WHO KNEW SPACE WAS SUCH A VIOLENT PLACE!When we think of Outer Space, we think of big powerful rocketships taking men and women of great intelligence to study the many wonders of this world. We don't think of horrid blood thirsty aliens looking to savagely kill any human that may cross their path. Yet in the universe of EA's newest shooter Dead Space, that's what's exactly happening and it a true test of survival. From EA's Redwood Shores studio, Dead Space places you as Isaac Clarke, an engineer traveling with a small maintenance team whose job it is to investigate the USG Ishimura. A mining ship which as stranded into Space and as had all communication cut off. But it's not exactly your usual maintenance job as Isaac and his team find something terrifying on this lonely and empty ship. The team quickly realise something bad as happened, and they soon run into creatures known as Necromorphs, who consistently attack those humans who haven't been affected by this plague which as ravaged the ships crew. Much of the story involves the first attacks on the USG Ishimura and it's crew. But Isaac as another reason for taking on this job as he wishes to visit and eventually rescue his love Nicole Brennan whose been working on the mining ship. Much of the game's story evolves around a mix of both key storylines, but at times Isaac's search for Nicole takes a seat back as the the maintenance crew try to figure out what the hell happened here in the first place and then eventually find a way off the USG Ishimura.
The story doesn't hit you straight away, infact it's fair to say that the early chapters were somewhat a little dull offering very little of the actual overall story. In many of the early chapters Isaac as to stabilize the ship and it's many functions. He recieves help and instructions from Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond, the only two survivors left with Isaac from the maintenance crew. Dead Space is a pretty forgiving game in the early hours of play, you won't really require Isaac's Stasis Module which places objects in a stasis basically slowing them down. This module is only truly used in early puzzles and most of the creature you come across can be killed with good aiming of the gun and dismembering the creatures bodies. That's a key concept to Dead Space, Dismembering creatures is a must if you wish to survive. You can't use the old classic shoot them in the head tactic of old as you'll probably just anger them more if you do so. Many creatures will require a good few arms and legs removed before they finally stop hunting Isaac down. I loved the story to Dead Space, but it's brilliance is partly down to the fantastic atmosphere and dread of the creatures known as Necromorphs. Though throughout the game all variations share the same overall look, great credit must go to some of the creatures designs which match the dread of the USG Ishimura's atmosphere perfectly. Dead Space can have that Resident Evil feel to it, from time to time you will run out of ammo if not used tactically like it should be. But theres still a good amount of ammo to be found around the ship for Isaac to use on any of the seven weapons that can be used on the creatures.
The weapons are great, and some are honestly the best I've used in a videogame yet. Throughout one playthrough you'll only be able to pick up four weapons due to expense and inventory size so make sure you choose weapons that suits your style of play. You start the game with the Plasma Cutter, the handgun of mining if you will. It may seem like a pretty average weapon at first, but I can promise you'll be using it a lot of the time throughout Dead Space's eight to ten hours of playtime. Other weapons are more specified such as my personal favourite the Ripper which is a chainsaw of sorts. This weapons was perfect for many of the game's heavy attack moments when I was being attacked by a pretty large force of Necromorphs. This weapon hovers a saw in the air which cuts down any enemies nearby and as a secondary fire which actually shoots the saw. Every weapon as a secondary fire and it's offers some nice tactically moments when you need some intelligence to get past this big boss or two. Tactic aren't required, but if you want to keep surviving and your death count low. I'd recommend using your brain from time to time as the Necromorphs can be simply ruthless when they want to be.
Much of Dead Space is driven by it's atmosphere and for the most part it's great, If your expecting a scare at every corner game then you may be a little disappointed like myself. Dead Space as some seriously shocking moments, many of them featuring desturb crew members who haven't been affected by the Necromorphs plauge. But the game follows a routine that you'll eventually find a little dull when it comes to creature attacks, but thankfully Dead Space's fantastic shooting mechanics and enemy A.I keeps everything fresh and interesting with eventually the story kicking in and play it's part. One area that Dead Space excells though is in it's method of creature attack, you won't often find creatures attacking you by the expected forms. They will crawl through gaps in the ships hallways and even come attacking through vents and windows. It works well and keeps you on the guard throughout the game with very few actual locations being attack free. This means that you need to be prepared for anything, make sure all your weapons are loaded fully and you have the right equipment to stay alive with items such as health packs which are like gold in the later chapters of the game.
Dead Space is a stunning looking game and although some critism could be placed on many of the locations looking and even felling the same. It's hard to heavily slam a game when it also offers such stunning boss battles and cinematic moments. Character and creature models look great and there a real honest sense of dread and desperation to the game, only helped by the great story. The game does try and offer some variation in play with a section requiring you to shoot incoming asteroids heading for the hull of the USG Ishimura and theres even some on the rail moments as Isaac gets dragged away by a creatures tentacle requiring you to shoot it down. It's just disappointing that the general aiming of your weapons in these moments can be terrible and you may even find yourself dying a good few times as you finally get hang of the aiming system which can be slower then the quick movements of the tentacle. But for the rest of the game, the shooting mechanic does a fine job which is helped by general inventory navigation taking place inside gameplay.
Dead Space does a great job at keeping things urgent, even when being attacked by a large force of Necromorphs you'll still have to venture into your inventory while still in play. Leaving you desperately finding those health packs while some Twitcher Necromorphs come running at you at great speeds. At times it can leave you frustrated and questioning the decision of the developers in choosing such a route of navigation, but you soon realise how awesome it actually is. Especially for a horror orientated title such as this. Dead Space does a very fine job indeed when it comes to keeping you in the game, it did such a good job that I often found myself feeling the same desperation Isaac felt as he tried to both get off this infested ship but also find Nicole. It wasn't until near the end that I realise how deep I actually felt as I shouted encouragement to Isaac as he ran away limping and wounded from a room of Necromorphs. Not to mention the relief when I finally killed that pesky boss in one of Dead Space's fine boss battles. I would love to see more titles take this route, especially horror titles which it seems perfect for. There are a few loading times, mainly when you die as the game loads up from a setpoint or one of your saves but I will be interested to see how that loading is affected when the ability to save Dead Space to my Harddrive comes along in the NXE later this month. One of the disadvantages of this system though comes in some of the level designs, you'll often find youself in corridors that look oh so familar annd though some of this is understandable (being the same ship and all) it would have been nice if there was a little more variation in design. Most levels of the ship have a hub of sorts which usually offers a shop and a save point, they also often other hallway links to most of the other objectives required to complete in order to advance.
I also found some variation in creature attacks aswell which was pretty impressive, you may find one area tougher then you'd first expected or you may not have the proper ammunition required to take a down a certain type of Necromorph. If you die and then reload from that checkpoint or save point. You'll sometimes find the set routine change, for example one time I was having a few problems taking down a couple of Twitchers (a very quick and brutal form of Necromorph) due to not having the best ammo for the right weapon. But after another frustrating death I went into the room and actually found myself being attacked by only one which I was easily able to handle, it wasn't until I entered the room next door that I was attacked by the other two Twitchers. Now I'm not sure if this had anything to do with difficulty or just keeping things fresh but I still found it to be a nice helpful feature, especially in a game when chapters can suffer from to much repetition from time to time.
EA Redwood Shores have done a fine job at killing any external bugs that could have easily destroyed the overall dread and atmosphere of the game. I only came across one such nasty camera bug which took me out of game view unable to aim my weapon and kill those pesky Necromorphs, but even that only happened once. It's rare nowadays to come across a game with so few bugs, I'm sure some of my fellow gamers might have come across some other forms of bugs along the way. But I found so very few in my Xbox 360 copy of the game. Just to speak a little more about Dead Space's ''scary'' value, it might not be as scary as I'd have hoped. But it does have some fantastic gorefested moments and it defiantly as a lot of shock value. So many games do gore, but very few do it in such style. Dead Space's gore is only helped by some of the thrilling death animations Isaac can suffer if your not using your aiming skill to full effectiveness. It's a pleasure to view some of these, some will find Isaac's head cut off clean from the neck while others will see the Necromorph take it's time as it carely rips Isaac's body in two. It may be to much for some, but if your buying Dead Space then you're probably already use to such gore and violence. I loved every minute of it, does that make me a bad person?
Isaac Clarke does a Gordon Freeman when it comes to voicework, as there is none. Isaac only cries out in pain when being gutted by a Necromorph and he doesn't speak one word throughout the game. But the rest of the voicework is fantastic, with special mention to the voice of Kendra Daniels who does a very fine job, I won't say why but if you've played the game you may already know why. Sound effects are fantastic and Necromorph cries can be spinechilling, especially when you know there in the next room just waiting for you. All seven weapons have a nice unique punch to them and the games soundtrack only adds to the dark horrid feeling Dead Space clearly goes for. Theres very few if any true cutscenes and almost everything is seen from the viewpoint of Isaac Clarke, there are some seriously chilling atmospheric music to be found while your traveling down USG Ishimura's many hallways. Dead Space's puzzles aren't exactly mind boggling but still offer enough challenge to keep the player entertained and some of the zero gravity locations are a pleasure to travel through. Even if one of the boss battles that takes place in a zero gravity chamber can leave you feeling a little sick and dizzy.
- Brilliant atmosphere created by intelligent gameplay choices and smart storytelling.
- Solid shooting mechanics that would even put Gears of War to the test.
- Seven unique weapons are some of the best I've fired in a videogame.
- Necromorphs are a ruthless bunch of villians.
- Some of the best immersion gameplay mechanic and choices in a videogame yet.
- Early chapters can be both repetitive and dull.
- A little to much repetition of level design.
- Isaac's turning speed can be a little to slow in the heat of battle.
SCORE: 5 STARS OUT OF 5