vinchenzo's Dead Space (Xbox 360) review

An immersive atmosphere meets pure brutality.

Pros

  • Awesome graphics.
  • Nice enemy variety that keeps you rigid.
  • Incredibly immersive thanks to having the HUD built into your character.
  • The story, while somewhat weak, has great storytelling. Yes, I just contradicted myself.
  • Everything is brutal. From crushing your foes with the heel of your boot, to kicking a mutated baby.

Cons
  • Replayability is limited due to mostly linear pathing, and a consistent amount of backtracking.
  • The story ending left me unsatisfied. The string of cliff-hanger endings in games and movies continue!
  • Mission objectives are varied in scenery but mostly limited to "Go to door, door is locked, get required item to unlock door."

Dead Space is a game that you might dismiss because of the EA logo tacked on the front. Well fortunately for fans of horror games, this is one title that EA did right. Well until they milk the franchise, but moving on.

As mentioned, this is a horror game. Therefore the gameplay can depend based on who is making it. Resident Evils and Silent Hills seem to be more on the puzzle side, with a mix of action. Dead Space (DS) leans more toward being action-oriented. As Issac, an engineer, you begin the game en route to the Ishimura, a mining ship that is just floating, with no visible power. Due to forces beyond your control, you are thrust into exploring Ishimura, playing a balancing act between fixing the ship [and an escape route] and finding out what happened.

Thankfully Issac has a handy RIG at his disposal, and two trusty allies (Hammond and Kendra). You move Issac with the control scheme of any third-person. That means you'll aim and shoot with the triggers, move and look with thumbsticks [obviously], and can reload on the fly. Also at your ability, while aiming, if you press X you can stasis enemies or the environment. Stasis basically slows down your subject leaving them open for attack. If you press B while aiming you'll harness a kinesis power, wherein you can grab objects and move them to your will, either solving puzzles or throwing metal razor blades. Pressing Y will bring up your RIG menu, then being able to see mission objectives, mess around with your inventory, and look at a map. The bumpers attribute to your running (when the LB is held) and a stomp attack (when RB is pressed).

Amazingly, all of these features are in-game. Your RIG menu appears in front of you along with people that are currently communicating with you. It's a great addition and definitely keeps the intensity on the edge, because at any point, even in the "menus," you can be attacked. Looking at a map or shopping for new ammo? Well an enemy can still hit you considering you are still in-game. The only thing that pauses the game is start, which lets you change options, and resume or exit the game. Even your health and stasis energy is shown on your back, so there is no need for any interfering HUD.

Of course no gameplay would be great without the weapons. As you might know, enemies can be dismembered. That means cutting off their legs, arms, and head. Even then, they'll sometimes persist, dragging themselves along with their claws. My primary weapon of use was the plasma cutter, an ingenious "tool" that shoots 3 spaced shots. Pressing RB (which is also alternate fire for every weapon) can let you choose to fire horizontal or vertical. Other weapons consist of what seems to be a buzz saw, a flamethrower, and more. Truth be told, I went through the whole game with just the plasma cutter. Dismembering enemies is just that useful.

The enemy variety ranges from creepy to insane. There are mutated babies with tentacles, humanoid creatures with claws, and what seems to be a bloated creature similar to a human form that, when broken, has a host of other lifeforms. Anyway you look at it, they will surprise you often. At one point I came across a regenerating humanoid, who would grow back limbs that were cut off. Not only did this provide a intense sense of urgency, but 'caused me to actually think beyond the dismemberment aspect.

The graphics, again, are unique and paved with blood. So much blood. It's hard to do space game these days while trying to be fresh. Let's be honest, too often you see the same winding corridors with a terrible imagination of what the future should look like. Dead Space has the creepy corridor vibe, but mixes it up and throws you into different parts of the ship (the medical area and garden habitat, for instance). Animations are equal, if not better. Ever see a gorgeous stomp? 'Cause I sure have.

Sound uses a combination of the atmosphere and movie techniques. When an enemy pops out of nowhere, like a vent, you can be sure the music will cause your heart to skip a beat. Music also builds up depending on the occasion. A large part of the atmosphere is from having the ship silent, and throwing in scattering noises, leaving you confused as to if there is an enemy, and where. These lifeforms travel in the ventilation shafts, so the scattering is a useful effect.

Replayability is kept to a minimum. When you beat the game you'll have access to the hardest difficulty, Impossible, as well as "new game" features. Such as continuing your character stats (you'll keep your upgraded weapons, gear, etc.). Although the game is linear. There are different objectives, but you can never get lost, especially thanks to the ability of pressing in the right thumbstick and having a guided line point you to your objective. Don't get me wrong, I love this kind of linearity, and it's loose enough to let you do your objectives in different orders, but it does not provide a reason to play again. I also got over the scaring attempts. This is no Silent Hill, so expect to be creeped more than scared, as well as put into more intense situations.

I beat the game in 10 1/2 hours, so it has a nice length. Some of it felt stretched, but only to the point of "Another door that needs a key." I highly recommend a rental, and if at this time you have the cash then by all means buy it. As long as you play this game, then that's good enough. The atmosphere and polish of Dead Space will be an enjoyable experience.
4 Comments
Posted by Sweep

Nice review, I cant wait for this game to be released here in the UK!

Moderator
Posted by mordecaix7

Good review!  I've purchased the game but have been waiting for tonight to really delve into it.  Played about 30 minutes so far and loving it!

Posted by Torb

Sounds awesome man. I've been on the fence about whether or not to rent this game, but I think now I'll hit it up. I especially appreciate you mentioning your total playtime. That was a pretty big factor for me. Great review.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Weak story with great storytelling is never a contradiction.  Happens a lot.  I'd rather have a cliché story told well than a completely original story spat out by a dude with a mouth full of crackers any day.

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