Impressions: Dead Space

This isn't supposed to be a review or anything (I haven't beaten it yet), just some things that have struck me while playing.

I'm pretty surprised at the variety of things I'm doing in Dead Space. It strikes a nice balance between shooting gallery and environmental puzzles, which are in themselves varied and interesting. The game is paced very well; save points are always around when you need them, shooting and puzzle areas break each other up nicely, and the scares come infrequently enough that you've fallen into a false sense of security by the time another one pops up.

There are not a lot of different types of enemies, but the dismemberment mechanic keeps things interesting. Each encounter is a frantic test of accuracy, requiring you to target individual parts of the enemies to efficiently take them down. While you could just shoot the enemies center-mass until they die, that takes a lot of ammo. Ammo efficiency is big in Dead Space, since you rarely feel comfortable with the amount of ammo you have.

In fact, it's that way for every commodity in the game. Never having an abundance of ammo, money, or upgrade parts makes scrounging an important side goal. I never leave a storage bin unopened. That doesn't mean you're ever at a disadvantage, necessarily. There are so many ways to kill things (guns, thrown objects, melee attacks while time-frozen) that you never feel that the game is being unfair in what it's given you.

I was a little wary of the line-on-the-ground system at first. Usually, this kind of system exists to make up for shoddy level design (see Perfect Dark Zero). This is not the case in Dead Space. Despite the game having a homogeneous gray-spaceship palette, each area has enough recognizable features and signage for you to get oriented easily. Also, there are rarely more than three exits from any given room, so it's tough to mess it up. As long as you know what your objective is (which you should know if you're paying attention to the in-game dialogue, but is easily accessible should you forget), it's usually pretty clear where you're supposed to be heading. So, while the designers could have used the line-on-the-ground as a crutch, instead it is merely an option, one I find myself using only to confirm that I'm going the right way.

So, I'm having a good time with it. I love a good single-player campaign, and while I'm not quite ready to put it up there with BioShock and Call of Duty 4, it's well on its way.

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