Dead Space Review
Format: PC, PS3, Xbox360
Dead Space was one of the bigger games to be released last year, and arguably the biggest game out of EA. It is a new title (and possibly franchise to-be) set in a future where man has managed to reach space and it is firmly in the survival horror camp – with a strong emphasis on horror.
The main plot involves Isaac Clarke (the character you play throughout), Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond travelling out to the USG Ishimura to find out the reason behind a distress call being received. In an attempt to dock, an accident takes place that sees the three characters (and a small band of quickly killed off security crew) trapped on board with unknown life forms.
Before going on to write about the gameplay, one of the reasons that the game came in for criticism was the storyline. Some reviews claimed that it was more than a little derivative, whereas I actually found it quite interesting and certainly gripping. You may see the betrayal of Isaac coming, but apart from that the idea that main retro-engineers alien technology provides a gripping backdrop for the action that takes place.
*spoiler alert over*
The emphasis on the game is most definitely the atmosphere and it works extremely well for it. There’s nothing quite like guiding Isaac down a corridor and seeing a monster leap out of one air vent before disappearing into another. Isaac handles reasonably well, though you may find at times that the monsters are upon you before you know it. Follow the instructions given (i.e. dismembering the necromorphs) and you’ll be shooting like a pro in no time.
In terms of difficulty level, you may find that you struggle with some sections. My advice is to always have a med-pack in your inventory, but also don’t go wild with the gunplay. You never know when you’ll next be stuck against something that’s a little more challenging than a slasher necromorph.
The weapons on display reflect the fact that Isaac is an engineer, not a soldier. This means that you’ll find you have access to a welding like weapon at first, rather than your usual machine guns and sniper rifles. It brings a new angle to the usual sci-fi setting and should be something you enjoy.
It is worth considering the enemies you’ll meet in Dead Space, as they tend to be quite unlike those from just about any other game. The organic alien forms that you meet are grotesque parodies of the human form and range from the extremely quick and mobile all the way through to the completely immobile spawners, who may well cause you more problems than you’d think. Each weapon seems to be suited a particular enemy, but some are far rarer in terms of ammo than others.
A game that is in the survival horror genre lives and dies on atmosphere. Whilst Resident Evil has moved away from this recently in favour of more action-oriented gameplay, Dead Space is quite happy providing some of the most tense atmosphere in any game I’ve played, just about ever.
The setting is dark, the enemies can pop out of literally anywhere and when the warning lights activate and you’re sealed in for a quarantine session I guarantee your hair will be standing on end. The USG Ishimura is a strange and unsettling place, all the more so for the many system failures it seems to suffer on your way out of the near-derelict ship.
Sound is also a high point of the game. There are incidental sounds that will make you wonder where the enemy is, alongside very soft whispered words that will thrill and chill you as you play. Monsters howl and your guns actually sound powerful even though most enemies will need a few limbs torn before they go down.
Dead Space has a unique look (there’s no HUD and all info is provided in-game so don’t use your inventory when under attack), feel and provides something genuinely different. At times when I was playing, the atmosphere actually grew uncomfortable as I sat in the dark just wondering what the hell I was going to face next.
If you want to play something that could well give you nightmares but provides a really engrossing experience then look no further. Dead Space is more than worthy of a look and we can only hope that EA continues working creatively in this genre.