I didn’t know at first about this game. It blatantly seemed to borrow from Silent Hill, Half-Life and DOOM, and usually when having so many influences mishmashed in a game the good stuff either gets overwhelmed, or simply omitted altogether. Plus, it was a console game first, one that I demoed on the PS3 with disasterous results (mainly stemming from the awkward control schemes offered). I didn’t go near it.
Then Steam had it on sale for $20. Not having anything else to fiddle with at the time, and since most everyone I knew that played it enjoyed it, I decided to sidestep my past disappointments and give the port a try.
I found several things about the game impressed me immediately. The lack of HUD and having Issac’s health and stasis meters built into his RIG were wonderful, as well as the look of the game, which I likened to DOOM3 as done by Valve. The use of holograms as interfaces for everything from lifts to the Stores and Bench upgrading machines was a slick touch as well. Another innovation was the use of “holopathing” to lead you to your next objective. I tend to wander in these sorts of games, taken up by the setting — and that was the best part of all of this, that the game managed to keep you within the schema of things and still managed to impart all the usual FPS information.
While overall the ongoing battles with the necromorphs were repetitive, this sort of thing can’t usually be avoided in any shooter, save one that manages to have each and every encounter to be unique. Several of the encounters are standout, however and certainly the boss fights are spectacular. Given the tension the game builds up as you go along, such moments are actually welcome at times.
The environment of the Ishimura and the space around it made for an exciting setting, with balanced corridor crawling, zero-g stalking and outer space excursions for the length of the game. There was some funky zero-g tube exploring that I wished there had been more of, but it seems to be a later addition to the game.
The story itself was interesting as well, reminding me of both Half Life and Bioshock (would go into it more deeply, but don’t want to spoil for any who haven’t played it yet), and the ending was both questionable but yet still satisfying. Make of that what you will.
Bottom line, I loved it — and even played through it twice (the second time with my Level 6 RIG and a boatload of credits). Consider this a thorough endorsement.