Dead Space has been my "game to watch" for the last three months. With a barrage of advertising, an animated movie, an ARG and a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star that'll make you sleep with the lights on, can the third person shooter make good on it's scare-driven and gory promises?
Dead Space (PS3 [Reviewed], 360, PC/Windows)
Developed by EA Redwood Shores
Published by Electronic Arts
Originally released on October 14, 2008
Dead Space follows the travels of a crew dispatched to maintainance the USG Ishimura, a planetary mining ship that seemingly gone dead above it's most recent quarry. Once on board, the crew almost immediately finds out why. A species of alien that turns dead organic tissue into grotesque, dangerous monsters has overtaken the ship and made it their own personal Club Med, complete with slaughterhouse and breeding ground.
From there, it's the last 20 minutes of John Carpenter's The Thing
in space, complete with flamethrowers, trips to a deadly environment outside the ship and absolutely no hope of outside rescue. Your character, Issac Clark, has got his work cut out for him, and cut he does. Limb from limb from... hey, how'd a hand grow down there?
The first thing you notice in the game is the presentation. The moment you step off your first ship and onto the Ishimura, the effort put forth by the dev team is undeniable. With the previously reported
decision to make all the displays normally found on a HUD or pause menu screen to be incorporated on to Issac's spacesuit and accessed in real time, it helps to immerse you into the highly detailed and foreboding game world that much quicker and combined with playing the game in widescreen format creates a very cinematic experience without sacrificing interactivity.
Where the game's presentation lost points for me is the lack of scares in the middle of the game. After a while of gaming, you desensitize to the monsters popping out of every-which-where (and it's accompanying music stings) and the story plays out in small snippets through the video/text/audio logs left about on the floors and you keep wondering where all those scares you got in the first chapter went. Sure there are some creepy portions and some decent quasi-commentary on religion (Unitology sounds really similar to another controversial religion) and it's sway over government, but I kept wondering when I was going to see something that would make me jump out of my chair. Of course, your mileage may vary here, because sometimes all you need to know is that there's a monster over there that completely grosses you out (when you see the monsters that are plastered to the wall, you'll know what I mean.) or you can blow an aliens' legs out from under him.
The mechanics of the game are solid and easy to use. Like the video shows, the major mechanic is "strategic dismemberment", blowing off the aliens arms or legs to kill them as body shots will only make it pissed off, or even more
formidable an enemy in some cases. You don't have to target specific area of an enemy's arms or legs, but just the general area. The result is extremely satisfying, especially in the zero gravity areas of the game using the "stasis" mechanic to slow down the enemy. Sometimes I could swear I saw the aliens' "WTF" face as they went down.
As mentioned, All gaming decisions, both action and inventory based, are done in real time. You can listen to an audio, video or text log left by a former member of the crew while dashing from one room to the next or bring up the quick map and follow your way to the next objective without having to put the game on hold. Of course, if you're caught by a monster while you're too involved watching a video, you can be treated to one of the many ways to get torn apart. A nice touch is that if you need to get messy, the information on screen disappears when you raise your weapon or get caught grappling with an enemy. If you happen to be playing an audio or video log during the fight, the audio continues on to its end, or yours.
With all that said, there are parts of the game that feel like they were ripped straight out of the survival horror playbook. Not just fetch quests and such standards, but things like potion mixing and monsters that can't be killed with any weapon you throw at it and must be stopped using your surroundings. What's more is that these things are repeated multiple times, like a tentacle grabbing you and drags you down a hallway towards certain doom. It's great the first time, but not so much on following encounters. Luckily, the moments where this affected the game were few and far between and pretty forgivable in contrast with the rest of the game's fantasticness.
All in all, Dead Space is a great way to kill a weekend. It's a game that you'll give second thought to playing with the lights off if you're scared easily and one that'll make you "whoa" if you're not. EA Redwood Shores has nothing to be ashamed about with this game and I'd love to see something of this caliber from them in the future. read