Dead Space is a survival horror title by EA Redwood Shores, California. EA doing survival horror seemed something of a bandwagon hopping exercise and one quite a few loudly spoken critics spouted about prior to its release. Given EA are known in the realm of gaming for having some great, but repetitive licenses, a new IP based in the survival horror genre seemed doomed to failure. So what happened with Dead Space that flies in the face of that? Let’s take a peek….
Let’s set the scene. Dead Space is an over the shoulder third person title in which you take on the role of protagonist Isaac Clarke, an engineer searching for his wife – Nicole Brennan – after he receives a pained video message from her. Isaac joins Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond on the USG Kellion as they head to mining ship The USG Ishimura and it is on the Ishimura your adventure takes place (please note as much as I’d love to waffle about the storyline and what takes place on the Ishimura, I won’t because it’s better you find that out for yourself!).
Essentially in gaming terms Dead Space is a linear story-led third person shooter, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this is just another gore filled shooter title. Dead Space has so many special touches it weaves its magic away from the genre it’s so firmly planted in. In similar fashion to last years Xbox 360 hit BioShock (and this years PS3 release of the same title Review Here), Dead Space has such an involving story that the levels themselves truly do feel like a journey into the unknown, and with a mystery you want to solve.
As far as survival horror titles go Dead Space is one of the best. The developers have managed to intertwine a wonderful graphical atmosphere with audio that is so haunting and perfected that it all adds up to a superb survival horror gameplay experience. Add to this our hero Isaac being an ‘everyman’ and not some bulked out space marine and Dead Space turns out to be part horror, part adventure, part love story of every man. A normal Joe battling incredible odds to find the one he loves.
EA have also added in some great additions to the game by way of tweaking survival horror favorites and RPG elements. First up there’s the ‘dismemberment engine’, unlike other games in the genre the key to survival here is specificity. Shooting a necromorph (your enemies for the most part in various forms) might not kill them, you have to dismember them, yes, cut off arms, legs, heads, tentacles, whatever is called for. Shooting an enemy in the body may well still see that enemy launch itself at you, so remember dismemberment is your friend, as is strafing. Another nice addition is the inventory and suit system. To heighten an already tense situation Isaac can only check his inventory in real time and with this comes more scares, but also at times, more frustration. Trying to navigate an inventory screen whilst you are being chased down by a multitude of enemies isn’t great, but in reality, that’s what it would be like, so kudos to the developers for that.
Other sweet additions are the ability to upgrade your suit, weapons, purchase and store items. There’s even levels in Zero-G which truly have to be played to be believed. I won’t go into every sweet little nuance or I’ll be here all day, suffice to say, these touches only add to a wonderful gaming experience, with – at times – a tad bit of frustration.
Female Gamer Angle
Given we do not see our heroes face for majority of this title and he’s neatly tucked away in an engineering suit, complete with Rocketeer-esq helmet, the developers could easily have given Isaac a non gender specific name and changed one tiny scene at the end of the game and bam… full on female character looking for her partner. The only problem here of course would be straight women choosing a female character would automatically be cast in lesbian shoes given the character is looking for their partner and she is a she, but again the change of two little scenes and bam, problem solved, have the person you’re looking for be a guy. This would have covered all demographics other than racial once. It would have been nice to get the choice at the beginning of the game and given Isaac never speaks, well.. an easy addition. Maybe one day developers will think in this way, sadly for the time being it seems to never enter their minds.
Female lead character gripes aside, Dead Space is an awesome game, only ever slightly marred by storytelling issues and stunted emotional responses from the character of Isaac in various emotionally charged situations. This niggle aside Dead Space truly does reach outside the survival horror genre box and pulls in some lovely additions (some of which we cannot cover as it would involve spoilers and as we stated at the beginning we want you to experience this game yourself). The atmosphere of the game is stupendous, with environments, though same-same (well you are on a spaceship) beautiful to travel around, with characters of interest filling out the story framework (including a pivotal peripheral female character in the form of Kendra). Dead Space isn’t for the feint of heart, but if you like your games with a few scares and good story telling, Dead Space should not be overlooked.
Review by Angela