[Editor’s Note: Wow, I can’t believe this but this post has been set to “private” since the day I posted it and I never noticed until today. Sorry about that!]
I awoke at 7:45 the next morning, the jet lag working in my favor (it being nearly 11:00 back home and all) I was slightly groggy, though nothing a quick shower couldn’t fix. I spent the next half hour watching television, perusing my notes on Dead Space and finalizing interview questions before jamming all my portable gadgets including my digital voice recorder, camera and oh so important cell phone into my pockets. I picked up my notebook, grabbed my room key and headed downstairs. It was finally time to be a journalist.
I once again met up with my journalistic comrades (some sporting hangovers from the night past) and we were led off to EA’s headquarters where we were treated to a nice catered breakfast before being split into two groups and sent our separate ways, one group headed off to experience the game for the first time, and the other sent to another room in which two members of the development team (Art Director Ian Milham and Concept Artist Ben Wanat) gave us a short presentation on the evolution of Dead Space’s art direction encompassing the environments to character and creature design from concept to the finished product.
The day was layered in this fashion with presentations and hands on gameplay time alternating between the two groups every half hour or so. After the presentation concluded, we were quickly ushered into the gameplay room in which seventeen stations, all running Dead Space on either the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 on high definition monitors complete with noise cancelling headphones to isolate the experience for each player and immerse you within the environment. Unfortunately, my first gameplay session is one of the things I can’t go into detail about so I’ll just say it was pretty sweet and that’s it.
Before I delve further into my first hand experiences with Dead Space, I have to give credit to the development team for finding a way to make me look forward to the presentations nearly as much as I did to actually playing the game for myself.
There was much more to see and hear as we pressed on throughout the day, playing the game and listening intently as the developers told us just how much work had been done to make the game as close to their original vision as they possibly could and how many steps they took, such as a highly intensive focus group program, the largest of which for any game ever developed at EA Redwood Shores.
I was able to land an interview with Ian Milham where we discussed various aspects of the game’s art design, from the necromorphs themselves to the environments, which the necromorphs can use to escape from you and spring traps using network of ventilation ducts and narrow crawlspaces. These environmental designs add a great deal of tension to the proceedings, as you see ominous shadows dancing on the walls around you and creatures hiding just out of eyeshot, waiting to pounce at any given second.
After sitting down to play the game it must be said that all of my previous worries that this would be a Silent Hill or Resident Evil clone (or the illegitimate bastard child of the two) were quickly put to rest within a few minutes of playing the game. The development team behind Dead Space has done a great job of carving out a fairly unique horror niche all its own. There are no space marines and Isaac Clarke is not a trained soldier equipped with the latest in high powered weaponry. He’s an engineer equipped with mining tools and as such, you cannot play this game as if it were a run and gun shooter or you’ll end up dead fairly quickly, often in a most gruesome fashion.
As the day drew to a close, we were shuffled into EA’s theater one final time and thanked for our participation in making this perhaps the best Community Invitational EA had ever sponsored. Bags of swag were doled out and we were treated to one final look at Dead Space’s zero-g gameplay. Sadly, I can’t talk about it in detail but allow me to say that it was awesome up until our presenter’s grisly death.
On second thought, even that part was pretty awesome.
The Dead Space Community day was over, we all met up in the lobby once more to say our goodbyes and head back to the hotel. Some of us, (myself included) had flights to catch that very night. I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bed, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about the events past. Dead Space had impressed me, surpassing my expectations and leaving me salivating for more.
Ah well. I guess all I can do now is wait until the game’s October release. Until then, I guess I’ll have to get myself a drool bib.