It’s Halloween, and that means it’s time to go to a haunted house or two, go trick or treating, and play scary video games. There are a lot of games out there that try to scare you, and a lot (if not most) of them suck. Dead Space on the other hand, is one of the few games that manages to do this all too well.
This survival horror game for the Xbox 360 was released in October of last year, and received mostly overwhelmingly positive feedback. You may have already read Zac’s review of the prequel on the Nintendo Wii. If you haven’t, check it out here. Considering that it’s been a whole year, you might be wondering “Is it it still worth playing?” You bet your sweaty buttocks it is. If you want a game that will get your heart pounding, your jaw dropping, and your pants soaked, look no further.
Not a lot of things scare me, especially not video games. I was pleasantly surprised when I began playing Dead Space. Right from the start I felt myself getting tense, and already fearing what might be around the next corner.
You start out aboard the USG Kellion, a ship deployed on a repair mission to fix the Ishimura. The Ishimura is a “Planet Cracker” that was supposed to be mining a nearby planet. Something has gone wrong on board however, and a distress signal has been dispatched. When you arrive (via crash landing) your team goes to investigate. Things take a turn for the worse when most your team members are slaughtered by a disgusting monster, and you get separated from your two remaining allies.
You will learn the game’s controls early on, being introduced to various actions as you go. There’s nothing wrong with the controls as a whole, but the third person camera can feel a bit clunky in close quarters. There’s no actual Heads Up Display (HUD) in Dead Space. Instead, your health is displayed on your actual characters body, and other important info appears in a hologram above your shoulder. This helps give the game a more organic feel, and prevents the screen from getting too cluttered.
Gameplay in Dead Space is exciting and well-balanced. Combat sequences are exciting, although they get a bit frustrating at times. This is especially true when you are in a corner, or a narrow hallway. When it’s working though, the combat system is a thing of beauty. You are taught early on to practice dismembering your enemies, using weapons to blow of their limbs and do extra damage. This becomes a necessary skill as you won’t find much ammo throughout the game.
The weapons in Dead Space, or rather tools, are interesting and diverse. You start out with a plasma cutter which is perfect for chopping off arms and legs or overloading door panels. As you progress you can buy more weapons from various stores, my favorite so far being the Cutter. To make things a little more exciting, and help you survive puzzles, there is also a telekinesis tool. This comes in handy when need to move obstacles, or use fallen enemy parts as projectile weapons. There are a lot of cool ideas here, but a few more choices wouldn’t have hurt.
Even when you aren’t being attacked by monsters, you’ll have to solve your way through a barrage of puzzles. Danger is still a factor, however, as you run the risk of being killed by other hazards. You’ll most likely get electrocuted, smashed to bits, and suffocated in space quite a few times while playing Dead Space.
Story progression is presented entirely without cutscenes. Instead, you communicate with other characters via a video communication system or audio logs that are scattered around the ship. This isn’t a completely original concept, but it works perfectly with the game’s atmosphere. The sense of dread is furthered when you realize just how alone you are in the ever increasingly hostile environment.
The graphics in Dead Space are excellent, and the art design is outstanding. Enemy animations and environment textures are extremely well done. Gore effects are perfectly brutal, and every last limb you sever looks great. Lighting effects and an impressive physics system help top off the game’s presentation. If there’s anything negative that could be said about the graphics, it’s that character’s facial expressions are a tad awkward. Their faces move with a somewhat robotic feel, and their bodies don’t move as naturally I would have liked.
The sound design in Dead Space is nothing short of ingenious. The soundtrack cues with the game’s environment, adding impact to everything that happens. There are so many subtle sound effects going on in the background that you’re almost constantly on edge. The voice acting is superb and completely believable. I have practically nothing bad to say about the sound in Dead Space, it does its job perfectly.
As much as I enjoyed Dead Space, I would be doing our readers an injustice if I didn’t point out the flaws I found in the game. It is somewhat repetitive, and the atmosphere feels a bit stale after a while. Luckily the monotony is broken with the use of a few exciting boss fights, fixed gun sequences, and zero gravity areas. The upgrade system is a nice touch, but hardly necessary. Weapon upgrades are mildly entertaining at best, and the only practical upgrade I could find was for your character’s space suit.
Dead Space is an unreal experience, and sure to deliver a few good scares just in time for Halloween. With its impressive combat system, astounding production, and horrifying campaign experience, there’s a lot to be found here. Anyone who is serious about their horror games simply has to check it out.
The few flaws it has are easily overlooked in the presence of the slew of positives. There’s a lot to be said about a game that leaves you so tightly wound the entire time you are playing it. I’m quite happy to say that Dead Space has probably taken a couple of years off my life expectancy.
- Excellent combat
- Horrifying environments
- Ingenious sound design
- Gore is luscious
- Repetitive at times
- Lame upgrade system
Score: 9.1/10 (Outstanding)
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10