Dead Space and the HUD

I was just made aware of Gametrailers’ video of Electronic Arts showing off their new survival-horror game Dead Space at E3.

It looks like a neat mix of System Shock and The Thing, with the idea that you have to take down the game’s menagerie of horrific fleshbeasts through “strategic dismemberment.” That is to say, they’ll only die once you’ve literally ripped them to pieces. It looks to be a fun gameplay mechanic, but I was far more interested in the game’s interface.

Dead Space will not have a HUD in any traditional sense. Instead, the game will project holograms displaying necessary information at appropriate times. When the player draws a weapon, a small hologram will pop up on the back of the weapon itself displaying the remaining ammunition. The inventory screen actually exists in the game world; as the player manipulates the inventory, he will see his avatar interact accordingly with the large hologram in front of him.

It’s a fantastic innovation that I expect to really increase the game’s sense of immersion. Other games have attempted a diegetic HUD in the past: Deus Ex implies that the HUD is imprinted on the player’s eye using nanotech, and the Metroid Prime series actually has the player looking out through Samus’ visor, on which all of the game’s necessary information was displayed. I’d argue that up to this point, Metroid Prime is the most advanced case of a game creating a HUD that exists in the game world, since small touches like the occasional reflection of Samus’ own eyes on the visor really put the player in the body of the avatar.

I’m really excited to see how Dead Space will push this design feature, although I’m not sure it was exactly EA’s intention to get people excited about a game because of its menu system. Still, good press is good press, right?

There’s a new trailer for the game at the end of the EA press conference set to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but they film the audience instead of the screen, presumably hoping for some reaction of terror. The jaded audience of gamers doesn’t really oblige; the cameraman should have just shown the trailer itself. It’s a pretty unique video in the sense that nearly all of the gaming footage used shows the hero getting dismembered in various gruesome ways. Which is awesome. I wish more games did stuff like this; a Halo trailer consisting only of Master Chief biting the dust over and over again would certainly cheer me up.

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