The Art of Dead Space and Halo 4 Hit iTunes: Worth Checking? (Review)

By Brandy Shaul , Updated May 11, 2013 09:50 PM EDT

While art books have long been a standard item in video game collector's editions, with the increasing popularity of tablets like the iPad, developers and publishers have turned to the digital world for new releases. Not only does a digital format allow for the inclusion of videos and other interactive elements alongside a game's artwork, but printing costs are eliminated, passing those savings onto the consumer.

With that in mind, we've taken a look at two new art books that launched on iTunes in late April 2013: The Art of Dead Space and Awakening: The Art of Halo 4

The Art of Dead Space by Martin Robinson is a $9.99 enhanced digital version of the physical book released in February 2013. The "enhancements" here are videos that apparently contain interviews and deeper looks at the world of all three Dead Space games, but we had problems getting any of them to actually load. That is, the videos were there, but they simply wouldn't play. This doesn't appear to be an issue with our device, as it's a fairly common issue across all manner of digital books, but it's still disappointing.

Without these videos, readers are left with lots of gorgeous imagery and text that still works well to educate even the most diehard of Dead Space fans. The book reads much like a virtual encyclopedia, in addition to being an art book, as each page is accompanied by information about the games' lore, characters, locations and more. The book contains the expected sections on series hero Isaac Clarke, as well as information about the settings of all three games, but it also dives deeper into the fiction than that, examining the phenomenon known as "Peng" (imagery found in many of each game's environmental advertisements), as well as offering schematics for many of the series' iconic weapons and suits.

Each page comes with beautiful, haunting imagery which conveys the dark, frightening world of Dead Space, but much of it is more simplified, or more skewed concept art, rather than images stripped straight from the games. It's unfortunate that the videos don't currently function in the app, as they could have added a lot of longevity to an experience that otherwise does feel somewhat short without them. Still, fans of Dead Space, that don't mind saving money for a digital version of a book, will likely leave the experience feeling fulfilled.

Similarly, Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 by Paul Davies is a $9.99 digital version of the book that was released in November 2012. It too offers videos that contain insights into the development of Halo 4, and the overall layout of the book is almost identical to that of The Art of Dead Space.

There's less text in Awakening, placing the focus squarely on the proverbial shoulders of the artwork. Images tend to be dark, but beautiful, perfect for framing or hanging on the wall. Even the concept art for spaceships, tools and environments is more finished and polished in this particular art book, rather than looking more like a raw sketch.

Readers aren't given as much of a detailed look at the progression of each item in the game, from Master Chief's Armor to in-game tools and vehicles; instead, the artwork provides a mostly crisp and clear look at the final images of each, without cluttered backgrounds that distract from the artists' attention to detail.

While the enhanced elements of both The Art of Dead Space and Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 left something to be desired, these iOS versions of each book are simply cheaper and easier to read than hardcover options, thanks to pinch and zoom capabilities and the lack of production costs for a physical item. Fans of both series will likely enjoy the experience that each book can provide, but there's still something to be said for having a tangible, permanent copy of something to hold in our hands. Thankfully, these books are available in both forms to please both kinds of readers.

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