at the time don't take place in the region, so there's basically zero clue which country this is meant to be) by saying that he's there to play a concert. We have to keep in mind that fiction, unlike reality, is designed from top to bottom to be experienced by an outside viewer. The in-universe justification is that he's there to make money. The real-world reasoning is because, in the year 2009, you're just kind of expected to set your game in the Middle East. They were easy "bad guys". Just because Obama was president doesn't mean shit. Just because the torture of political dissidents in Abu Ghraib was known for half a decade before this doesn't mean shit. Just because it cost untold trillions of dollars and a million lives doesn't mean shit. They — capital-T, bold-italics — did 9/11, so it's all fair game.
But this is all in service of making 50 look cool. Not of anything else. You're meant to watch him gun down five guys with a machine gun while the word MASSACRE takes up a third of the screen and and think "wow, this guy's a badass". You get Gangsta Fire slow-mo and 50 Cent bonus points to unlock music videos for killing quickly, because it makes him look cool. You have three separate helicopter boss fights because 50 Cent's son thought it would make him look cool. You listen to a rotation of background tracks that all sound the same and can only be differentiated in a firefight by whether 50 shouts "I run New York!" or "My gun go off!" at the end of the chorus. You have a dedicated taunt button that you can upgrade to make 50 shout progressively more profane things at his foes for bonus points. Because, you know, it makes him look cool. I think the target demographic for this game was 50 Cent.
Unsurprisingly, 50 Cent and the rest of the G-Unit do a fairly poor job of acting as themselves. Perhaps more surprisingly, everyone save for Lance Reddick kind of sucks in this. The final boss cycles through a Texan accent, a South African accent, a British RP accent, and at one point what sounds like a Chinese accent all in the span of a single helicopter battle. Tony Yayo just...whines all the time? Like, he doesn't do much besides complain about how much he hates being in a Middle Eastern warzone, which, y'know, valid gripe. The other members of the G-Unit are no longer on speaking terms with 50 Cent. That's not relevant to the rest of this paragraph, but I did all of this research into 50 Cent, so I had to mention it somewhere.
The story is nonsense, but it couldn't ever be anything else. 50 Cent just wants his fucking skull. Everything else is tertiary. The "love interest" crosses you, then double-crosses the villains with a story about how they're holding her family captive, and then triple-crosses 50 one final time by revealing that she has no family right at the finish line. 50 Cent quips that she's a "crazy bitch" and that's how he likes his women, and then blows her up with a rocket launcher. Your concert promoter/handler/blackmail victim inevitably turns on you — "trust no one," says the arms dealer, advice which 50 ignores three separate times before the credits roll — and just dies unceremoniously in a generic gunfight. You can blast him the moment you're out of the cutscene and get a 25,000 point bonus for doing it in under thirty seconds. This game is bordering on a work of deconstructive genius.
Blood on the Sand is funny, because Blood on the Sand is quaint. It revels in its own selfishness; the war on terror as an aesthetic to push a real guy as being tough, completely bereft of having anything to say other than "damn, 50 Cent is cool". It's almost refreshing to see something so concerned with itself that it's completely unbothered by its own implications. This is a better condemnation of the war on terror and the American culture that spawned around it than Spec Ops: The Line. Hit that big-ass ramp, Fiddy.
This is the good karma version of Rogue Warrior.

You ever see something that only exists because some suit thought it would net them a promotion?
The stink of "internal pitch released to the public" is one that this game will never manage to wash off of itself, because that is what this so obviously is. This was designed, top to bottom, for the sole purpose of being used in a business proposal to trick some old guys into investing. AI is hot right now, peaking in its usual fad cycles — gamer president memes aren't going to be around for much longer, but they're everywhere right now —and the Square Enix business department have taken the Web3 bait. NFTs, crypto, the blockchain, and now with a re-imagining of The Portopia Serial Murder Case, we're getting into the GPT-esque AI text parser sector. What's unfortunate for the Square Enix Web3 diehards is that their ideas fucking blow and their execution is somehow even worse than their concepts.
The idea of augmenting your traditional text parser with AI may sound interesting. It isn't. Square Enix claims that the point of this move is to limit the classic guess-the-verb problems that arise in primitive text adventure games by allowing the computer to take broader guesses at what the user is trying to say; in effect, putting the challenge of "what am I supposed to do" on the program, rather than the player. The reason why this doesn't work at all is because it's ironically harder to grok what the game is willing to accept as an input when you don't have a predefined list of which verbs work and which ones don't. LOOK and USE and TAKE are primitive, but they're also intuitive. Having a conversation with your AI partner to facilitate going to a location while they hem and haw and chide you for wasting time is frustrating, not convenient.
The game told me very early on that the victim's nephew had a motive and lived down by the port, at Nagisa Apartments. The most rudimentary of text parsers should be able to link "Kobe Port" and "Nagisa Apartments" as being interchangeable should the user wish to go there; with AI, this ought to be trivial. I wanted to go check the place out to see if there was any evidence in the area. Here's what happened:
>Go to Kobe port.
"Maybe we should focus on the task at hand?"
>Let's go to Kobe Port.
>Go to the port.
"Maybe we should focus on the task at hand?"
>Go Kobe Port.
"Maybe we should focus on the task at hand?"
>Let's go to Nagisa Apartments.
"I always forget exactly where that place is. It's somewhere near the port, though. Let's head there first and get our bearings."
Emphasis mine. So the writers understand that the port and Nagisa Apartments are linked, but the game logic fails to make the connection. Awesome. Really impressive showcase of your new technology.
Also, the LOOK command has been rendered completely useless. You're now expected to hold the right control button, making all of the UI elements disappear in order to inspect the background CGs for details. If this sounds like a terrible change, it is. Trying to LOOK around Toshi's apartment just made my partner say that the building was quiet. Inspecting the background CG revealed a phone, which I then examined through the text parser. Also in the CG was a piece of paper tucked beneath the phone. I tried to look at it, but the game was confused. It didn't seem to know if there was a piece of paper, or a note, or a letter, or a notepad, or anything of the sort beneath the phone. It just kept "Hmm..."-ing me. I don't know if this was an inconsequential background element that was painted in by an artist without being considered interactive in the game logic, or if it was a critical piece of evidence that I wasn't allowed to pick up because I wasn't using the correct terminology. If I could have LOOKed around the room for a written description of what was there, the game might have been willing to tell me which word corresponded to that piece of paper. But it didn't, so I didn't get to examine it. (EDIT: After some asking around, the piece of paper was actually a core piece of evidence. The game specifically wanted the term "memo".)
I don't know what about this is meant to be "AI". My partner acts like his brain is seeping out of his ears unless I prompt him with the exact line the game is expecting me to say. It's artificial, sure, but this is far from intelligent. And the game is ten fucking gigabytes! They must have packed the entire model into this thing, and it barely functions! Honestly, this feels like a shoddy Flash-based text adventure more than it does a modern AI tech demo. Something this badly put together wouldn't have flown back when Zork was new; in 2023, this is unacceptable.
One more Square Enix failure for the pile. How many more does the company have left in them before they're forced to fold?

Oh, Sam, what have they done to you?
A friend of mine likes to argue that the seventh generation of video games was the worst of the lot. It’s been the source of a few debates about what came out when for what systems and how bad they were relative to any other generation, but he’s remained adamant that there is nothing, nothing at all worse than the games that were coming out while the Xbox 360 and PS3 were the most modern consoles. He’s a bit older than me, so these were games that I grew up with. I didn’t really get the chance to play most “old” stuff (read: PS2 and back) aside from what I could nab at garage sales and off of the Playstation Network, so I didn’t really have an idea of what games looked like before the seventh gen. It’s only been a fairly recent development that I’ve gotten harder into emulation and broadened my horizons beyond whatever I could pick up for sixty bucks at a Walmart.
The more games I play, the more I’m convinced that my friend is right.
The seventh generation had an obsession with “streamlining”. There was this conception that gamers wanted titles that were completely homogeneous and interchangeable. Call of Duty made money, so make your games more like Call of Duty. Rez didn’t make money, so make your games less like Rez. It was whatever the opposite of a renaissance was; the advent of stricter, hyper-focused market testing was incentivizing the abandonment of the niche title in pursuit of casting as wide a net as possible. Why try to make some money when you could make all of the money? The bottom was falling out of the AA market, and games needed to be bigger, more inflated, more hungry for your time and money. This reached its natural conclusion in the next generation with the creation of loot boxes and season passes, but the seeds of actively anti-consumer practice were starting to be scattered here. God, remember online passes? Second-hand games didn’t make enough money, so companies needed to wring an extra five bucks out of whatever poor sap didn’t bother buying new if they wanted to play multiplayer.
Anyway, one of the genres that got hit hard was the western-developed stealth game. Stealth titles were just too slow, too boring, too methodical. General audiences wouldn’t want to spend all of their time playing them when the new Black Ops map pack just dropped. So Hitman got Absolution, a title that basically forgot that it was originally an environmental puzzle game in favor of being a third-person shooter with “stealth elements”; Thief got THI4F, a game as bad as the title would imply; new games like Dishonored and The Last of Us were content to leave stealth as an optional little bonus to thin out a crowd before you went in guns blazing.
And Splinter Cell got Conviction, a game that watched The Bourne Identity too many times and decided that Sam Fisher really belonged in a commando sweater.
Where to even begin, with a mess this big? I feel like I’m looking into a condemned house and trying to figure out if I should start cleaning it by stripping out the carpets or scrubbing the mold off the walls. I suppose I can give the game a compliment before I start ripping into it: the sound design is pretty good. The directional audio worked consistently well, which is more than I can say for most games. It was easy to tell where an enemy was without seeing him so long as he was shouting some weird combat bark, which they did pretty frequently. Everything they wind up saying was goofy enough to get a laugh. It reminds me of the Ghost Tour bit in I Think You Should Leave. “Fuck, it’s fucking Fisher! How the fuck are we gonna kill this fucking guy?! Fuck!” Calm down! Like half of everyone’s dialog is just cursing. It’s silly. Honestly, it might be the only part of the game that I enjoyed.
Every part of the gameplay exists seemingly as a solution so in search of a problem that it needed to start inventing them. New to the series — and remaining a mainstay as much as you can call it one, since only one Splinter Cell game actually came out after this — is the Mark and Execute system, wherein you can tag a couple of enemies and then kill them all at once with the press of a button. You might be thinking to yourself that “tagging” enemies in a shooter to kill them later is a bit pointless; after all, if you have line of sight for long enough to hover your reticle over them and press Q to mark them, then surely you can just press left click and shoot them without needing to take the extra step. You would be right.
Well, you would be, but Sam Fisher has forgotten how to hit a target more than ten yards out in his old age.
The engagement range of all of your weapons has absolutely plummeted since the time of previous games. If Sam is crouched down, in cover, standing completely still, and holding his aim at a guy about thirty feet out, he’s probably going to miss. He’s going to miss a lot. Reticle bloom is absolutely massive, which really matters when the act of landing an instakill head shot is up to luck more than it is to skill; if the random distribution gods decide that your first bullet is going wide, then the rest of the magazine is going to follow behind it. By the time the enemies get helmets which render them completely immune to anything less than eight rounds in center mass, you have to give up on any pretense of stealth and just commit to playing a sluggish, boring cover shooter. It’s rough. The Mark and Execute system is still bordering on pointless in spite of this, since it requires a melee kill before it recharges. You can practically feel the game begging you to use it when they spawn an enemy with his back to the door, which then leads into a room with four guys standing around in a circle discussing how much they wish Sam Fisher won’t walk in and shoot them all in the head.
Not helping matters is the fact that your foes are dumb. They’re really dumb. The game informs you with a little ghostly afterimage of Sam where your last known position was, and enemies seem to just wander up to it in the hopes of catching you off guard. All you need to do to counter this is shimmy yourself a few feet in either direction and they won’t bother checking around to see if you’ve moved, nor will they organize a flank in anticipation of you doing so; you can just watch five guys sprint in a straight line down a choke point where you’ve planted a beeping, glowing landmine, and let it immediately clear the entire room of every threat before anyone's fired a shot.
It should go without saying that the story is dreck, but that won't stop me from pontificating about it anyway. What we have here is a cross between The Bourne Identity and Taken; a sad dad who is the greatest and most legendary super soldier to ever live mowing down as many people as he can while a shaky handheld camera follows behind him in his quest to get his daughter back. It doesn't even have the confidence that Kane and Lynch had of actually incorporating the shaky-cam into the gameplay to make the entire experience feel like found footage. Here, it's just reserved for cutscenes. We need to wiggle the frame all around while Michael Ironside grumbles about how he wants his daughter back and how pissed off he is. Because as we all know, when you think of Sam Fisher, you think of an angry dad. Oh, you don't? Huh. Well, you should have told that to Richard Dansky, who took over for the franchise starting with Double Agent and decided that that was going to be Fisher's character from here on out.
It's so stupid. The narrative really has zero respect for the player's intelligence, and I can prove it with the simple statement that the game keeps plastering keywords all over the environment so that you always know how someone is feeling. Grim (who is now a sexy spy babe whose tits cannot stop shaking whenever she's on screen) is revealing to Sam that she's been lying to him for three straight years about his daughter's death? Plaster the words ANGER, LIES, SARAH over the screen to make sure that we're keeping up. If you say that Max Payne 3 did this, I'll argue that it was at least trying to maintain the feel of the comic panels from the first two games. This is much more akin to DmC: Devil May Cry's level geometry being painted with the words "BITCH IS NEAR" when Kat is in the next room over. You even get a literal Press X to Hit Woman prompt three times in a row before launching your escape in the very first mission for the tacticool bro points. Equal rights, equal fights. Oorah.
The bad guys are running Third Echelon now (but they were the NSA before, so I repeat myself) with the help of/under the guise of being some mercenary group called Black Arrow. They're funded by some mystery benefactor called Meggido, and they've been developing EMPs to blow up all of the electronics in DC in order to take over the White House. This, as the plan goes, will then allow Third Echelon to not be defunded, so that they can continue putting a stop to terrorist attacks. Third Echelon is committing acts of terror in an attempt to demonstrate that the US needs Third Echelon to stop people from committing acts of terror. It isn't even a good false flag; Sam Fisher figures out the entire scheme because the two mustache-twirling villains have a meeting in broad daylight to discuss their evil plans, and Sam manages to capture the entire thing with nothing more than two hidden cameras that were already there by the time he showed up. The president is the one to tip Sam off that there's going to be a coup with the express goal of killing her to create a power vacuum, and she doesn't even leave the fucking White House on the night that everything is set to go down. If this sounds borderline incomprehensible, it makes even less sense while you're playing it. This is me recounting what happened after I've had a day to think about it and a Wikipedia plot synopsis to leaf through.
This is also a contender for one of the worst soundtracks I've heard in a game. Not only is it completely sonically inconsistent, but some of these songs are complete fucking garbage. Who's in the mood for some dead daughter electronic? No? How about some generic buttrock that sounds like it was pulled directly from a royalty-free library and dropped into the game without a single edit? Still no? Well, don't worry. We've got an inexplicable instrumental version of Building Steam With A Grain of Salt, and it fits about as well into the segment in which it plays as a round peg in a square hole. God forgive whatever Ubisoft employee who decided that this game needed to play a track from Endtroducing... in a sequence with infinite Mark and Execute that's more boring than it is badass. What an abject waste of a pull from one of the greatest albums ever produced.
Splinter Cell: Conviction is trash, but it's really nothing more than a collection of symptoms of the greater problem that games at the time were facing. It wasn't enough for this to just be a game. It needed to be a big, important game. It needed to rip off movie plots and hire Hollywood composers. It needed to have flashy graphics and new gameplay mechanics and appeal to as broad of an audience as possible in the hopes of maximizing the final profits. This has — thankfully — died down in recent years, and games like Hitman have come back in a big way with the realization that appealing to a niche isn't a death knell for your product. But I/O Interactive is a much smaller collective than Ubisoft and its many tendrils. It's been a decade since the last Splinter Cell game, and I struggle to imagine Ubisoft willing to settle for anything less than all of the money with their new games. Maybe if they can figure out a way to work live service into it.
They sent Sam Fisher to Iraq in this.

It’s Resident Evil 4’s little brother, but there are worse families to come from.
I haven’t played Dead Space in about eight years. I was still a teenager the last time that I booted it up, and I don’t think I ever finished it. Most of my time with the series was spent playing the sequel, which I started with; the “Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2” campaign worked on me because I was, like, thirteen years old. Regardless, it’s a series that I’m decently fond of, and all the news and coverage of the recent remake made me want to go back and check out the title that started it all.
Fifteen years later, it’s still punching well above its weight.
Who decided that games ever needed to look better than this? Seriously, who? Dead Space is visually more impressive than most of the multi-million dollar AAA games coming out today. Sure, it’s a lot of sterile corridors with more than a few obviously copy-pasted rooms, but the lighting effects are still working like a Trojan to make all of these environments look incredible. That aside, the game plays with scale in an equally impressive manner; you’ve got tiny Lurkers, bird-like Infectors, Isaac-sized Slashers, tall and lanky Dividers, massive Brutes, an enormous Leviathan, and the incomprehensibly-large Hive Mind, all of which need to be dispatched by some schlub with an engineering degree. It would have been so easy to just make them all vaguely humanoid — they are literally infected humans, after all — but Dead Space puts in the work to create these varied designs that are both visually striking and mechanically unique to play against. This released in the same year and on the same console as Gears of War 2, and you would not be able to tell from looking at them side-by-side. In the darkest ages of brown ‘n’ bloom, Dead Space did gunmetal ‘n’ orange emergency lights. It’s a striking visual identity, and the last stop on the graphical fidelity train before we ran directly ahead into bourgeois raytracing decadence.
Further setting itself apart from its third-person shooter contemporaries are Dead Space’s demands for the player to shoot off limbs, rather than go for center-mass magdumps or instant-kill headshots. This is far from wholly unique — Killer7 both encouraged blowing off enemy appendages and hitting pin-point critical zones usually placed away from the head — but Dead Space was likely going to be the first time that most people got to see a combat system like that. It does an outstanding job in differentiating itself on this alone; your reaction to being jumpscared by some horrible shrieking monster is likely going to be to panic-fire on it until your weapon clicks empty, but this is only going to result in you getting run through by a Slasher who is totally going to go brag to its friends about the screaming dumbshit engineer it killed today. Aiming for the limbs is tricky and counter-intuitive to the muscle memory you’ll have developed if you play a lot of third-person shooters, and in the year 2008, you were playing a lot of third-person shooters. It forces you to perform a specific, precise set of actions under pressure, which suits itself well to a horror game. The way that the limbs soar off and the necromorphs disassemble is likely going to be the main thing here that you'll wish other games so much as tried to adopt.
Of course, I think it's long been agreed that Dead Space isn't especially scary. Necromorphs will sloooowly work their way out of vents or loudly announce they're about to drop through the ceiling, and then stand there screaming for a couple of seconds in a fully-lit room so that you can get a good look at them before they attack. On normal difficulty, you've got more than enough time to react and blast all of their limbs off before they've finished their little pre-combat roars. I imagine that this is slightly less true on hard mode, but the PC version has a bug that keeps swapping your difficulty to medium no matter what you initially pick at the start, making it both the intended way to play the game and the obligatory one.
Also not helping matters is how ridiculously generous the game is with resources; you'll basically never be hurting for ammo or health packs no matter how much of the stuff you waste. I ended my playthrough with literally around forty health kits of varying sizes sitting idly in my store safe because I never needed to use them. There's also also a bug that makes it so the ammo for the weapon you most recently bought is vastly over-represented in the random drops, which meant that I had hundreds upon hundreds of Line Racks which I could sell for 3,000 credits a pop. I had more money, health, power nodes, and ammo than I knew what to do with, and it mostly just wound up in storage well after the final boss. I beat the Hive Mind without taking a single hit because its attack pattern is the slowest left-right-left-right combination you've ever seen in your entire life, so the eight full heals sitting in my inventory went unused.
But, y'know, nobody really ever complains about Resident Evil 4 not being scary, and that game is still probably the greatest piece of survival horror ever created. It's not like it's a mark against Dead Space. Even so, I think it would have been nicer if it had tried to be a bit more subtle. When you're in the silent vacuum of space and a Slasher creeps up behind you, it works. When you hear weird, ragged breathing and round the corner to see a Divider standing right in your face, it works. When a monster explodes out of a vent with all of the lights on and screams while every instrument in the orchestra plays at the same time, it doesn't.
I know that the creators commented that they were trying to move away from jumpscares in favor of building atmosphere as development on the game went on, so it's clear that they're aware. It might just be an inherent problem of this being Dumb Couch Guy horror — you've gotta have your blaring horns and shrieking strings and horrible, fully-visible monster if you want to sell "a scary game" to general audiences. People weren't showing up to this because they wanted a cerebral game that commented on organized religion and mineral exploitation, or whatever. They wanted to leap at the jumpscares and throw their snacks all over the room when they did it.
Hell, it's what got me in the door. Like I said, I fell for Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2. I'm as dumb a couch guy as any.
Story's fine. I still have no idea what the reason behind creating the Marker in the first place was. "Scientists found this real alien artifact that turned everyone into monsters, so they made a copy and shipped it off to this planet". Okay. Why? I think they explain in a text log somewhere that they did this out of desperation to create an energy source, but nothing I found gives me a reason why they think that would happen at all. It's harder to find information on what was actually in the original game now that the remake has come out and rewritten a lot of the plot of the first title. Regardless, most of the actual plot of Dead Space is a series of go-here, do-this quests that seem more like spinning wheels than anything else. It winds up making sense why your supporting cast is so useless with the twist that one of them is constantly, actively sabotaging you, so I don't feel too slighted by the fact that most of what I did accomplished nothing. Besides, this is cosmic horror. Being insignificant is part of the fun.
All in all, Dead Space is still an immensely solid title a decade and a half after release. I can't believe that it still runs on Windows 10 as well as it does, but that opinion might be colored by the fact that Splinter Cell: Conviction refused to recognize my operating system when I tried to play it the other week. I feel through the floor once, and one room refused to load properly until I repaired the install, but this remains a technically near-flawless, polished experience. Apparently someone at EA has been stealth updating the game as late as December 2016 to help it run better, which probably explains the compatibility on newer OSes. Maybe it was part of a long con to hype up the remake, but seven years would have been way too long of a time to wait for a marketing payoff. I think it's more likely that someone working at EA cared enough about the franchise after it was unceremoniously killed off by the company to keep this functioning well into the future.
It's really funny that they considered "beat the game using only the Plasma Cutter" to be an achievement worth 40 Gamerscore. I think you'd have a harder time if you actually bothered buying the other guns.

I remembered it being good, but not this good.
What an incredible title! Three years were all it took for Visceral to internalize their understanding of what Dead Space was and apply it to a new release, and it results in a game that looks like it should be at least a console generation above what it is and plays like it's trying to show off to big-brother Resident Evil 4 instead of just imitating. From top to bottom, Dead Space 2 is a clear and serious evolution of everything that came before it, and it remains one of the most impressive showcases of how to make a sequel I've ever seen.
I’d be remiss to imply that much about Dead Space 2 is subtle, but there’s an outstanding atmosphere here. The game is a lot more restrained than the previous title in the moment-to-moment action, but it gets a little antsy and has to have a big, explosive set piece every half hour or else it’ll have a heart attack and die. There are a lot of quiet moments; fewer instances where the entire orchestra makes their instruments shriek while a monster stands stark still in broad daylight and waits for you to line up a shot. You get flanked way more often, with most of the necromorphs not making so much as a sound while they creep up behind you. Everything about the Stalkers is so solid that I’m going to give them their own paragraph later. One hallway — filled with little fleshy landmines that you need to slowly and carefully dispatch — starts silently spawning in Slashers directly at your back. Another sequence hangs Isaac by his ankles and forces him to dispatch approaching necromorphs two years before The Last of Us ripped the entire setpiece the fuck off. It’s good! It’s really good! Of course, the Dumb Couch Guy sequences of fighting off gunships or doing a HALO jump hundreds of meters through a glass roof and being fine after the landing are widely seen as being too big and too goofy, but I’m a dumb office chair guy. This is my hole. It was made for me.
There have been a lot of complaints about how Dead Space 2 action-ized the series and stripped it of too much of the horror, but I’m on the record as saying that Dead Space was never really scary to begin with. I don’t think that dropping some of the pretense is a terrible idea, but maintaining horror elements is crucial to maintaining the identity of the series. Fortunately, I think Visceral struck a phenomenal balance here; the mechanics of the gameplay have been tweaked to make everything a little bit more difficult to sleepwalk through and a little more tense, all the while being immensely fun to play. The plasma cutter earned a (rightful) nerf, and the other guns have been made considerably stronger than they were in order to compensate.
You’ve actually got a reason to use anything other than your default starting pistol now, and it works wonders for experimenting and finding the best tools for the job. Weak enemies like the Pack and Crawlers which can be dispatched in one or two shots call for something you can spray, like the pulse rifle or the flamethrower; tougher foes that stack up in a swarm can be dispatched with the line gun or the ripper; Stalkers that flank and rush you will sprint straight into detonator mines and gib themselves before they can reach you. I’m a massive fan of games with enemy designs and arsenals like this which are never prescriptive. There are solutions which are better than others, but there are no wrong answers. The comparison I like to make is between Doom (1993) and Doom Eternal; the only thing stopping you from beating a Cacodemon to death with just your fists in the original is player skill, while the Spirits in Eternal require you to kill them with a single attachment on a single gun because it’s a reference to Ghostbusters. I digress. Point is, you’ve got a lot of tools, and it’s up to the player to determine which one you should use in a given fight. Some are more efficient for dispatching certain enemies, but pressure factors like ammo counts, reload timing, or inopportune enemy spawns can justify forgoing efficiency for survival.
This has some of the best sound design I’ve heard in anything, full stop. My god, the sound that the pulse rifle makes when you reload it! I stopped playing for a solid minute just to listen to the ticking of the seeker rifle when you zoom it in. The plasma cutter's bolts now hiss when searing a necromorph's flesh. Monster gurgles and shrieks and groans are balanced to sound perpetually in your ears, lurking behind you or tucked around corners. Exploder screams are specifically, uniquely balanced to be exempt from the directional audio; it's impossible to tell where they are, just that they are. It begs to be experienced. I cannot feasibly get enough of this soundscape.
And holy shit, the Stalkers. I love fighting these things. You could have made an entire game where they're constantly hunting you down and it would have worked completely fine. The high of baiting one into a charge while its friends taunt you and then blowing off all of the attacker's limbs is ridiculous. I am a fucking surgeon with the seeker rifle. I have mastered the art of two-shotting even the fastest Stalker and whipping around with enough speed and precision to get the one flanking me, too. They're smart. The raptors from Jurassic Park were a clear inspiration, and Visceral completely nailed it. Unlike the other enemies, their AI seems too particular to work on any old map, so the Stalkers get their own unique rooms with plenty of sight lines and side routes to disorient and distract you. They rule. I love them so much.
If you recall me saying a few days ago that graphics didn’t need to be better than they were in Dead Space, it’s clear that someone at EA/Visceral disagreed. This shit is decadent. This is like converting truffles into game visuals. You've got these dark, moody sections lit only by emergency light and candles; cold, sterile specimen tubes with sky-blue artificial lights catching the rolling layers of fog; the entire Church of Unitology is as beautiful as it sounds, contrasting its drab steel service corridors against massive rooms of worship and sacrifice adorned with stained glass and Marker-pattern greebling. This game is gorgeous. I can't remember the last time I've seen art direction this strong.
And the story is...less great, unsurprisingly. Again, it’s not like it was outstanding in the first game, so I wasn’t expecting much, but that doesn’t save it from being silly. You couldn’t pretend to call this a sensitive portrayal of mental illness; Stross starts off as a decently-written and sympathetic character who’s been treated like a lab rat for so long that it’s warped him into a nervous, guilt-ridden wreck, but he just turns into a giggling, Joker-like maniac who stabs people’s eyes out with screwdrivers by the end. Isaac is now confirmed to suffer from “Marker dementia”, which is a phrase so inherently funny that I couldn’t believe it was the wording that they settled on. Marker psychosis is probably the terminology Visceral were fishing for. I lost my shit laughing the first time I saw the lady in the nursery get blown up by an exploding baby, and I think I was meant to be horrified. Oh, and the Marker puts blueprints in your brain if you’re smart and just makes you go cuckoo if you don’t have an engineering degree. It’s schlock. You can’t really ignore it, either, because there are a heavy amount of walk-and-talk sections. I ultimately didn’t care, since I was kind of enjoying the inherent goofiness of everything that was going on, but I really can’t blame anyone for not being able to look past it.
Back when I reviewed the remake of Resident Evil 2, I said that sometimes you just have to give a game a respectable five stars when it's done nothing wrong by the time the credits roll. You can easily apply this philosophy to something like Tetris, or Super Mario Bros.. If there are no obvious faults, why knock points off? I don't have some catchy term for this subgroup, but they're what I believe most people would largely consider to be understandable and non-controversial "perfect" games.
Dead Space 2 is not one of them.
It's flawed. I can't pretend that it isn't. What it is, however, is a game with problems that have never once detracted from my holistic experience at all. I love this game. I played it when I was 13, and I'm playing it now at 25, and I appreciate it today more than I did when I was younger. Hopefully this pattern keeps and I can put this in my top five of all time once I hit 37.
My mom didn't actually hate Dead Space 2.

EA at last becomes to Dead Space what vultures are to carrion.
Christ, this is it. It's so fucking over that it's hard to believe it even began. I hope Backloggd starts de-weighting my account after I post this for swinging directly from the highest score you can give a game to the lowest in the span of two reviews. But it's not like I can justify giving Dead Space 3 a single sliver of a star more than this. Man. I have lived long enough to see another thing I love get the meat flayed from its bones and then sold back to me as though it were what I originally enjoyed. The (appropriate!) shambling corpse of a game that's here is barely holding itself together through its own atrocious design, an onslaught of bugs, and corporate meddling so heavy that you can taste the copper of the pennies they wrung out of it. It's a game at war with itself, being pulled in two irreconcilable directions by its creators and its publisher; divorce leads children to the worst places.
The animated-chicken-nugget-fication of Dead Space. A Bosch-like nightmare scape not textually but meta-textually. Microtransaction-reliant crafting resource collector drones returning +1 Damage +1 Reload microchips under the implication that those stats have meaning beyond providing the knowledge that, somewhere, numbers are increasing. The end stage of cynical market-tested brand awareness, acting purely as a terminal diagnosis for 80 careers. Advertising strategy dependent purely on guilting the consumer for not consuming enough and dangling culpability for securing the livelihoods of Visceral employees over the heads of people like me foolish enough to buy.
Dead Space 3 abjectly fails from the outset with its new mechanical overhauls, ensuring that you're only ever using a single crafted gun for the entire duration of the game and stripping you of the veritable arsenals that prior games provided. There's no point in doing anything besides stacking as many upgrades as you can fit onto a single weapon; you can freely respec the stat boosting chips around without penalty and ammunition is now universal. Alt-fires are completely gone, replaced with a crafting bench Frankenstein-ing of two primary fires together, meaning that any gun whose main function isn't "spray bullets" is inherently worthless. The damage boost for shooting limbs has been reduced to negligible amounts, so bodyshots become king. Not like it matters, since firing into the torso just happens to make the limbs fall off regardless, dismemberment now acting as a visual indicator of overall damage rather than as a reward for well-placed shots. Any pretense of balance goes out the window the second you unlock the Chain Gun and its 3,000 round reserves, and said balance is then buried six feet beneath wet mud once you unlock an attachment that coats your fucking bullets in Stasis. You now have a portable, 150-bullet-per-magazine slow motion gun that shreds whatever you point it at and never runs out of ammo. You are never in any danger for the rest of the game unless you fail one of the many, many QTEs that keep getting thrown at you and result in an instant kill if you don't mash fast enough.
There's a little foible with the universal ammo mechanic wherein a singular "ammo clip" secretly provides a percentage of the magazine size in usable ammunition. Naturally, I started applying as many +3 Clip upgrades to my Chain Gun as I could fit, and packed my twenty-five slot inventory with all the 20-stacks of ammo that I had. Equipping my gun revealed the truth that any pretense of survival horror had been dropped; I can carry on my person a theoretical maximum of 24,600 bullets — 49.2 shots per ammo clip. Enemies drop five fucking ammo clips at a time when you kill them. Two hundred and forty-six free bullets as a common pickup dropped by necromorphs and humans who regularly die in about twenty shots tops. There exists no reality where you could ever run out of supplies. Even if you do, the new microtransaction drone that collects crafting materials will always stop by your bench with plenty of raw resources that you can refine into more ammo clips and full heals. If your gun ever clicks empty, I'd guess you were actively trying to run out of bullets. I spent a magazine into a wall just to illustrate to a friend the fact that I got an attachment that automatically reloaded my gun for me, and I didn't even notice the ammo loss. You have an arbitrarily large amount of bullets. It's fucking stupid.
Speaking of fucking stupid, the story here has somehow gotten worse than in Dead Space 2, which is honestly one of the most impressive things about Dead Space 3. In the previous game, it was rough. I won't make apologies for it. What I will say is that it wasn't distractingly bad.
Ellie as a character has been twisted from a decently-written action girl who can take care of herself and refuses to let Isaac do things alone into helpless eye-candy whose only role is to cry and be one of three points in a love triangle. I cannot overstate the disservice they've done to her here. She's acting like she's never seen a person die before, weeping and screaming that she can't bear to go on after losing a couple of crewmates; the very last game had her say that she had to kill her own squad when they turned into necromorphs, and while she's clearly broken up over it, she manages to hold herself together past the end of the game. Here, she's written to be nothing more than an object that needs to be protected by Isaac, completely incapable of handling herself — the narrative equivalent of Baby Mario. Isaac himself similarly exists to both scream "Ellie" and quietly seethe over the fact that she's got a new jock boyfriend. The entire subplot hardly matters anyway, because the guy gets unceremoniously shot in the head to turn the love triangle into a vector and give Isaac the girl by default. Ellie barely even mourns the guy for more than ten minutes (incredibly uncharacteristically for her in this game, since every death prior to and after this makes her have a breakdown) before she's completely over it and confessing her undying adoration for Isaac.
The actual plot beats are the worst they've ever been. A man who is very clearly Elton John operating under the pseudonym of Danik has taken charge of Unitology — all of it, I suppose — and has made them go full mask-off death cult. The Unitologists now wear balaclavas with skulls painted on them like they're fucking Ghost from Modern Warfare and blow themselves up with Looney Tunes sticks of dynamite. Since escaping from the mental ward in Dead Space 2, Isaac has now somehow gained a reputation for himself as "The Marker Killer" (a title which he boasts about) and gets kidnapped/forcibly enlisted into a space military squad to go kill the Very Final Marker somewhere off in deep space. Shit goes awry, another ancient alien race built technology to make everything on a planet snowy to freeze the necromorphs, everyone on the snowy planet dies, Danik drops Facts And Logic on our protagonists, the moon is actually made out of necromorphs, a lot of moons are made out of necromorphs, the sentient necromorph moons fly to Earth and kill everyone and the game ends. Sprinkle in some daytime television romantic tension and mix it with Gears of War angry jarhead shouting matches and you've got a recipe for something that sucks ass and manages to be completely forgettable.
There are two sequences where Carver, the new co-op partner and resident boot-boy dipshit succumbs to his own flavor of Marker dementia and starts seeing things that aren't there. Since the Markers are now portable Silent Hill 2s and can only truly be beaten by overcoming your guilt rather than eldritch artifacts that make necromorphs, he sees visions of his dead family. Something happened that caused him to abandon them, they got turned into necromorphs, and then he killed them. Theoretically sad, but we've seen this exact same setup in countless bits of zombie fiction before this. How does the game decide to get all Carver's grief and anguish and consuming guilt across? With massive birthday party banners that read "DADDY HATES ME" and "DEAD INSIDE". Christ. Carver goes into his mind palace and guns down a bunch of shadow children for long enough to get over his dementia and it's never brought up again for the rest of the game. Okay. Sure.
This is an ugly game, and I mean that beyond just its narrative. The striking visual direction found in the first two games — horror in the sterile gunmetal corridors of the first and the gorgeous dynamic multi-colored lighting of the second — has essentially been excised. What we're left with looks like a collection of Mortal Kombat stage backgrounds at their best and a very early Xbox 360 title at their worst. Everything is so washed out and foggy, as though the render distance has been cranked down to five feet in front of Isaac's face. Dead Space came out six years prior to this and it looks significantly better with regards to both art direction and technical fidelity. There's seemingly no part of this game that you couldn't call a downgrade.
I hate Dead Space 3. It completely fails at everything that it sets out to do. It's heartbreaking to see the leap in quality between Dead Space and Dead Space 2, and then to watch how impossibly far the series manages to fall by the time it closes out the trilogy. If this was the trajectory that it was set to take from this point on, I'm relived that the series is now dead and buried. Sometimes letting go hurts less than clinging on to a miserable misfire.
The DLC warned me after I bought it that it wasn't going to be covered by EA's Great Game Guarantee, and that's honestly funnier than anything I could have hoped to write myself.

my friend twist wont yop on neo turf masters bc he's a little bitch that mains ken

This is my second review for this game. The first one is available here; I'm writing a new one because I feel like there's too many comparisons, too much saying it is good for merely being what other golf games are not. And while it is true that this game is the exception in the horrible genre that is golf games, using such a framework doesn't sell you at all into the searing complexity of this world or the beautiful way all these little interlocking systems cascade together to make every stroke and every hole an exciting and fresh ordeal.
The first time you play a Neo Turf Masters game after the tutorial, starting with any course not all the features are there. It begins as just feeling out the different clubs and the controls. But eventually, wind is added. Then grain, then increasingly more difficult and involved holes. There is obviously one goal - to get the ball in the hole - but the level design makes it so much more; will you glide along the fairway or will you take a complete crackshot? Will you aim low and risk the bounces or will you shoot to the sky and submit your ball to the wind? From the first stroke all of these possibilities spread out infinitely and the joy in revelling in them is unmatched. "Addictive" is a term I like to avoid in games as much as I can help it, but this game has utterly cast a spell on me.
Any game can make winning feel good, but it takes a great game to make losing feel good and Neo Turf Masters does it in spades; it's genuinely been a very long time since I've discovered a game with as thrilling a minutae and as elegant building of systems to make every action maximally engaging as Neo Turf Masters.
Sorry if this review is rambly, this game really does sweep me off my feet

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