EA's Dead Space franchise has been the poster child of cross-media expansion over the past few years. Since the original game debuted in 2008, we've seen comic books, a novel, and even an animated film based on the sci-fi horror property. Now that move from video games toward other forms of media has come full circle. EA recently announced Dead Space Ignition, an interactive comic book coming later this year to Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.
Penned by the author behind the comic book series, Ignition's story is a prequel to Dead Space 2 that tells about the necromorph outbreak on The Sprawl. The animation mostly comprises 2D imagery rendered in a very sketchbook, hand-drawn style. You'll occasionally see the characters move, though it seems to be limited and done mostly to suggest a change of emotion on someone's face. If you think of the visuals as a cross between a gritty graphic novel and a mid-'90s adventure game, you've got a good idea of how the comic visuals unfold. And rather than speech bubbles, the game (comic?) features full voice acting.
The story itself unfolds along a branching path of your choosing, with four unique endings. No matter which path you choose, you'll be playing as a tech whiz named Franco Delisle who excels at hacking computer terminals. To add some character emersion and more traditional video game elements, Ignition features a number of hacking minigames that you'll need to complete at the end of each story sequence. There's the puzzle game Hardware Crack, a tower defense-like game called System Override, and a racer called Tracer Route.
While we didn’t get to navigate our way through any of the narrative stuff, we did get to play a little bit of Tracer Route. The most immediate comparison we can think of is Light Trax for WiiWare. It's a top-down racer where you play as a bright line moving through a cyberpunk-style track where blocks of binary code make up the obstacles. There are occasional speed boosts to hit, and you can drop traps to slow down your opponent if it's immediately behind you. The game is a pretty simple affair: Just avoid the stuff that slows you down and look for the stuff that speeds you up. We were able to win on our first attempt, but we're told that the level of challenge escalates considerably toward the end of the game. In fact, the type of minigame you'll encounter most depends on which narrative path you choose.
Finally, it's worth noting that people who buy Ignition will be able to unlock an exclusive suit for Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 2. You can expect to see it hit digital distribution channels this fall.