They say in space, no one can hear you scream, but when an immense mining ship, the USG Ishimura, comes into contact with a mysterious alien artifact in a remote star system, its communications with Earth are mysteriously cut off. Engineer Isaac Clarke is sent to repair the Ishimura’s communications array, but he arrives to find a living nightmare—the ship is a floating bloodbath, the crew unspeakably mutilated and infected by an ancient alien scourge. Clarke’s repair mission becomes one of survival as he fights not just to save himself, but also to return the artifact to the planet … at any cost.
So it begins, an action, horror, adventure that takes you through a journey that feels very much like you have done this before, but never, quite like this. When we talk about survival horror games we automatically think of the traditional titles that have set the staple in the genera thus far. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame are the early staples in what we have come to expect in a genera that, to be honest, has come to be a bit stale. Moving away from the “Horror” and more to the Action than survival, (I am talking to your RE4).
From the outset you can tell that the team over at EA have thought about what they wanted to do with this new franchise from the offset. They have created a back-story that spans over multiple multimedia genera’s, before ever even releasing the game. I can honestly say, for one to really get the full experience, you should really take the time to watch the free webisode (Comics), these webisodes do a great job to lay the foundation of the world you are stepping into, adding a psychological aspect not found readily in the beginning of the games story. It also helps to make you feel invested in a world that you cannot wait to see with your own eyes. If you do take a chance to watch the webisodes, let it be know that the Dead Space team also created Comic Books, and a Dead space animated DVD, for those interested.
As the game starts up the first thing you will notice is how polished the game looks, the opening sequence harkens to any great Sci-Fi movie. As you finally get into the USG Ishimura the graphics continue to impress with a level of quality only found in most first party titles. The atmosphere is layered with things constantly moving, adding to the fact that it makes the ship feel alive, that you are not in control, a fly in a spider’s web. For any movie fan you can clearly see that a cinematic approach is what the Dead Space team was aiming for. The story is all told via a holographic monitor displayed from your suit, and the in game cut scenes, done all in real time. Another thing you will notice is that your health bar, and ammo are all displayed on your armor and you weapon at hand, allowing for a more cinematic experience.
As I moved through the world of Dead Space I found that controlling Isaac Clark to be a little cumbersome at first, the tutorials in the game would appear through text logs found throughout the game. The only problem with that was that some times I would find a text log and press A too fast making the screen flash before me. So as any gamer would do I would look in my backlogs menu to read what I had missed, the only problem was it was never there. That only added a level of frustration, as it became a level of trial and error before I felt like I was mastering some of the powers given to me. The aiming mechanic is your standard Resident Evil 4 over the shoulder 3rd person, (Which is the only way it should ever be done) so you will find it very east to target an eviscerate your enemies. The action as a game play mechanic works very well as there are many ways to kill your enemies, from the vast array of weaponry, that are all upgradeable via a tree system similar to the one found in FF XII, to the ship itself lending a hand to dismember your nightmares. Dismember is the most crucial word when talking about the game play in Dead Space, because it is the only way to kill your enemies. You have to take them apart limb, by limb, adding a great aspect in strategy. When faced with numerous foes you will often ask yourself, do I chop off legs to slow the bigger guys down so I can concentrate on the little bastard that chip away at my health? So while Dead Spaces game play really does nothing “new” it still does it very well.
If I ever meet the Dead Space team I have to give their audio guy a cookie. The audio in this game is one of the key items in Dead Space that truly create the sense of dread all around you. Even when in the silence of zero gravity the audio muffles and quips all help you to feel like you are in this dreadful outer space situation. When inside the ship the sense of danger and odd things happening is sometimes told solely through the audio annotations given to the player, making the action sequences more intense due to the audios ability to really ramp it up in intense situations.
Intense situations are what you will find in Dead Space, that’s for sure. While following this game for some time I got a sense for the teams awareness of the horror genera. I often wondered how that would come across in the game, would it be Saw scary, going for straight gore? (Although the many ways Isaac Clarke can be killed it sometimes teeters on that.) Would it be Friday the 13th scary? The best way to describe the way Dead Space brings its scare home is to compare it to the first 2 Aliens films. The scare all comes through the atmosphere, and story. It continually builds to the climactic ending which is very satisfying.
Dead Space is like any good Sci-Fi horror movie that will be remembered in quite some time, and while some minor game play issues keep it from being “Game of the Year” quality, it still is a Must Buy for the holiday season. I must say in a time when many developers are stuck doing straight sequels it is nice to see a new franchise this polished. So with that I give it The Gamers Pub rating of a………..