Developed by: EA Redwood Shores
Available only on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC.
INTRO: Assume the role of Isaac Clarke, a mechanic on the USG Ishimura. Through a series of most unfortunate events, Isaac and his crew have responded to a distress call from another ship that ends up infested by the most evil creatures imaginable. Using his engineering tools and makeshift weapons (that happen to be pretty badass) It's now up to Isaac to become a one man wrecking crew and clear out the hordes of Necromorphs in hopes of rescuing any survivors left alive.
Well, the wait is finally over and at last I've gotten the opportunity to sit down and play this mofo. In case you don't remember, I had the opportunity to visit EA Redwood Studios in California over the summer to play an early build of the game and meet the development team. I was initially at least a little worried that the game wouldn't be worth the trip but from what I played I was very happily mistaken. My initial impressions of Dead Space were very positive- would the game hold up as a 'total package'? Let's find out!
One of my initial gripes with the gameplay was that I thought you had too many abilities to juggle around. I would like to take a moment to take that statement back, for the most part. You can shoot, slow down time with stasis, use kinesis to pick objects up and throw them, and you can also stomp on enemies with melee attacks. Initially I felt that stasis and kinesis were little more than neat little gimmicks but as I played through the game. In fact, those two items become vastly important in later stages of the game. Stasis is more than slowing a door down to walk through it- if you've been cornered by 4 different Necromorphs (and you will be), you need to use stasis to slow your enemies down and blast them. It's a very, very useful tool for several different things. Kinesis, on the other hand isn't quite as useful but is wonderful for messing around with corpses, throwing them to and fro and you will also use it to grab faraway items in zero gravity. Also, it's very cool to blow a claw off an enemy and then use kinesis to ram it through a baddie.
Onto the rest of the game! Much of this game (actually, just about all of it) is spent hunting down some sort of item or switch or something or other to help out your crew. Along the way you will encounter many, many nasty Necromorphs who are among the grossest creatures you've ever seen in video game. Of course the big selling point of this game is dismemberment, which you will learn about very early on in the game. You must strategically blast bad guys and stop them in their tracks. My strategy was to almost always blow out their legs, and then to run over to them and stomp their heads off to conserve ammo (and what a strong stomp it is), which will almost always allow you to feel a satisfying squish. There are also different parts of the game where you'll need to go into an airless vacuum and have to make it through space without your oxygen running out.
Another big feature in this game is the presence of Zero-G rooms. Think Mario Galaxy except with more aliens and spikes to land on if you mistime your jumps. They're very neat additions and can be very disorienting. On top of this, all the floating bodies and other such debris make for a very nice touch. My only complaint here is that some jumps that are easily made are impossible more often than not because the game wants you to jump from further away. Still though, good stuff all around.
There are boss battles and they are often huge but not that difficult. In fact although I died several times in the later levels, I was pretty good at this game and didn't find it impossible. Some rooms simply require you to strategize and take out the bad guys. With that being said, it just takes a little practice and you'll get the hang of it in no time- if you're not too scared. And if you get lost, you can use your own personal guide beam that points you literally in the right direction. Your inventory and in game videos are all in real time, which means you can get killed pretty quickly if you’re not careful. This is a great addition to the game- the developers made it almost always a ‘real time’ game. There’s no HUD, everything you need to know can be learned by simply looking at Isaac. It’s true that if you’re backed in a corner things can be hard to read, but that’s all a part of the terror that is Dead Space.
Ultimately the gameplay in Dead Space is a true blast. The weapons are pretty varied (my personal favorite was a portable Chainsaw gun that shoots saw blades) and you can upgrade them at a fairly regular pace at the beginning of each level at a store where you’ll spend the credits that bad guys leave (why would they have credits on them?). The upgrade system is pretty good too as you use a ‘bench’ separate from the store and use nodes to upgrade the capacity, damage, reload times, etc. I didn’t really use the bench a lot personally; I spent my nodes on ‘power lock’ rooms where you can pick up items instead. Still though, a good upgrade system.
At the end of the day, this is an awesomely scary game to play. It’s not perfect though- the story was sold to us gamers as being ‘awesome’ but I wasn’t really impressed and rarely felt for many of the characters. Also, each mission just seems to be ‘get to point A’ and grab ‘item of interest’. You’ll find yourself backtracking a lot- some gamers hate that. That didn’t detract from things for me though.
The graphics in Dead Space are incredible. Several of my friends popped in at one point or another during a gameplay session and immediately commented on how amazing the game looked, and for good reason. The textures are sharp, rich and detailed. Backgrounds are deeply textured and the enemies are just vile and disgusting in high resolution. Little touches are everywhere here- you can actually see dust floating through beams of light. In different vacuums you’ll notice subtle color changes- not to mention the amazing lighting this game sports. Shadows aren’t perfect but it’s dark, spooky, atmospheric and beautiful all at once.
Sound is also great in this one- voice acting was done by actors who were modeling their characters, which adds a sense of realism to it all. The monsters are just horrific, and you’ll often hear them approaching before you ever see them, and that’s half the terror. Weapons sound good too. If you’ve got surround sound, you’re in for a treat.
Although there may not be a lot to keep you coming back for a second time, Dead Space is a truly wonderful experience while it lasts. Sure, you can play it in broad daylight and not get too scared, but I challenge you to get some badass headphones and play this bad boy alone at 2 in the morning. It’s a scary game that takes everything you love about past survival horror games and creates the definitive game. Dead Space is fun, scary and gory, has good weapons and will keep you busy for a good few days. I highly recommend it.
Final Score: 8.5/10