Sci-fi and horror go together like bread and butter, and while Hollywood seems to exploit this fully, the gaming industry somehow manage to leave it on the wayside. There some exceptions to the rule, but we feel that none captures the true horror and loneliness than Dead Space. If there was one game that shows how EA have changed over the years then it’s this one.
Obviously banking a lot on this becoming a fully fledged franchise, the amount of resources gone into it is amazing. With an animated comic book hitting the Xbox Live Marketplace and an animated movie (Dead Space: Downfall) EA have created an entire universe from the ground up, and its paid off.
Right from the opening you get a feeling that this is something special. Your character, the engineer Isaac Clarke and the crew of the USG Kellion arrive at the stricken planet cracker USG Ishimura (a planet cracker being a ship that literally cracks open planets stealing all the valuable ore). The first shot of the Kellion coming out of hyperspace and seeing the Ishimura for the first time is an outstanding sight. One of the best reveals in gaming history as you see the ship poking out from behind all the asteroids, with the nearby sun glaring. Its simply beautiful.Where Dead Space really excels is in the sound design. Not just the fantastic music, but the way you can hear the ship creaking, the monsters lurking in the shadows, everything adds to the fantastic feeling of tension and dread that the game creates. Even the voice acting isnt that bad.
More fear comes from the monsters that stalk the corridors of the Ishimura. Dismemberment has been made a big part of the game. Going for body shots will take plenty of ammo (which at times can be scarce thanks to the limited item slots) so the best offence is to literally chop them apart. Taking out their legs and arms before it finally keels over and dies. This is made extremely difficult with the variety of enemies you face and the way their approach you, sometimes dropping in from the air ducts. In some ways Dead Space has a lot in common with Resident Evil 4. The viewpoint in particular is exactly the same with your character off to the side, the only difference being Isaac actually has slightly more movement, something thats incredibly crucial. As mentioned item slots are limited with upgrades to your suit allowing you to carry more items. Stores are scattered throughout the ship (quite generously too), which not only allow you stock up on health and ammo, but also include a safe which can store any extra equipment you may be carrying. Or they can be sold if youre strapped for cash, which isnt really a problem with the amount of credits that can be found in safes and dead bodies.The experience could be made very difficult if youre given no direction.
With the surviving members of your crew contacting you with a new objective, youre not just having to follow a rather unhelpful map, but by clicking the right thumbstick a light shines across the floor for a few seconds directing you to your current objective. It could turn the game into a very linear experience, but EA throw a few curveballs at you that it never becomes a problem. In fact, youll be glad that youre shown the direction because youll want to get out of here as fast as you can.Dead Space also throws a few different gameplay changes into the mix. The zero-g sections allow you to jump to any wall, which need to be utilised to complete the puzzles thrown at you. An other similar moment is when you enter the vacuum of space, only now you have a limited time to reach the next section before the air runs out. The air represented by a timer on the back of your suit, and thats one of the great, unique things about Dead Space, everything has been streamlined into the experience.
The health meter is displayed with a blue light on the back of Isaac, and if you dont concentrate on that then Isaacs breathing starts to suffer when hes in danger. The other is the inventory which is in real-time, so make sure youre in safety before opening it because monsters will be coming for you. Good news its far simpler and easier to use than with the similar system used in Alone in the Dark. And finally videos that you receive will appear in front of you on a 2D display.
There’s only one real fault with the game and thats the often hilariously bad rag doll physics. Dead bodies fall like made out of balloons and if you run into one youll be dragging it along with you before it gets caught on something else. They seem to be lacking weight, which is the main problem we have with this technology. Were entering the final stages of the year now with the big hitters and game of the year contenders being unleashed. Dead Space certainly fits in the latter category. A fantastic horror experience from beginning to end, leaving you no time to catch your breath.