Dead Space Review
Hideously amazing, Dead Space is a great third person horror action title that keeps you on your toes.
Posted by Ben Thomas (nutcrackr) on Jan 16, 2009 - 4:00am EST (Jan 16, 2009 04:00)
Dead Space is an outstanding experience; it takes ideas from many games and puts them together with great implementation and polish. Dead Space is close to Doom 3 and Bioshock mixed together, but it draws more inspiration from many games. You play as Isaac, an engineer set out to repair the USG Ishimura; a mining vessel that has taken aboard a “marker”. You find however that things are not well and the dead crew have been transformed into hideous unrelenting creatures. You and a few others battle to discover what has happened, get ship systems working and get out of danger.
One of the key action elements in Dead Space is the dismemberment. You will need to target limbs to slow or stop enemies. Some will pretend to die only to jump at you when you approach; the animation implemented with this system is first rate. Monsters drag themselves over the floor if they have no legs and get knocked back from fire. This makes the combat more involving and makes you continually think during battle. Another key element to the combat is the stasis pack, it’s a localised bullet time effect, and you apply it to objects and creatures slowing them down greatly to give yourself time to remove limbs or focus on other threats. This is used for puzzles and for monster battles and sometimes necessary to progress, a recharge station will prevent you running out. Finally a gravity gun style effect is attached to Isaac’s suit, allowing him to hurl objects or pull in objects from a distance, quite essential in Zero-G environments.
Dead Space is played via a very close over the shoulder view, perhaps to increase claustrophobia as you can’t see what’s behind you unless you turn Isaac. Isaac won’t turn instantly in his heavy suit so don’t expect FPS style aiming. Positioning is very important not just to avoid damage but to see oncoming nasties. The weapons at hand are varied and do better against some enemy types than others; all have alternate fire modes which again change their tactics just to give the player some more choice. The game places “stores” fairly regularly throughout, for you to sell or buy weapons, ammo and items and upgrade that suit. There is a bit of frustration juggling inventory items with those found on the ship just to reload a half empty weapon but it’s not a serious problem. All weapons can be upgraded via a node system to increase damage, capacity, fire speed etc.
The levels are fairly linear, doors are locked and unlocked as required but you have the choice to explore storage rooms and side passages to find extra items, sometimes with some risk involved. This might reveal more about what has happened via audio, text or even video logs. The game has no HUD, health, ammo and video messages are displayed in the world or on Isaacs’s suit which helps immerse the player in the rich world. There is also quite a variety of enemies, again requiring diverse tactics to overcome, the enemies can enter vents and reappear just beside you if they wish too. Dead Space does a great job scaring the player, especially early on. Later levels are more action packed with numerous enemies to conquer. Some sections bring quite a shock to the system and the death scenes are quite bloody.
Zero-G and Vacuum are two environments that are used throughout the game. Zero-G environments are full of floating hazards but you are able to launch yourself from wall to wall which re-orientates the world completely. This can be quite disorientating but the environments are kept minimal around these segments. Vacuums are basically timed environmental hazards. You may need to cross an external area that has no atmosphere, your oxygen meter on your suit will tell you how long you have to live, and air cans aid you. During a vacuum sounds are muffled, as they are transferred via vibrations in your suit, so the creatures may surprise you many times. The Vacuum and Zero-G sections are well distributed and not long or tiresome.
Dead Space established a detailed bask story prior to release via a movie prequel “Downfall” and a comic strip, giving fans a chance to delve deeper into the story if they so wish. If you watched some of it, the links between the game and back-story are very nice additions. Artistically Dead Space is a class above, the engine is used superbly well, the design of the ship is outstanding from the bridge to the cargo bay and the little touches in the environment really do make it stand above the norm. From a sound perspective the game is also incredible, muffles in the walls, brilliant voice acting, heavy weapon sounds and brilliant shrieks of pain. The horror music fits perfectly although sometimes it will start before an enemy is visible decreasing the surprise when it does appear.
There are frequent save points, and the game does save in between them to prevent virtually any back tracking, aside from a section in the middle and some key locations (like the bridge) there is very little of the ship Isaac sees more than once which keeps it fresh. On normal difficulty the game will kill you, but perhaps not as much as a horror game could, then again it completely avoids any frustration and still keeps you on your toes. The game last around 10 hours, but varies with amount of exploration. Some of the end chapters feel a little shorter, but the game still retains its initial quality and creates its own unique interesting universe that you’ll hate and love to be a part of.