Giant Bomb Review


Dead Space Review

  • PC

The game is much greater than the sum of its familiar parts. It's also one of the best shooters so far this year.

Carving up mutants has rarely been so entertaining.
When EA announced Dead Space a year ago, I recall some members of the press deriding the game for looking just a little too familiar. I know I was guilty of doing it. But in our defense, you have seen all this before: A massive, grungy industrial starship gone dark, adrift in a remote system with no sign of its crew. A horde of hideous monsters spewing forth from a sinister, amorphous biomass hiding deep within the ship. Audio and text logs scattered around every deck that reveal what happened, piece by piece. An over-the-shoulder perspective that snaps to a zoomed-in aiming view for combat.

Doom 3, check. System Shock 2, check. Gears of War, Resident Evil 4, check.

But all those blatant similarities didn't matter in the end. After finishing it, I felt stupid about knocking Dead Space for displaying its influences so prominently, because this game is pretty darn amazing.

The story isn't astoundingly original, but it does a fine job of moving you from one section of the ship to the next. You take the role of deep-space mining engineer Isaac Clarke, a member of a five-man crew dispatched to investigate the loss of contact with the USG Ishimura, an enormous "planetcracker" mining ship. Clarke's girlfriend was stationed on the Ishimura, so he has personal as well as professional reasons for getting in there and finding out what's going on. About five minutes after arriving, Clarke's own ship is toast, his five-man crew is down to three, and those three have been separated by a vile menagerie of creatures overrunning nearly every inch of the ship. Over the course of the game's 12 roughly hour-long chapters, your priorities will shift from saving the Ishimura to saving your own ass, and you'll barely fight your way through one tense, frantic monster attack after another as you try to escape the ship. The game is densely packed with spectacular moments from beginning to end, and the action is paced well enough that you never get bored or feel overwhelmed at any given moment.

It's easy to forgive a game for being derivative when it's presented with so much impact and it plays so damn well. Dead Space has some of the tightest, most well-balanced controls I've ever used in this kind of game. There are so many variables in a third-person shooter that contribute to the way it feels--the camera speed, the sensitivity of the analog sticks, the interval between hitting the aiming-mode trigger and actually being able to fire a gun--and I can't complain about any one of these factors in Dead Space; they all feel sublimely tuned and perfectly balanced to be easy to use and, above all, fun. You can hold a shoulder button to run, but unlike Gears' famed roadie run, you can still stop on a dime and break into a sidestep in an instant (or even run backwards). Everything about the moving, aiming, and shooting controls is superbly balanced and really entertaining.

A sense of dread permeates every deck of the Ishimura.
EA has been throwing around the catchy marketing phrase "strategic dismemberment" in reference to Dead Space for a few months now, which is justifiable since that's actually a good way to describe the combat. Most of the game's grotesquely mutated enemies have spindly arms, legs, tentacles, and other appendages that you can shoot off with a well-placed shot or two, and you get these satisfyingly meaty snapping sounds and a jet of blood every time you separate another body part. You can also stomp an enemy that's down but not out with your heavy spacesuit boots to splatter their limbs before they can get back up and keep coming at you. And I do mean splatter--it's a really gory game.

The precision aiming required to properly dismember the enemies adds more depth to the combat than you'd get with most shooters, where you're just pumping rounds into a guy's torso or, at most, aiming for his head. Here, you'll want to specifically shoot for the knee to stop a fast-running monster from chasing you down, or shear off one of the smaller types of enemies' tentacles because they can fire spikes with them. The game's basic pistol weapon, the plasma cutter, even lets you orient its wide beam vertically or horizontally for more accurate slicing and dicing. Another weapon, the ripper, shoots a saw blade about eight feet in front of you and then just holds it spinning in midair, letting you rake it over an enemy and slice them up every which way. You can imagine the possibilities. With eight weapons on the roster and an alternate fire mode for each, there's a lot of variety in the carnage here.

Dead Space throws in a few more mechanics above the basic shooting action. You can telekinetically pick up and launch some objects as weapons, and you can also throw a stasis field to slow down an enemy briefly, making it easier to take their limbs off with precision. Both of these abilities are useful in fairly frequent environmental puzzles, some of them simple and some clever. I liked that the game didn't try to portray Isaac as a mining engineer...who also happens to have psionic abilities. Both of these abilities stem from devices in his suit, and that's that.

The superb visuals demand a nice big television.
Lastly, there are some noteworthy sequences in zero gravity and in a vacuum (sometimes both). The vacuum sequences don't play any differently--they just feel more urgent, since they put you on a timer as your air tank runs out--but they dramatically desaturate the color palette and dampen the sound almost entirely, which creates a uniquely eerie atmosphere, especially when you're clomping along with your magnetic boots on the outside of the ship and some monsters silently sneak up behind you and attack. In the zero-G sections, those boots keep you planted while everything else floats freely, and you can jump from any one flat surface to another. So every wall becomes a potential floor and you never really know which way is up. It's a refreshingly confusing approach to weightlessness that creates some interesting puzzle scenarios.

This is a game you really need to play on a big high-def TV with a good, bass-heavy sound system. It's an audiovisual tour de force, with some of the moodiest and most impressive lighting effects on this generation of consoles. Some of the interior environments of the Ishimura are positively cavernous, or filled with massive thrumming machinery. There aren't a lot of boss encounters, but the sheer scale of a couple of them in particular left my jaw hanging open. The sound design is also extremely well done, not just for the ever-present creepy ambient backdrop, but also some of the in-your-face effects, like Isaac's sonorous gasping when he's badly hurt and out of breath, or that aforementioned grisly wet crunch of severed monster limbs. The sound effects have a real weight to them that beg to be conveyed over speakers with some serious muscle.

Dead Space would be a great game no matter who made it, but I'm more impressed with it since it's coming out of EA. That bastion of the annualized sequel is finally taking some risks with original games, if not always original ideas, and in this case the risk paid huge dividends. You've probably seen most of Dead Space's parts in other games from time to time, but you've rarely seen them assembled this well. Brad Shoemaker on Google+
146 Comments Refresh
Posted by Psynapse

Awesome Review Brad! Def going to pick this one up now!

New 5 star pic?? I likey!!!

Posted by SpecialBuddy
Posted by norton123


Posted by Fr0Br0

Ooh, wasn't expecting to see a review on this. Very nice!

Posted by Derios

These pics are really making no sense.

And yes i concur, dead space is amazing, although i can't play it for longer that 30 mins at a time.

Posted by Kontrapunkt

Looks very awesome indeed, great review as well.

Posted by mrfluke
finally brads 1st 5 star review for the new giantbomb since the old site and mgs 4

Posted by MasterSplinter

This might be the enthusiastic review for Dead Space I have read. I am playing it right now and it is certainly an awesome game. Nice review.

Posted by chavafx

o god please tell me that fable 2  video review is on the way and i mean like in 1o min plz plz

Posted by bshirk

Damn, I want this game...but I decided to get the Rock Band 2 special edition for now.  I hope to pick it up before the end of the year though.

Posted by Chickentaco

I love you, Brad

PS: You just got called out on 1UP FM

Posted by VitaminWaterYum

Great review, I was a bit skeptical until about a month before release then the hype hit me and it definitely lived up to it.

Posted by jyurakyumihawk

oh jeez, I thought I click the wrong website. Brad's 5 stars pic totally caught me off-guard.

Posted by plainplease

I really wanted to play this game, but, damn it, I only have a small HDTV to play it on.  Oh well.

Posted by MagusMaleficus

This game is definitely five-star material. Hell, the audio alone makes it a damn fine game in my book--everything else is just the kick-ass icing on the already sweet cake.

I have to say, however, that you don't need a huge TV to enjoy this game. Mine is only 26 inches; but given the size of the room I play games in, and the overkill of awesome that is my sound system, 26 is more than enough.

Posted by Crona

I definetly agree. I only have one problem with the whole entire game, and that's the level 6 boss. It's long, repetitive, and I couldn't figure out whether what I was doing was doing any damage or not. I played the game all through the night on saturday night. Up to 6:30 the next morning! Now, this weekend, I have to beat it with only the plasma cutter on hard mode!!!

Posted by bornagain888

Just finished this game this weekend and it is awesome! The 3D holograghic hud deserves awards just by itself as does the navigational laser that shows you were to go. Bioware must incorporate these into the next Mass Effect, I can't go back now.

Posted by LifeByDegrees

Awesome 5 Star reference image.

Posted by albedos_shadow

In total agreement.

Posted by majnuker


I bet they will have it come out for PC later this year, but still...

me want. Time to buy a 360/PS3?

Posted by Bass

Seems like a quality game. I hope to see a video review on this, because i just want a hint of the terror hidden within the game.

Posted by Geno

Great review, I might get this game now (even though I'm HELLA scared of horror games).

Posted by Hexogen

I was a little skeptical of this game before it came out, but from all the reviews I've been reading it sounds pretty damn good. I'll probably pick it up sometime.

Posted by XAMS

Will there be a video review??
I hope guys haven't made one in a while.

Posted by Snipes424

5/5 huh?  I might have to check this out then.

Posted by Dragonseer

Great review Brad.  I'm about halfway through this and this game is simply amazing.  I'm not used to seeing this level of polish from a western developer that isn't called Blizzard, and certainly didn't expect it from EA..

Posted by dtran1212

ign only gave this a game a 8.7, from Brad's review, it sound like they should have given it a 9.4 or something

Posted by TheGTAvaccine

Great review for a superb game.

Posted by Media_Master

Now I must get it!!!

Posted by Death_Burnout

Oh... My... God... what an awesome Brad pic, i havent seen that one yet, pretty much cus i didnt go back and check the MGS4 review to see it.

Posted by Bradtron

nice.  that pic is awesome.

Posted by John

God dammit, Oct has just started and I already have a must-play game to buy. Great.

Posted by NL_Buddha

Can't wait to get this game,I hope some time this week.
By the way Brad, is this the new manga hair style that you picked up on your recent trip to Tokyo????
Great review as always and keep up the great work!!!!!

Posted by MattBodega

I guess I should get Dead Space!

Posted by MeatSim

haha whats with the picture of brad is a devil worshiper now , but anyway I think this game surprised almost everyone on how good it turned out to be.

Posted by HatKing

Too many games and I'm at a really weird point in my life.  I just don't have the time or energy to sit and play all these games.  I feel like I just bought Saints Row 2 and I'm picking up Fable 2 tonight...then Fallout 3 next week...then Gears 2 a couple weeks after that...too much for me.  I have the money but not the time.  Oh well I think things will slow down for me once I get into January hopefully then I can relax and enjoy some of these games.

Posted by 8

Level 6 Boss was awesome. Well, the boss was just good, but the room made it awesome.

Posted by J3

MAJNUKER!! Yeah, it comes out on PC TODAY. GO GET IT. Also, try the new release tab at the top, you might find the info contained within amazing.

Posted by Destroyeron


Posted by betterthantelevision

Great review, this game is legite. I just beat it and have to say they really entice you into playing it over. I'll be popping Dead Space in again and again over the next year or two for sure. That's rare for me, the last single player game that I did that with was RE4.

Bring on the sequel, EA, I'm sold.

Posted by jakob187

Wow, five stars!  LOL  The game is definitely an ass-kicker, sir.  You need to hit up the forums and start speculating on that story with us, though!!!  I know you have something to say about the ending.  I know you do...  = D

Great read, very well written.
Posted by NAZAR3NE

How about a video review. It would be awesome if you guys did a video review for Far Cry 2. Oh, and FO3, GoW2, L4D and PoP. Thanx for blow'n things up guys and great review Brad.

Posted by tmontana1004

Seems like a buy for me, but my budget is tight. I'll rent sooner or later.

Posted by Darknaut

Definitely the best game I've played in a while, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the holiday season to give me the same feeling. And major kudos to EA for renewing my faith in their ability to create new and interesting IPs.

Posted by ocdog45

good thing i have a high def tv. looking forward to playing this one.

Posted by bulletclip6

I own this game, ans it is the TITS. awesome review..

Posted by AK47

ONE OF THE BEST FUCKING GAMES EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by mawfu

There is more meat than metal in this game. Very well made. In the first 5 minutes you get the feel and see the polish. Great review. 

Posted by Alberto777

Nice Review Brad. Now thinking of getting it.

Posted by TomboDemon

seriously guys,
video review?