PSN Review – Dead Space Ignition

October 17, 2010Written by Ray Conley

Electronic Arts successfully launched one of the most unique survival horror games on next-gen consoles: Dead Space. With Dead Space 2 coming up within a few months, EA is looking to expand its audience by ushering in Dead Space: Ignition, which features an interactive comic book style narrative, allowing players to follow a choose-your-own-adventure storyline. This prologue to Dead Space 2 aims to fill in the gap from the original title, also bridging the people new to the genre so that they may easily pick up on the events of the second game in this series.

First up to bat is Dead Space Ignition’s presentation. Simply put, it’s horrid. No, not horrid as in horror or scary, but just plain horrible. I understand that Ignition is attempting to go for a comic book feel in its artistic department, but everything falls apart with its various scribbled images and sketched shapes. There is nothing artsy about it; it’s just plain messy and ugly. To give the comic an animated feel, you’ll see the sketched images make awkward shifts from time-to-time, but it’s not even a true animated sequence. I honestly don’t know what to call it. The characters really don’t move, but rather they are stretched and shifted like a bad paper-doll theatrical production. The voice acting that follows it isn’t stellar either, and quite frankly, is forgettable. This essentially removes any sort of dark horror elements from its supposed serious tone, and makes the presentation somewhat comical and downright distracting.

In Ignition, you play the role of computer and electronics hacker, Franco. Throughout this storyline, you’ll be tasked with, well, hacking broken computer gear. You’ll be presented with three different mini-games that will pop-up during your play through: Hardware Crack, System Override, and Trace Route.

In Hardware Crack, your task is to navigate a path for two colored lasers to reach a specific sensor. You’ll have different mirror tools at your disposal to help reflect the laser beams towards your end objective. If you misplace one of your tools or need to reroute a path, you can easily remove the mirrors and reset them with no penalty, but you do need to complete your task before the timer runs out.  Out of all the three mini-games, this one easily takes the cake and is quite fun.

System Override will be a familiar style for many of you who have dabbled with any tower defense game. But don’t get comfortable yet, there is a twist. Instead of setting up the defenses, it’s now your job to make it through the obstacles. You’ll have up to four different units that you can deploy to run amuck in the maze of defensive structures. You can launch multiple units, as long as you manage your energy meter and don’t deplete it. Depending on what unit you deploy, energy from your reserves will be consumed, but will regenerate over time. As much as I wanted to engage myself in this, it became rather confusing. Even after viewing the tutorials, the purpose of each unit wasn’t exactly clear.

The defense units that are deployed against you are marked with specific symbols, although I wasn’t entirely aware what roles they played either, only that they were out to destroy my units. You can take out some these units with the use of an EMP, but choose wisely.  Once spent, your EMP will not regenerate. The only thing that I understood was that I had to get my units from Point A to Point B. Once you get enough units to reach the finish line, and with a little luck, you’ll have caused enough damage to the “core” to complete this puzzle.

And now for the most frustrating of them all: Trace Route. In this challenge, your duty is to race an electrical defense system via a side-scrolling maze to a finish line. It may sound easy in theory, but this one will bring the darkness out of you. In this scramble to the finish, you’ll constantly be bombarded with obstacles that you have to quickly navigate around. Running into any object will slow you down, quickly giving your near-flawless opponents the upper hand with little to no chance of ever catching up. You will have a few aids at your disposal to alleviate your anxiety. If one opponent is trailing close behind you, dropping a barrier will make it stall for a few moments, giving you a chance to increase your distance. However, if you do find yourself doing the trailing, you’ll have limited use to a boost button to get you back into the race. Most of these races are so long and drawn out, with the difficulty increasing as they pit more obstacles in your path and multiple rivals. You’ll most likely find yourself on the losing end on this one multiple times, and when you do you will have to start from the very beginning of the torturous gauntlet, as there are no checkpoints to start from once you are beaten.

Throughout the game, you’ll encounter moments where you’ll need to decide what path to take in the story. Doing so, will put you on a unique path and land you in one of the four different endings. However, completing the game isn’t necessary to get the exclusive swag. Once you complete your first hack and then create a save file, you’ll unlock an exclusive hacker suit that can be used for the main game of Dead Space 2 to add some finesse for cracking digital equipment. You’ll also receive additional items, such as a new weapon skin, additional audio logs, and some support items to boot. But after all is said and done, it’s hard not to wonder if the trip was really worth it.

In the end, Dead Space: Ignition basically boils down to a piece of over-priced DLC. It would make more sense to pay $1.99 for the exclusive suit itself, than to waste five bucks and struggle through a forgettable adventure, whose primary existence is to only make a quick buck from its customers. While the concept of choosing your own adventure is thrilling, the implementation of it is done very poorly. With the cheap production values and puzzles that turn boring after a few rounds, purchasing Ignition is difficult to recommend. In a time where consumers are looking to get the best bang for their buck, you’re probably better off saving that $5 and putting it towards a down payment on Dead Space 2.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

– Terrible execution and presentation.

– Mini-games can become boring.

– Little to no value.

3 out of 10