Dead Space Review
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Date of Noth American Release: October 14th, 2008
Date of European Release: October 24th, 2008
Trophies: 1 3 4 41
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Dead Space is a new entry in the venerable genre of survival horror. The game is set onboard the USG Ishimura, a Planet Cracker-class mining ship that has mysteriously lost all radio contact with anyone. Your character is an engineer by the name of Isaac Clarke, who is dispatched on a routine mission to repair its communications array. However, Clarke also has a much more personal reason for partaking in this mission. He recently received a cryptic message from Nicole Brennan, a medical officer serving aboard the Ishimura. While on board he intends to reunite with her and learn the meaning behind her strange broadcast. Unfortunately, the moment you set foot on the derelict ship, it's all too obvious that something terrible has happened.
From the moment I first played Dead Space, I knew that it was going to be an intense ride. First of all, there is no clutter on screen as Issac's health and ammo are all intigrated into his suit and gun and menus are nagivated in real time. This may not seem like a big deal but I feel it's an inspired move by the developers, as you never feel removed from the game for a single second throughout. You become more immersed in the experience and the game flows much more naturally, as the need to enter a menu to heal youself has been removed. After the game's hugely atmospheric opening, I stumble upon a gun called the Plasma Cutter and this is when the fun really began. These improvised weapons are put to graphic, gruesome work as bodily damage and even severe head trauma isn't enough to kill a Necromorph; only by severing their limbs can you put them down for good. This strategic dismemberment as it's called, vastly alters the way combat is approached in Dead Space from the typical "aim for the head"-style gameplay seen in most other action games and zombie/monster apocalypse scenarios. There's a variety of weapons that you'll come across during your stay aboard the Ishimura; Flamethrowers, rifles and and awesome chainsaw gun all make an appearance and each have their strengths and weaknesses.
I take my new best friend Plasma Cutter and use it to engage with some of the Necromorphs, who are the 'monsters' that are currently roaming around the ship. They are genuinely unnerving enemies, on a few occasions I jumped as they appeared from nowhere and started to run and scream towards me. Every class of Necromorph requires a different strategy to handle, and if you want to survive to see the game's ending, you'll need to know how to combat multiple types simultaneously. The most basic Necromorphs you'll encounter are humanoid monsters that attack in a crazed frenzy of screams and claws. Perhaps the most unsettling forms of Necromorphs are the mutated undead babies, which run along the walls and ceilings sprouting tentacles from their backs. Safe to say that I shooting all over the place trying to escape the creepy mutant baby things.
Necromorphs are quite gruesome looking enemies that you'll encounter throughout
Dead Space. Safe to say you don't want to get any closer than this...
Once I got over their hideous appearance I was quite shocked by the fact that they are quite intelligent. Necromorphs attack in packs using loose team tactics, and are capable of traversing the ship's extensive ventilation system to sneak around for outflanking or ambushing. Not only is this bad enough but even when you think it's over, they rise up and attack from among their comrade's bodies when you least expect it. This all heightens the mood and creates a tense, eerie atmosphere that I haven't found in a game for a considerable amount of time. Although that may sound intimadating, there's plenty of others standing in your way towards freedom. Heavily armored Necromorphs, bloated ones with deadly parasites and even explosive ones. All these types of enemies keep the game fresh and forced me to create my own gameplan for each opponent. I don't want to give too much away but the boss battles are seriously epic and are some of the best I've ever seen in a survival horror game.
The story will take you around 12+ hours to complete, which doesn't seem like much but every single second of this game is a joy to play. Upon entering the ship you'll find yourself with the immediate goal of getting the hell off it. Mission goals include getting to certain areas of the ship to power up certain items, using mounted guns to fend off meteorites and collecting different elements that are combined into a much needed item. Perhaps the most impressive sections of the game are when you enter zero-gravity areas. These areas are unlike anything I've seen in a game as bodies and debris float about in a haunting manner. As I've said before I don't want to give anything away, but in terms of survival horror there's a great variety in the gameplay and you'll rarely find yourself frustrated or bored.
Different enemies require different techniques in order to defeat them. Things can get hectic
when many types of enemies are clipping at your heels.
Furthermore, the story is immensely brilliant. Audio and video logs can be collected whilst playing through the game and all of these add a little more depth to the story and create a real sense of place. While Issac is a mute (he only makes a noise if a Necromorph wins...) the supporting cast are great, all of which are interesting characters to engage with. I was on the edge of my seat towards the end when the setting completely changes in comparison with the rest of the game. Overall, the pacing of which the story unfolds feels just right and will keep you guessing until the game's closing credits.
Dead Space is a beautiful game to behold. Textures, animations and voice acting are all of the highest quality. Each area you explore have their own unqiue characteristic in terms of design, which keeps the game feeling fresh as you progress. The Ishimura is well-detailed and designed, with many small details such as messages smeared on the wall in blood. I could tell the developers took their time in creating a believable world. The anti-gravity sections provide some of the most memorable moments of the game. When you enter these areas of no gravity, the sound changes into a vacum which makes you feel like you're actually in space. These acute attentions to detail all combine to create a massively impressive technical achievement.
The Ishimura is a massive ship with many areas to explore. The corridors and hallways contain
all sorts of foes, so time to admire the scenery is hard to come by.
What I found most worthy of praise is the way the developers have managed to create a real sense of anxiety within the game. It makes you think you're hearing things that aren't always there, tension permeates the atmosphere. I found myself taking corners very slowly as I could hear creepy noises in the distance. Necromorphs grunts and roars echo throughout the Ishimura and make you feel ill at ease with the thought of entering the room with stupidly dim lighting. All in all, there's very few flaws that can be found with this game on a technical level.
Gameplay: 8/10 Great
Very accesible and brilliant in its simplicity. Shooting mechanics are great and intigrating health and ammo into Issac's suit makes sure you don't escape the action for a second.
Singleplayer: 9/10 Brilliant
Top-notch gameplay mixed with a very engaging storyline. Win-win really.
No multiplayer to speak of here but the fantastic singleplayer more than makes up for it. Proof that you don't always need multiplayer.
Technical: 9/10 Brilliant
Stunning throughout. The sights and sounds of the Ishimura are of the highest quality.
Overall: 9/10 Brilliant
The phrase "Resident Evil in space" is quite the understatement as Dead Space is so much more. This is what survival horror is supposed to be. Resident Evil should take note as Dead Space is not only an amazing game, but it actually surprises you throughout. There's a whole lot to love about this game; tense atmosphere, great gameplay and a fantastic story. Even if you're not a fan of the genre, I doubt it'll matter when the game in question is this good. So step out of your comfort zone, turn off the lights and go for a tour aboard the USG Ishimura, I promise you won't regret it.