Dead Space

  • Type: TPS (Third Person Shooter) / Adventure
  • Developer: Visceral Games
  • Platform: Xbox360, PS3, PC
  • Release Date: 14th October 2008
  • Version Reviewed: Xbox360

As Dead Space 3 has just been released (8th Feb, 2113), I thought I’d start at the beginning.

In Dead Space, you star as Isaac Clark… an engineer on a mission to go and fix the communications problems on the planet buster (a deep space mining ship) ‘USG Ishimura’. The Ishimura went quiet a while back, and someone far more important than you sent off a small ship of hapless victi… um, crew to find out what the problem is and to fix it. You signed up for it because your girlfriend is on the Ishimura. Not your best decision ever.

The game begins as you find and approach the setting of the bundle of joy, panic, fear and splatter that is Dead Space. From this point onwards, if it’s not gone wrong already, it soon will.

While I can’t say more about the storyline without getting all spoilery, I can say that the storyline is the weakest part of the game. But it is sufficient to carry the game forward. There is more going on than at first appears, but you don’t really care (other than ‘Oh, right. That’s why’). Finding out the titbits of information is nice, but it is the atmosphere and game play that make this game.

Unless you play it on easy (don’t) it is a real survival horror game. Not only do you have to deal with the rampaging nasties, known as Necromorphs, but you also have to worry about finding ammo, health packs and power modules (used to upgrade your gear and open the odd, useful but unessential, door). So do you stand your ground and slug it out with the sickle armed monstrosity charging towards you hoping that you can take it down before it rips your face off, and then drops that health pack you really need… Or run screaming for the nearest door. Either way, if he’s brought his mates it’s gonna get messy.

The Necromorphs are very nicely done. They come in a large variety of shapes and sizes. From the teeny ones that flop along the floor (generally in sizable packs) to the armour plated behemoths that caused me much pain and many deaths, there is not one that you are relieved to see. And the game mechanics are a very refreshing change from ‘shoot em in tha face!!!’

Quite a lot of thought has obviously been put into making the shooty elements of this game a bit different. Each of the different types of Necromorph should be handled slightly differently. You can just pump rounds into (most of) them until they fall over. But you will soon run out of ammunition. Oh, and their mates will probably be chewing on your back while you do it. The weak points on many of them are their limbs. It is a subtle difference from most shooters, but it really works. And it makes for many more satisfying, and spectacular, takedowns than simply watching a head explode through a sniper scope. If only the buggers would stop waving their arms around so much!

Unlike so many shooters, you only get 7 weapons to play with. But this is enough. Each weapon is significantly different to the others, and has its own advantages in various situations. The trouble is you can only carry 4 at a time. And you never know which you are going to need next. Oh, and there is no way you can upgrade them all on a single play through. Also, you generally find ammo for one of the guns you are carrying… And you have very limited space in your backpack. The number of times I had run out of the munitions for the gun I needed against a particular type of ‘morph cos my bag was too full of ammo for the gun that just tickled them!!!!

All of that said, Dead Space is not really a shooter. Well, it is. But it isn’t either the design or the highpoint of the game. For me, the star was the atmosphere. The creeping down derelict corridors, jumping at every clang, thump and howl… Knowing that at some point, something is going to jump out and be really mean to you. The flickers of the shadow of something moving around the corner. The glimpse of something darting past a window. And what exactly knocked over that cylinder that is rolling down the corridor towards you?!!!

The lighting and sound really add to the tension. The extended periods of heart pumpingly tense quiet really do heighten the panic of when a selection of the denizens of the Ishimura do jump out at you.

There are also some small touches (such as the inspired holographic display) that really floated my boat. But you can find them for yourselves.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this game. Enough to forgive the small annoyances I had with the plot.

As with all tension based games, I recommend that you don’t over play it. It’s easy to burn out and not notice the atmosphere anymore. And you don’t want to waste atmosphere this good.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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