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Review: Dead Space

Let me start off by saying that Dead Space is not a scary game. It tries, but doesn’t quite deliver the scares of the “horror” game its advertised to be. BUT… that does not mean that the game sucks

In Dead Space, you control Isaac Clarke, an engineer who’s team is sent to locate and repair a ship named the USG Ishimura in a rather distant future. The USG Ishimura is one of many ships that “cracks” other planets in the universe to suck its resources and return them to a dying Earth to be consumed. Isaac and his crew quickly find that the ship has been taken over by some alien life form and get stranded with no choice but to make the ship operational themselves, and regain communications as an only hope for survival.

Read our review after the jump!

The presentation and the design of Dead Space is something EA should be proud of. One of the main features in this title is the unconventional use of the HUD. In the new age of gaming, Widescreen HDTV’s are almost an essential partner to the Next-Gen era of systems. When the typical HUD is utilized in a game of this sort, the main point of action is slightly zoomed out on to allow the usual Energy Meter and Ammo count (just to name a couple). EA tossed that whole idea out the door and wanted nothing to do with it, deciding to use the entire screen for gameplay action. The main character, Isaac, has a series of lights that trail up the spine of his suit as his life meter. You know how much ammunition you have via a holographic image floating at the base of your currently equipped weapon. Dead Space even utilizes floating projections of video conferencing with the other characters in the game that moves with you, which allows gameplay to still move forward at the same time as the story. This cuts down on the use of GC cut scenes which makes for a higher percentage of gameplay within a title containing a very decent and broad story.

Throughout gaming history, titles that utilize a shooting scheme have improved more and more with the detail and precision it takes to make a kill on your enemy. We’re all used to seeing an enemy, and thinking “Aim for the head! That’s a sure kill!”. Not in this case. The creatures you face in Dead Space, the Necromorphs can’t easily die from a simple head or mid-torso shot. Their vulnerable areas are the joints of their limbs. Which, when moving around in the unconventional manner that they do, the aiming and accuracy can be pretty difficult, but yet a very pleasant twist. There are a good amount of different species of Necromorphs, each who have their own style of movement and attack, which will keep you guessing until the end.

Another great mechanic in Dead Space is a fair amount of levels that have zero gravity zones. These well designed maps and controls make for some fun and challenging puzzle solving. With your gravity boots enabled, you’ll have to get Isaac from what was once the floor, over to a wall, and to an adjacent corner to get into another room and area of the ship. This adds to the whole experience and feeling of knowing you’re traveling about a ship that’s lying dead in space (pun intended).

The survival horror genre has always had the element of forcing the player to keep a good eye on their inventory. Dead Space is absolutely no exception. As expected, you can only carry so much, and you can only store so much. And yes, you can purchase higher capacity storage from the store kiosk’s located in a decent amount of area’s on the map. The weapons and upgrade scheme in Dead Space is pretty slick as well. There is really only one item used in the game that can be considered a weapon, and that’s the Pulse Rifle. The remainder of Isaac’s so called weapons are made of a bunch of tools used to mine the planets. Throughout the game you can upgrade each tool for more powerful makeshift “weapons”. In addition to these tools, you also gain access to Stasis and Kinesis. The Stasis suit add-on give Isaac the ability to slow down fast moving objects, whether that be an enemy, or a malfunctioning piece of ship hardware. Kinesis is the ability to pick up an enemy or an object that may be in your way. These skills are also required in some puzzle solving areas of the game. A great feature to the movement and gameplay is that you can’t really get too lost in Dead Space. If you end up under heavy attack, and find yourself running around and lost complete track of where you were heading, have no fear! Just press down on your right analog stick and Isaac’s suite will a holographic line across the floor in the direction you need to head for your most pressing objective. One drawback to this feature is that it can get rather confusing in Zero Gravity zones.

The story is pretty decent and moves along quite nicely throughout the the game. As mentioned earlier, EA has done a superb job at keeping cut scenes to a minimum and incorporating the story into the gameplay itself. The voice acting is nothing to run home about. A few times in the plot where there is some well written and times drama, just didn’t come across quite right due to lack of true feeling and in their voices. Though the voice acting is not up to par, the non spoken audio in Dead Space is impressive. From the harsh scream of the Necromorphs, to the changes in pressure from vacuum sealed portions of the ship. The sound is even slightly muted and echoed from the discharge of your weapons in zero gravity.

Graphics are what you can expect and a little bit more from EA. No matter how much action and/or environmental effects are happening around Isaac, the framerate never stutters and the settings are fantastically detailed. Not to mention, the detailed blood and guts effects keep this game nice and gory.

A minor issue with Dead Space is the placement of some items. There were quite a few times there were some collectibe objects right underneath a charge station for your Stasis module. Needless to say Isaac’s Stasis module was completely full, but he couldn’t pick up the credits to spend in the store. Takes a bit of moving around of the character and camera, but eventually you get the wanted item. It just gets rather frustrating when you want one item, and not another, and they’re right next to each other. Another slight gripe is, if you’re a person who like unlocking things, you simply cannot unlock and upgrade all items in your initial runthrough of the game. You get a few items and upgrades upon completion of the story, and are able to play again with all upgrades and items in tact. BUT… you have to do it on the same difficulty. This could be annoying to the Xbox 360 owners, because one achievement worth 150 GP is to beat the game on the highest difficulty, which isn’t unlocked until the first run through is completed.

As a newcomer to the Survival Horror genre, Dead Space could be the beginning of a decent series. And at the time of this review, it has already been confirmed that Dead Space 2 is in the works. We will be anxiously awaiting more news and details on that here at /Gamer.

/Gamer score for Dead Space: a deserved 8.5 / 10

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