I picked up a copy of Dead Space yesterday, and it looks like another very worthy entry into the survival-horror genre has arrived. I haven't found it pants-crappingly scary up to this point, but it has definitely been startling. And, to be fair, I was playing when it was still daylight out, or with the lights on. heh. I'm sure pretty much everyone on DToid knows the general story of Dead Space by this point, but if you don't the Reader's Digest Condensed version is: Huge mining ship, the Ishimura, becomes disabled, you and your team fly in to try and fix it, immediately, things start to go pear-shaped, and many many ooky monsters are trying to make you into an ex-person.
Dead Space has a nicely creepy feel to it, and a lot of things contribute to that feel. The Ishimura is basically deserted except for the monsters(called Necromorphs), you, your 2 surviving crew members, and so far, only a couple of the Ishimura's crew that were so psychologically shattered by whatever happened on the ship, that they're just not right. Also, the ship is damaged and decaying, and the fact that there's no one else around really lets you hear what's going on around you. From sparks, crackles, things falling down, to the sound of Necromorphs running through the vents, the sound makes you feel like things could go horribly wrong at any moment, and it often does. The many cramped environments and frequent "oh, that's a bad sound" moments really contribute to the feel and put you on your guard almost constantly.
Like I said, I'm only a couple of hours into the game so far, but I'm definitely digging it. Once you get used to the controls, they're very intuitive. Now, the combat is a little different than what I'm used to. The game talks in its ad copy about "Strategic Dismemberment". It's not just a gimmick, it's necessary to defeat the monsters. You need to blow off limbs to put them down. Unlike most games like this, just pumping them full of bullets won't get the job done. Besides, though the game has been fairly generous with ammo so far, I'm convinced that they'll change that up on me at some point, so the run and gun approach will probably turn out to be a big mistake. Anyway, to illustrate my point, here's a sample of one of the first encounters I had with the Necromorphs.
: *WALKING DOWN A HALLWAY* Ok, I know something is going to pop out any second. This is the perfect place for it. *CHECKS WEAPON* Ok, let's do this.
: *CRASHES OUT OF A VENT* RRAAAARRRGGHHH!! *FLAILS AROUND, ADVANCES MENACINGLY*
: AH!! Ok, time for a dirt nap, Chumley. *LINES UP A HEADSHOT* *BOOM*
: *HEAD FLIES OFF* *FLAILS AROUND*
: Yeah! Suck on that you- wait, he's still coming. Oh, crap. *BOOM* *BLOWS OFF A LEG* There, that oughta do it, now to-
: *DRAGS ALONG BY AN ARM, NOW RATHER IRKED AT ME*
: Oh, this does NOT bode well... *BOOM*
: *ARM FLIES OFF* Gurrrrgle...
: Is it dead? It dropped an item, I guess it's dead. *WALKS FORWARD SLOWLY* Yeah, it's dead. *PICKS UP THE PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS AMMO*
: *CRASHES OUT OF A FLOOR VENT* RRRAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGARRRRRRRRRBBBLLLLEE!!!!
: Oh, crap.
Yeah, taking the head off doesn't put them down. I'm not quite sure why two arms flying off is more fatal than a head flying off, but I guess that's why I'm not a Xenobiologist.
The mechanics of the game are extremely well done. There's no HUD at all, but that isn't a bad thing at all. Your health level is displayed as a line of lights on the back of your suit, or RIG. To see how much ammo your weapon has, just raise it, and things like maps, mission objectives and even a guide to your next objective are displayed as holograms floating in front of you. It took a little bit of getting used to, but after about 10 minutes, I didn't miss the HUD at all.
Two hours is often not the best measure of a game, but if the rest keeps up like it's been going, Dead Space is a definite winner that I'll probably replay as much as I've replayed RE4, and I've lost count how many times I've done that. It's fairly straight-forward, tense, and it looks and sounds fantastic. So far, definitely worth the cash. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go turn the engines back on, and it's dark and creepy down there. Good thing I stocked up on fresh boxers. heh.
Carry on Smartly. read