Occasionally at big gaming press events a games reporter is asked what they think about the games they saw. I feel weird about giving feedback, but some people's jobs depend on it - I think.
I used to be all nice and kind of shake the question off. Nowadays I'll blurt something out. Just to be chatty. Friendly. Etc.
So I saw the sixth level of Dead Space, EA's Halloween-dated third-person horror game for the 360 and PS3. I've been impressed with it so far. Horror in space is a good theme, not exactly overdone in games. The game looks great - I love the way the pop-up level map floats in the air in front of the character, in full 3D.
Ah, but this was my verbal feedback to the Dead Space team...
I told a rep for the team that I believe that the way to kill a spooky mood — or really any mood — is to over-sell it. Level six of Dead Space, set in a hydroponics area, is creepy enough. You've got your crawling monsters. Your dark corners. You've got a cool flamethrower that suddenly doesn't work because — problem! — you just walked into a room filled with poison gas (and no oxygen).
What I didn't think they needed so much of is music. They had lots of it. The music seemed to be telling the player that it's time to get scared. And that's kind of the EA way, right? Lots of music playing in the background while you play your game. I suggested they tone it down, especially if they're trying to evoke the feel of Alien, which I think they are.
Then I scurried away to eat some catered food. Because eating free food is much more journalistically responsible than providing development feedback.
I can't be the only gamer who thinks that some game designers have too much music in their games. Let the moment play out, no?