[align=center]Dead Space (XBox360)
Developers: EA Redwood Shores
Release Date: October 14, 2008
Other Platforms: PS3 and PC (coming soon)
Third-Person Action/Survival Horror
[align=center]“In space, no one can hear you scream…”[/align]
The phrase echos through your head as you slowly continue your search. This was suppose to be a routine mission. This was suppose to be a standard repair job. You were planning on going in to figure a few lose wires and then return home to enjoy the game with an ice cold beer, but the moment your eyes laid upon the shattered, ripped apart ship, dread overpowered you. You knew from the moment you set foot on the Ishimura that things were much worse than you could have even imagined.
The fresh, salty smell of blood and the sour scent of rotting flesh seeped through your helmet. You wince from the strong stench, trying as hard as you can to keep your stomach from turning. (Nothing makes a job worse than vomit in your helmet.) Carefully, you step over the corpses that litter the corridors. What the hell happened here? You question to yourself as the faint light from your flashlight cuts through the thick darkness that lays before you. It reveals unthinkable horrors that you have only seen in films or read and books: tangled bodies ripped to shreds, strange writings all over the floors and walls, pools of crimson, sticky blood dripping from the pipes above you.
Silence fills the air. There is no sign of life nor do you even hear the faint hum of generators roaring in the distance. You’re only greeted with the heavy echos of your footsteps, your own raspy breathing, and your heart pounding away in your chest begging to escape this hell hole. Yet, you feel eyes settling on you. From almost nowhere, a loud crashing sound breaks through the silence. You turn to come face to face to nothing but darkness but you can barely make out a figure moving in the shadows just before you feel a sharp pain in your neck and feel warm blood trickle down your arm…
Dead Space is a futuristic, sci-fi horror game. In the distance future, humans used up all the resources on their home planet and have turned to cracking other planets for resources. Though they can crack more than they can handle. One of the largest ships, the Ishimura, runs into trouble after discovering a mysterious artifact during one of their diggings leaving them forced to send out a distress signal as all of the ship’s systems fail.
Now enters the main character, Issac Clark, one of the engineers who’s crew answers the Ishimura’s signal and who’s girlfriend happens to work on the ship. As the ship comes into view, it’s apparent that there’s more damage to it than Issac’s crew was expecting. Landing on the Ishimura, they begin to investigate but soon discover that they’ve now got themselves mixed up in more than they might.
The ship’s crew have been slaughtered, leaving the hollowed halls stained with blood. Unearthly sounds echo the hauls until horrid aliens known as the Necromorphs show their ugly faces to Issac and his crew. After the first attack, Issac is separated from his crew and his ship is destroyed, leaving him and the two other survivors stranded on the infected Ishimura. Their only hope of escaping is surviving long enough to scavenge a few parts of the ship in hopes of restoring an escape pod enough to make it out alive.
The dark, gritty look of the ship’s rooms fit well with the story and help to create a distrubig atmosphere. The lighting effects are simply amazing. I liked how the flashlight’s power was limited thus only allowing you to see so much whenever you entered solid, black rooms or hallways. Then, of course, the casting of shadows from both the flashlight and the lights themselves help to keep you on the edge as you might catch a glimpse of a disformed figure passing you by.
The animations of both the aliens and the characters are surprisingly good. I was impressed with how smoothly everything looked and flowed, even when completely surrounded with enemies. Not once did the game lag or feel choppy. I could easily change weapons on the fly or reload without it feeling like I needed to slow down the action in order to do so.
The ragdoll physics worked extremely well with this game, especially with the only way to kill the enemies being to dismantle them piece by piece. Seeing arms or legs fly off in different directions with the shots from your Plasma Cutter were awesome looking. Though I will say I did run into a few glitches. Once in a great while I would find dead bodies spazzing out or they would get stuck on me as I walked over them.
Smaller, finer details, such as hair movement, did not matter due to Issac wearing his suit throughout the whole game. The suit itself was stunning looking. You could almost see that it was made out of a heavy material and it moved with Issac’s movements very well, making it one of the best looking outfits I’ve seen in a game so far.
However, there were some nit-picky details that I did notice such as there not being any effect from the streams of water dripping from the pipes or there being much interaction between the player and the objects in the game other than the enemies or running into things while in zero gravity. It’s one of those things that you might only notice if you look for it; it’s small enough to not ruin the experience but this far into the console generation, you can’t help but wonder why developers haven’t been able to pull this fully off yet.
Though none of these pull away from the game’s look nor do they damage its style in anyway. I will say that I was highly impressed with the presentation of many of the action sequences throughout Dead Space, in particular the scenes where you’re being dragged by a large tentacle through the ship and I will say that this game has had one of the most bad ass final boss fights that I’ve seen in a game in awhile. I won’t ruin it by saying what it is- but those who have beaten it already might know what I’m talking about when I say there were a few times where I yelled, “Oh hell yeah!” during its fight. Thus helping the game make you forgive any small details that were forgotten in its development.
However, a good presentation cannot fully exist without solid audio to back it up. Luckily for Dead Space, its graphical department and audio department go hand-and-hand together. The voice acting is pretty decent. It’s no the best out nor are there any big named voice actors but that’s fine since the actor’s already do a good job at their roles. Their voices aren’t monotone and show expresses quite well. Even though Issac himself does not talk, his lack of a voice is made up with body language. Though there were a few times where I felt he and other characters needed to be more dramatic than they really were.
The sound effects a crisp and detailed; you can even hear Issac’s heavy breathing echoing in his helmet as he runs. Everything in space sounds muffled and distance, creating a very unqiue feeling within the player since you can’t really hear anything happening around you, including the unearthy cries of the enemies. The soundtrack fits the game’s mood just as well as the effects. It’s low and eerie when it needs to be but then fast and furious during the fight scenes. This helps to complete the package that engulfs you into the game.
The creepy audio mixes well with the gameplay in order to create an interesting approach to the horror genre. Unlike other horror games, Dead Space doesn’t try to drive feat into your heart with a disturbing atmosphere or bonechilling soundtrack. Instead, it tries to build off the claustrophobia and the idea of being trapped by making you panic with being overran with enemies but having little ammo or health items. In other words, Dead Space does something that hasn’t been seen in a survival game in awhile and that is to express the idea of actually needing to survive.
Left Analog Stick: Move
Right Analog Stick: Camera/Aim
Left Trigger: Aim
Left Bumper: Run
Left Toggle: Kinesis
Right Trigger: Melee Swing
Right Bumper: Melee Stomp
Right Toggle: Deck Nav
D-Pad: Weapon selection
Enemies are quick and violent; they come in a variety of different types. Some are typical “claw at you” enemies while others may shoot things at your or might release smaller creatures when they are killed. The change in enemies throughout the game will keep you on your toes and you’ll need to decide what weapons will work best for you since you can only carry four with you. Dead Space has a total of seven weapons that you can use. Each one has both a primary and secondary feature. Some of which need to be purchased from the store.
You start off with the Plasma Cutter which has a powerful long-range blast and can change its blade orientation by 90 degrees. The next weapon you can get is the Line Gun that shoots a more powerful long-range blade and can release a timed mine. The third weapon is the Pulse Rifle that is basically a submachine gun and can release a full 360 degree overhead sweep. The fourth is the Ripper which is a mid-range, remote-controlled chainsaw gun that can also shoot a single chainsaw blade.
The Contact Beam is the fifth weapon; it releases a single, powerful blast and can also shoot a 360 degree blast. The sixth weapon is the Force Gun which knocks enemies back with a blast and shoots grenades. The final weapon is the Flamethrower that shoots, you guessed it, fire! As well as a napalm projectile. However, the Flamethrower cannot be used in air vacuums since no oxygen is present. (I was surprised that they thought that deeply into the weaponry.)
Besides weaponry, you also have a few special abilities. Stasis is an ability that allows you to slow down time within a certain amount of space. This is helpful to slow down fast moving objects, such as doors or fan blades, that might stand in your way or slow down fast moving enemies to allow you to escape. You also have another ability known as Kinesis which allows you to move and pick up objects. You can also shoot objects at enemies with its use.
All the abilities, weaponry, and even your suit are all upgradeable. With the power of Nodes, you can upgrade all the weapons you own, your suit, or your abilities. You can increase the power, the range, the reload time, etc…of your weapons, increase the amount of damage your suit can take, increase the amount of air you can hold, and so on.
The gameplay occasionally takes a break from battles by having you do some zero gravity jumping, shooting some cannons, or having you solve a few puzzles. There were even some hidden mini games in the game such as the shooting gallery or Z-Ball. However, I felt that there should have been more of a balance between the action and down times. The later levels of the game were filled with constant battles that began to leave me feeling exhausted and frustrated, especially if I died a lot in one of these dragged out battles.
Maybe it’s just me, but I felt that some of the longer fights were there simply for the fact of them adding some more game time to this fairly short game. I was able to complete all 12 Chapters it in about nine hours. Part of me wishes it lasted longer but at the same time, I think if it had any more in it, it would have felt dragged on and not as complete as it does now. Though there’s plenty of reasons to replay the game. Besides the fact of it being fun, you unlock a couple of goodies at end that will make second play troughs feel easier or will be helpful if you plan on playing through it again on a harder difficulty.
All and all, Dead Space was a solid title that exceeded my expectations. There were some minor issues with it but many of them could be overlooked with the game’s overall packaging. You can see where there’s room for improvement, but you won’t walk away from this game feeling disappointed with its moments that will leave you in awe. This is one to pick up if you’re a horror fan or action fan alike since both genre lovers will find something to enjoy about it.
The only other problem I had with the game is that it wasn’t quite the horror game I was expecting it to be. Maybe I just play too many, but there were only a few times where my heart really pounded. The rest of the time I wasn’t surprised by the elements of horror they used (dead bodies not really being dead, lights going out, things moving in the distance…) Though I’ve heard other people who get scared fairly easily say they were scared the first time the ‘quarantine’ signal went off. So diehard horror fans, you’ll still be satisfied and disturbed, but this game might not make you turn your system off in fear. Everyone else, you might want to keep a change of pants by you.
* Fun, solid title * Nice presentation * Good audio * Solid, enjoyable gameplay * A little something for everyone * Nice amount of replay value * Some bonuses
* A bit short * Frustrating at times * Minor issues * May feel straining