Review – Dead Space

October 25, 2008 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

In “Dead Space”, everyone can hear you scream.

This new survival-horror game from EA borrows a lot of elements from other great games, but the result is an experience that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

The game begins with its protagonist, Isaac Clarke, and his two teammates en route to the Planet Cracker-class mining ship USG Ishimura. A distress call had been sent from the ship, but all communications have since been lost. The team is on a mission to repair the Ishimura’s communications array.

Unfortunately, all hell breaks loose before you even dock onto the Ishimura, as your ship instead crashes on board.

It quickly becomes obvious that something is very wrong on the Ishimura. Systems are malfunctioning and there are no signs of the crew.

That’s when the Necromorphs show up.

The former-crew-members-turned-horrifying-monsters, Necromorphs only seem to care about killing you and your friends. They are gruesome, disgusting and terrifying.

As Isaac, the player quickly finds himself alone, struggling to survive. Your weapons for the most part are refashioned mining tools – cutters and saws, for example. This works extremely well for one of the game’s biggest selling points: strategic dismemberment.

Remember when most video games and movies taught you to shoot for the head? Forget that. When dealing with Necromorphs, cut off their limbs.

This isn’t always enough, of course. Cut off their arms, and they’ll still run toward you. Cut off their legs, and they’ll crawl. They’ll do whatever it takes to end your life, so you have to make absolutely sure to end theirs first.

The results are quite bloody, and often very terrifying.

Another major feature of the game is the fact that there is no HUD on the screen. You never feel like your monitor is cluttered with maps, bars and numbers. Instead, everything is integrated seamlessly into the world.

Your health bar is a visible green meter along your spine. Ammo is displayed on your gun whenever you have it held up. Maps, inventory, menus and video screens are projected in front of your character, never pausing the action for anything.

The result is a very engrossing and atmospheric experience that really helps you feel like you’re a part of the world.

Gameplay is quite similar to 2005’s “Resident Evil 4.” The action is viewed from a third-person, over-the-shoulder view. You can use a variety of weapons in combat – from plasma cutters to pulse rifles to flamethrowers – as well as kinesis, a tool that allows you to pick up and toss a variety of objects, as well as stasis, a slow motion device that allows you to stop enemies and objects in their tracks.

While the action is quick, frantic and bloody, much of the game is about exploration. As you make your way through the decks of the Ishimura, you will uncover many audio, video and text logs that flesh out the story exponentially.

Elements of the storytelling – such as the audio logs – are reminiscent of last year’s “Bioshock,” but this is far from a bad thing. The story is very interesting, very engrossing, and very well told. Many players may find themselves playing for the sole purpose of seeing what happens next, and uncovering the terrible secret of what happened to the Ishimura.

It’s also a story that’s very creepy – perfect for Halloween. Depending on what kind of person you are, you will either want to play “Dead Space” during the day (with a friend nearby) or in the dark by yourself.

The extremely scary atmosphere is helped by gorgeous graphics and outstanding sound design. If seeing gruesome creatures drenched in blood isn’t enough to scare you, then perhaps the haunting whispers from who-knows-where will send chills up your spine.

The game may feature its own rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” but it definitely won’t remind you of happy childhood memories.

It’s hard to do anything but praise “Dead Space” for everything it does. As a horror game – or even just as an action experience – the game always excels.

“Dead Space” is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and I would advise mature audiences looking for scares to not gloss over it. This is one gaming star that shines very bright.

Britton Peele


Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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