Review

Dead Space Review (Xbox360)

There are only three rules: everything that can go wrong will go wrong, nothing is sacred, and saving life is impossible. These are the rules that make Dead Space the horror that it is, a cruel, shocking space drama that employs these bitter ideals with new technologies and techniques previously unseen in games, and others that push the boundaries previously set.

The third person horror follows Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent to repair a broken communications array on the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel in an uncharted region of space.  Following Murphy’s Law, their vessel crashes into the Ishimura leaving its crew to find the Ishimura deserted. Shortly after they are attacked by menacing creatures, killing the pilot and leaving only two other characters: Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond, a technology expert and security officer, respectively.

These characters play a vital role in the progression of Dead Space’s plot, allowing Isaac access to different parts of the Ishamura, providing intel and giving direction and objectives. Through their narrative, as well as audio and text logs scattered throughout the ship, the events prior to Isaac’s arrival unfold, revealing a tale of corrupt religion, unimaginable anguish, and even incredible physical pain. Unfortunately, scenes and logs showing as much are not nearly vivid enough to create anything but a faux impression of fear, like the developers tried too hard. 


All the weapons are tools of some sort. Use them wisely to dismember enemies. It's not called 'Dead Space' for nothing.


One such scene is meant to be especially brutal, where an audio log has a prior crewmember of the Ishamura using one of Dead Space’s signature weapons, a cutting tool, to remove his own limbs to ensure he doesn’t become a creature himself.  Horrifying to imagine, but the acting indicated the littlest pain expected from such a feat that any emotional duress players could have felt is easily dismissed.

Such instances occur throughout Dead Space, where truly horrific things are downplayed or occur far too randomly. Because of the second rule, there are instances when characters appear who simply cannot be saved due to some obstacle. Many of the crew of the Ishamura that Isaac finds alive kill themselves or die as he arrives, mostly due to extreme injury and exhaustion or insanity. At least twice such crewmembers succumb to nothing but the game’s inability to allow Isaac to save them or ‘put them out of their misery’, which is a sobering reminder that the experience is still just a game.

What horrors Dead Space properly actuates tend to be creepy or intellectually disturbing, not shocking. The most memorable scene is after several encounters with smaller, newer creatures who are a nuisance from far. The scene has Isaac pick up a text log that simply reads the names of newborns on the vessel, which upon reading registers where those small creatures come from, as well as much larger, fatter enemies which spew tiny creatures from their giant stomach pouches. Indeed, nothing is sacred in Dead Space, and the realism of that situation was exciting.


The general rule is the uglier it is, the sooner it needs to die.  In a note EA passed along, we were told to die intentionally. Every monster has a few different death animations to watch for Isaac.


Dead Space includes several unique gameplay mechanics, most notably what developer EA Redwood Shores has dubbed “Strategic Dismemberment”, the act of removing limbs from enemies to kill them faster. The premise is simple: enemies with less limbs deal less damage and die faster. One or no legs means they must crawl to attack Isaac, less tentacles means attacks are less frequent, etc. With the majority of weapons being tools of some sort, cutting limbs off is the only way to fend off hordes of enemies.

On top of several different weapons are two powerful technologies, Stasis and Kinesis. The former slows down objects and enemies for short periods, and becomes increasingly useful in later levels. The latter allows Isaac to move objects ‘telepathically’, as well as shoot them violently. Stasis has limited combat value since its function is singular and recharging with Stasis pods during battle is difficult. Stasis pods are also expensive and difficult to find.

Kinesis is just the opposite, infinite in use and usability. All objects within reason can be lifted and moved, but its real power comes from the damage done to the Ishamura. The damaged ship has luggage, equipment, sharp and explosive objects scattered throughout nearly every part of it. Anything can be thrown at enemies to deal damage, including their own dismembered body parts. Properly using Kinesis during combat, however, is a much greater feat. Dark rooms and poor visibility, as well as the looming threat of enemies and a gun in Isaac’s hand never makes Kinesis the first option for defense. It is a discipline that must be practiced to provide the most benefit. 


Surround sound is very, very necessary for Dead Space. Or just expect to die. A lot. Twinkle twinkle little star...


Why Kinesis is necessary at all is simple: limited resources. Stores that scatter Dead Space require money, which can only be found in storage containers or on dead enemies. Upgrading weapons and armor can only be done with power nodes, which are extremely rare to find and expensive. There is no way for players to earn everything the game has to offer in a single play through, and upgrades cannot be undone, so resource management becomes incredibly relevant within the first few hours of gameplay.

The use of zero gravity combat in Dead Space is also done remarkably well. Jumping from wall to wall is difficult at first, but it provides an array of interesting combat tricks and maneuvers that cannot be denied. Disorienting at first, a little bit of practice takes it a long way.
 
There is so much in Dead Space to mention that doing so would make this review very, very long. Puzzles using Kinesis and Stasis, timed events in airless zones, spacewalks across  an asteroid-ridden hull, enough enemies to never leave players comfortable. If not for the submissive, cliché’d last two hours of the story and the un-dramatic terror-inducing scenes, Dead Space would be a rich, enthusiastic game for anyone to enjoy. Yes, its over-dramatized sound may startle the neighbors, but with so much packed into one game, missing it would be much, much scarier.

Game advertisements by <a href="http://www.game-advertising-online.com" target="_blank">Game Advertising Online</a> require iframes.

Videos

Comments

By Jurgen (SI Veteran Newbie) on Oct 31, 2008
Jurgen
Great review!
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Oct 31, 2008
Wowerine
Just got it! Looks amazing. I'll have to make a review about this game myself! After I finish it!
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 31, 2008
Praetorian
Playing it enjoying it loving it ! Very very nice made game.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Oct 31, 2008
Wowerine
Huh. Just got lvl3 suit. Amazing!
By ScythSoulces (SI Core) on Oct 31, 2008
ScythSoulces
This was not a good game to play.....well for ma anyway....and some friends I know.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 31, 2008
herodotus
The PC version is rubbish out-of-the-box. You can't re-map keys or mouse buttons to your own style, and the aiming is deliberately slow (to make a more console-like experience, according EA). Can't play my copy until we get a patch.
By Knave (SI Core) on Oct 31, 2008
Knave
This sounds like it would be a lot more fun if the PC version wasn't so nerfed. I really liked the spooky elements in STALKER, it was a game that actually made me scared of the dark.

If I hear they get a patch that fixes the problems that Hero listed then i'll consider trying this one out.
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Nov 01, 2008
Praetorian
I dont agree with you on this one hero...The PC version for me personaly is a very special experience like a gamer, very nicely made game.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 02, 2008
herodotus
I can't comment on the game, but I hear its' good. Trouble is Praeto I, along with many PC owners don't like having to change to WASD controls, having always used the arrow keys. We can't do it in this game (shades of Resident Evil), even though EA stated pre-release that you could. That and the dead-zone surrounding the aim point are the major gripes. I can't play the game as it stands, and I know of many PC gamers who have cancelled their orders for these reasons.
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Nov 02, 2008
Praetorian
Yea i understand, but it is the best horror game of the year in my opinion and some things they added to make your brain stun sometimes that is very atractive to me hehe...
By hunter612 (SI Core) on Nov 02, 2008
hunter612
Gah..makes me wish that i could trade my junk PC for an XBOX360
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Nov 03, 2008
Wowerine
Just got lvl5 suit, and finished the game. This is the best horror game of the year!
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Nov 03, 2008
Praetorian
Congrats wowerine! :)
By Kres (SI Elite) on Nov 03, 2008
Kres
Oh maybe I should give this one a go seeing you two drulling over it :)
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Nov 03, 2008
Praetorian
You want be disappointed kres for sure, maby little scared lol
By Battle_Ben (SI Newbie) on Nov 04, 2008
Battle_Ben
This game is awesome, creepy and features powerful weaponry. Here's a tip; download one of the level five suits before playing the game. This will even the odds and save you a lot of in game $ down the road and it only costs $2.50 (well i got it for free h ehehe)
By danielpcguy (SI Newbie) on Nov 04, 2008
danielpcguy
its scary, i mean, its not THAT scary, ut it can make u jump ocaxonaly. hehe. And i like the no HUD thingy, everything u nid to see is in the suit.
By Mandalorain (SI Newbie) on Nov 07, 2008
Mandalorain
The game sounds awesome I'll have to go rent it (or knowing my I'll end up just buying it)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 19, 2008
herodotus
The answer to the keymapping issue has been solved by PC gamers as usual:
http://forums.ea.com/mboards/thread.jspa?threadID=462442
Happy hunting boys. Mine works a treat now.
By AceofSpades (SI Member) on Nov 26, 2008
AceofSpades
Great game, reminds me of Bioshock. I liked this one a LOT more than Bioshock though.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Nov 26, 2008
FoolWolf
Activation and controle issues keeps me away from it.