Dead Space Review - April 7th 2009

Few games have really forayed into the genre of survival horror, first coined in 1996 by Resident Evil. Dead Space is one of these games, so how does it fair against the genre’s defining series?

Dead Space may seem to derive a lot of its gameplay style from Resident Evil 4, and who could blame it as that game is widely seen as the pinnacle of survival horror, however thankfully its own unique aspects incorporated with Resi 4’s general layout make it stand out.

Players take on the role of Isaac Clarke, the game’s almost constantly masked hero, and although he may not instil the same presence as Leon Kennedy, in his own way he provides a better link for players to associate with. Ditching the whole idea of a rogue agent tasked with dispatching a threat, Dead Space provides a more realistic character as Isaac is in fact only an engineer. He and his cohorts respond to a distress signal sent out by a mining ship and go to investigate. Once aboard they find that the ship is devoid of any human life, but instead caters as a nest for Necromorphs: reanimated human corpses. Isaac and his team then have to find out what happened onboard and ultimately how to escape as their ship is destroyed in an explosion early on in the game.

The Necromorphs look amazing.

The game is played from a third person ‘over-the-shoulder’ viewpoint, much like Resi 4, and in keeping with the idea of Isaac being a mechanic and not some sort of super soldier, the weapons at your disposal are in fact mining tools. You start off with a standard weapon that has two modes of fire, and as you progress through the game more exotic ways of dispatching your enemies become available. All of your weapons can then be upgraded at a work bench in return for power nodes that you find throughout the game. This will allow players to increase the firepower, amount of ammunition, and reload time of their weapons. In a similar way Isaac’s suit can also be upgraded to provide more defence. Isaac’s health is depicted by a gauge on his spine that depletes as he receives damage.

The unconventional weapons give Dead Space’s gameplay a unique feel, which is further enhanced by the enemies. The Necromorphs are crawling corpses but with a twist. A simple shot to the main body will only help to anger them, instead to dispatch these grotesque enemies you have to target their limbs. Shooting their arms and legs off requires more precision and calmness as misplacing a shot will give your enemy the valuable time it needs to get close enough to attack. This leads to frantic moments where players will fire wildly as the creatures get closer, increasing the heart racing suspense and the horror factor. The ability of the Necromorphs to change tactics depending on their wounds adds a strategic element to the game, as well as an idea of ammo conservation. Furthermore, the different types of Necromorphs in the game will keep players on their toes as they have different attack patterns that the player will have to deal with.

On a high-end PC, Dead Space is hard to beat.

Apart from the weapons, Isaac picks up different powers as he goes through the game that can be used not only to pass puzzles, but to help dispatch enemies as well. One example of this is the ability Isaac gains that allows him to slow down time. With this power Isaac can slow down fast moving doors in order to get past, or slow down advancing Necromorphs to give the player more time to pick that vital shot. These abilities give the game a new dimension and add to the title’s uniqueness.

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EA Redwood Shores