Dead Space Review

Dead Space sure had a quiet release, didn’t it? While other blockbuster, console-creator-published titles are now coming out and getting TV spots left and right, one of the most anticipated games of the year quietly came out and got beaten with little fanfare. It’s a shame, really, because while Dead Space doesn’t quite live up to the impossible expectations bestowed upon it, it sure is one hell of a ride while it lasts.

You play the role of an engineer named Isaarc Clarke. A space ship known as the USG Ishimura lost all contact with civilization, so you and two other people are sent to investigate what could have knocked their communications array offline. Of course, as I’m sure you know by now, nothing is wrong with the communications, per say; the entire ship has been slaughtered by unknown forces, and suddenly you’re stuck in the middle of it.

If you imagine Resident Evil 4 in space with sci-fi elements, you’ll basically have Dead Space. The story progresses much like Bioshock in that most of your information is gathered from logs and other data, but it has much more of an RE vibe than a System Shock one; and that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, if there’s one area where Dead Space doesn’t excel with flying colors, it’s in the narrative. The game is heavily based on the top 100 horror/sci-fi films of the development team, and it shows. Take every popular or well-crafted film from their list, and you can probably find parts of it in Dead Space. (Parts of Doom, too.) The story is still entertaining enough to keep you going, but it’s definitely not the driving point of the game.

What is the driving point? Well, the atmosphere and gameplay. Dead Space has the atmosphere of a sci-fi thriller down pat. Isaac moves realistically given his environment (don’t expect any quick RE-like turns with those magnetic boots), and when you’re in vacuums don’t expect sound. The presence and absence of sound plays a big part in setting the mood throughout the game, as the audile environment is much more stressed than the visual one. Playing Dead Space in the dark with surround sound is truly a feeling you won’t soon forget.

If you expected a lot of deep scares and psychological terror in Dead Space, just go return it now. The game is more like FEAR where the scares are relying on surprise and shock rather than what’s actually appearing. Then again, it works; even a fluffy bunny would make you jump if it had the sounds and settings of Dead Space and came out of nowhere.

The gameplay is the other great thing Dead Space has going for it, in no short part thanks to the copious limb chopping. With a variety of creatures on board the ship all with their own weaknesses, the only way to truly be sure something is no longer a threat isn’t to shoot it in the head until it goes down-it’s to chop its limbs off. You’ll try to dismember almost every enemy you come across, and when Isaac is in critical health they’ll do the same to you. If there’s one oddity with the act of removing monster limbs, it’s that no matter how many there are piled on the ground Isaac never seems to get stuck on them, or hung up. Necessary for gameplay purposes, I know, but it makes it feel a little less important.

While Dead Space doesn’t do anything unique other than the focus on dismemberment and the seamless HUD and inventory pages, it doesn’t need to. Rather than spend their time crafting new, innovative ideas, the developers behind the game figured out which already-used elements from sci-fi film and gaming would work best together, and then try it out on you. The result is a game which feels startlingly familiar, but ultimately new at the same time. Playing Dead Space is an experience which shouldn’t be missed, and one which won’t soon be forgotten.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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