Almost great but control issues hold it back.
It's an ongoing debate on whether or not games like this should be on a mobile platform like the iPhone and iPad. The touch screen controls make it very difficult to pull off a 3rd person shooter of this caliber. For the most part, Dead Space controls fine with what it's given. But every once in a while I was on the edge of frustration petering into full on rage as I struggled with the controls.
The biggest draw for this game is the story. It bridges the gap between Dead Space and Dead Space 2. It's no spoiler that the Sprawl is overrun with necromorphs and Dead Space tells you how and why it happened.
You play as Codename: Vandal. Vandal is an engineer and a recent convert to Unitology. The real identity of the character is kept secret, the game even goes so far as to use a voice modifier to mask the character's voice. At the opening of the game Vandal is tricked by the church and unwillingly unleashes the necromorphs throughout the mines of the Sprawl and the rest of the game takes Vandal through the mines to find redemption and stop the necromorphs from taking over the Sprawl.
This is a 3rd person shooter on a device that only allows input through a touch screen. The game plays almost exactly like the console and PC versions in the way that you aim a gun and shoot to dismember things. The left side of the screen is used for moving, while sliding your thumb in any direction will make Vandal move in the corresponding direction. The right side of the screen is used for shooting. Tapping it will draw your weapon, tapping again will shoot, tilting the device will switch to the alternate fire mode, and sliding your thumb in any direction will allow you to aim. Stasis is used by tapping the stasis button on Vandal's shoulder when your weapon is drawn.
For the most part the controls work as advertised and in the early parts of the game I thought they were as perfect as a game like this could be on an iPhone. But that was because the game doesn't throw very many enemies at you to begin with and puts you in a false state of security. It isn't until later in the game when I was thrown 5 to 6 enemies at a time to deal with that I realized the controls weren't as good as I thought they were. Dealing with 2 or 3 necromorphs was easy but having to fight off 6 at a time and not being able to properly target limbs caused some very frustrating moments and having constantly replay areas didn't help. I almost stopped playing the game at one point wanting never to play it again because of said control issues.
Dead Space also chooses action over horror. There are very few, if any, jump scares in the game. You'll kill necromorphs as you progress down the linear path but more often than not the action takes place in rooms locked off from others and won't open until you've killed everything in the room. This happens frequently throughout the game, they even happen on top of the tram that you take to the next chapter. They're fun and challenging to begin with but in the final few of the game they throw far too many necromorphs to deal with with the limited control scheme and lead to the worst and most frustrating parts in the game.
It was at this point that I almost turned it off never wanting to play it again and as even more enemies filtered into the room (causing me to yell at the game) the game threw a twist at me that had me on the edge of my seat. The final few minutes of the game really stuck with me and made fighting with the controls worthwhile.
I may sound like I hated most of the game, but that's not the case. I really enjoyed the 3 to 4 hours it took me to finish it and the ending really gives the story in Dead Space 2 more meaning. In fact, the only real reason to play this is to experience the events leading up to Dead Space 2 and I think that is worth the price of admission alone.