Dead Space Game Review

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Publisher: EA

Developer: EA Redwood Shores

Format: Xbox 360, PS3, Microsoft Windows

Age Rating: 18+ (PEGI) M (ESRB)

For a while I wasn’t sure I could recommend Dead Space. Don’t get me wrong, It is brilliant at what it does, but what it does is scare the hell out of me, my first couple of hours of play were spent frantically seeking the next save point so I could turn the damn thing off, have a nice cup of tea and calm down a bit.

But now I’ve remembered that I’m 33 years old (and the nasty things in the television can’t hurt me) I can play it for more then half an hour at a time and can recommend it pretty strongly.

Dead Space is a sci-fi themed, third person horror in the vein of games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil with a lineage stretching back to 1992’s Alone in the Dark, the genre’s known as ‘survival horror’ and that description is pretty apt here.

You play as engineer Isaac Clarke, who (as part of the plot written by comic book writers Warren Ellis and Rick Remender) forms part of a repair and rescue party sent to investigate the giant ‘planet cracker’ mining vessel USG Ishimura which has inexplicably ceased radio transmissions. Isaac’s wife is onboard the Ishimura too, that bit’s important.

This rescue doesn’t quite go to plan and I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that Isaac and company are soon stranded on the crippled spaceship which happens to be infested with alien creatures known as ‘Necromorphs’.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you just read the name ‘Necromorphs’ and thought to yourself, “there’s a bunch of cool guys I’d like to meet”. But you’d be wrong to think that that because they’re distinctly unfriendly, perpetually hungry, twisted masses of corrupted meat, screaming, spitting and scything at you given any opportunity.

The various Necromorphs, designed, no doubt, by an artist who has watched John Carpenter’s The Thing too often (and doesn’t like people very much) are a suitably scary (if a little cliched) alien threat, each possessing an array of limbs, tentacles and other appendages that define one of Dead Space’s key areas of gameplay.

Combat in Dead Space is about dismemberment, slicing, shooting or burning these limbs off with an array of high tech mining tools. The ‘headshot’, a staple of many other horror games is of no use to you here and that makes a refreshing change.

The rest of your time is spent exploring the interior and exterior of the ship (including areas of vacuum and zero gravity), finding items essential to your survival, upgrading your suit and weapons at cool looking, robotic work benches, battling the occasional, and occasionally huge boss and solving environment puzzles (such as blowing up a barrier, getting past a malfunctioning door or getting key systems of the Ishimura online).

These puzzles are generally pretty simple and usually solved with Isaac’s ‘none combat’ abilities, such as the limited the capacity to slow down time, a kind of tractor beam that can move objects around and the ability to perform great leaps in zero gravity sections.

Apart from the occasional ‘twist’ that the sci-fi/space setting provides there’s a lot of standard ‘survival horror’ gameplay here but where Dead Space truly excels is in placing it all in the most atmospheric environment I’ve seen since Bioshock.

The Ishimura is a claustrophobic, blood smeared maze of grime, steam and metal fatigue whose shattered hull reveals vast, star lit vistas of asteroid fields, debris and the planet below. The sound design is world class, the ambient menace of humming machinery punctuated by a tool dropping to the metal floor somewhere out of sight, the hiss of steam, distant footsteps and terrifying silence of vacuum. Even the user interface, traditional menus replaced by ‘in world’ holograms projected from Isaac’s suit adds to the amazing level of immersion.

Ultimately, the combination of a solid game mechanics and a stunningly crafted world has created the best horror game in years. So if you don’t mind the occasional sleepless night, do check it out.
Marks out of 5: 5

Dry Slaps: 0

GS Reviewer: Ian Mayor

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