The lights are on
“In space, no one can hear you scream.” (yeah, I'm gonna use that line too;^) That's the infamous marketing slogan from the Ridley Scott film Alien, one of my all time favorite movies. Dead Space was obviously influenced heavily by sci fi horror movies like Alien and The Thing. And like those classics, Dead Space
scared the hell out of me. Seriously, I got this game on release day,
rushed home, turned off all the lights and popped it in. An hour later,
all the lights were on. Seriously, I only lasted an hour...
game begins with our silent protagonist Issac Clarke warping into the
system in search of the USG Ishiumra which has stopped transmitting. The
massive mining ship is known as a 'planet cracker;' it cracks open the
planet and removes a massive chunk for processing. Clarke is a simple
engineer, part of a repair crew aboard the Kellion, there to check out
what's wrong. But Clarke has another motivation... his girlfriend Nicole
works as a medical officer on board the Ishimura, and her last message
sounded frantic. After a bumpy landing you quickly learn than things are
more than just wrong, they are in fact royally buggered on board the
Shortly after arriving, you are attacked
by a hideously mutated, yet vaguely human, monster. It tears apart most
of the team in short order. Only two others manage to escape: Zach
Hammond, a security officer, and Kendra Daniels, another member of the
repair team. Naturally you are separated, and with their help you have
to get the ship in something resembling working order... and find out
just what the hell is going on and what that thing was!
becomes quickly apparent that the ship is failing, you know, cuz
everyone are now horribly mutated monsters and all! Under Hammond's
direction Issac must get it going with a quickness or none of the rest
matters. But as you go about fixing the vital system, you soon learn of a
bigger plot. Finding audio and text logs reminiscent of Bioshock,
you discover that when the Ishimura cracked the planet, they made a
monumental discovery... a Marker. As the plot unravels, you learn more
about the horror that the Marker brings: mass hallucinations and
extreme, unexplainable violence. I don't want to spoil the plot, so I'll
leave it there. While it starts a little slowly, it certainly builds
momentum to a harrowing and unexpected conclusion.
wicked monsters are called Necromorphs, and they make brilliant
enemies. By their nature they can take any number of forms, each more
twisted and disgusting than the last. I was thinking I'd try to describe
some of them, but in the end I decided against it simply because they
are so shocking. Every time you encounter a new version you'll hear
yourself mutter "What the hell is THAT?" They're disturbing to
say the least, I mean someone thought this sh*t up! I'm a bit worried
about the nice people at EA who came up with this stuff...
The gameplay in Dead Space
is brilliant. Once you escape the initial onslaught you'll find a
plasma cutter, which is really no more than a simply mining tool.
Scrawled in blood over a ravaged corpse is the phrase "Cut off their
limbs..." Turns out that's good advice. Taking out the Necromorphs
requires you to take careful aim and... dismember them. Headshots don't
always kill the monsters... but take off their legs so they can't
charge, then whittle them down. It's ingenious gameplay design... and
battle these nightmare hordes on board the doomed Ishimura, Issac must
utilize jury-rigged mining equipment for his arsenal. In a pinch they
can be used to dismember the monstrosities that roam the ship. Your main
weapon, the aforementioned plasma cutter, is your 'pistol.' It has 3
beams of light that are projected when you aim, giving you a 'line' of
fire. What's clever though is has the ability to shift 90 degrees for
more strategic shots. There are quite a few different weapon types; some
of them are good ideas, others fall short. A good one is the Ripper,
essentially an industrial saw on a leash. You can imagine the
possibilities. Then there is the Force Gun. It releases a rapidly
expanding bubble of energy that is devastating, but only effective at
short range. There are other weapons, like the Line Gun (my
favorite) that work better. It's definitely worth experimenting with
them all, and seeing what works in different situations. But I have to
say, they have really been quite clever about their weapon design. I
thought the fact that you can't use the flamethrower in a vacuum because
there is no oxygen for the fire is, while obvious, very cool.
I'll mention that you need to keep an eye on your ammo, you can run out
if you're not careful! Ammo can be purchased in stores, but you'll
mainly get it as drops from fallen enemies. Every shot counts, and as
the game progresses the Necromorphs become faster and more powerful, so
you'll need careful, yet quick, aiming! Indiscriminate, trigger-happy players will not survive...
has bloody good graphics (sorry, I couldn't resist;^). This game is
easily one of the goriest on the market, keep that in mind... it ain't
for the faint of heart. I can't tell you the number of times my
girlfriend said "That's so gross... THAT'S so gross." But it's fairly
realistic, or as realistic as one might expect. In zero gravity,
droplets of blood float by, past their formerly dismembered limbs,
rotating lazily. But the incredible amount of gore aside, the graphics
really are quite good, if occasionally a little pixelated. Issac's
animations are excellent, as are that of the monstrous Necromorphs.
Sure, they may get a bit repetitive, but are no less scary for it. Oh,
and it’s worth letting yourself die just to see the death animations.
The dark corridors and environments are reminiscent of the Nostromo, another infamous mining ship from Alien
(again, the similarities are pretty blatant, but I don't think anyone
really minds;^). The lighting also reminds me of that movie, with
strobes constantly flashing. Another thing I really liked are the
holographic menus... it's a very cool effect. But be wary, bringing up
the menu doesn't pause the action so make sure there aren't any Necros in the area!
But what really gets me, and what makes the Ishimura rival Bioshock's
Rapture as my favorite environment in video games, is the brilliant
sound work. While the screams of the Necromorphs are terrifying in their
own right, what sets Dead Space apart is it's phenomenal use of silence.
In concert with the terrifying monstrosities and the scary, gory
graphics, it creates an unbelievable atmosphere. Something is always
falling down or clattering about or scuttling around in the background.
The tension this creates is astonishing, you'll find yourself whirling
around, gun drawn, to confront... nothing. And then you turn back around
and a Necro is almost on top of you!
isn't perfect though, with some minor decisions holding it back from
being truly brilliant. The story, while clever, does get caught up under
it's own feet. Most of the missions are essentially glorified fetch
quests. There is some mild puzzle solving in Dead Space,
which serves nicely to break up the tension. To be honest though, most
of them simply make you wonder who in their right mind would design a
ship that way?! They aren't particularly challenging, but their
solutions are also not always obvious which lead to some frustrating
"Okay, what am I supposed to do now?" moments. There are also Zero-G
sections which are incredible, if a little limited. It's very
disorienting, although I imagine it would be in real life as well. Then
there are the turret sections, which were annoying in my opinion and
interesting design choice is that when you click down the right analog
stick Issac will activate a beacon that shows him where he needs to go,
leading him to the next objective. While I appreciate this, it almost
makes it a bit too easy. I think it would have been even scarier if you
could get lost. Of course, it's up to the player to make of use of this
or not, so it's really up to you.
thing I want to mention is that you can't do everything and upgrade all
of your weaponry in one playthough. There is even an extra armor level
if you play the New Game +. That said, it's kind of a fail. I found it
very odd that if you want to play it through again with all the stuff
you had left over, you can't change the difficulty. As a result, that
second go on the Ishimura is pretty easy compared to the first... but
the terror remains.
I'm actually surprised there isn't a notice on the Dead Space
box that reads "WARNING: People with heart conditions or epilepsy, or
women who may be pregnant should not play this game." Seriously, my
palms got sweaty. My heart was racing at some points, and during others I
jumped clean out of my seat. I love horror movies, but Dead Space elicited a more visceral reaction than anything since I first saw Alien
at the tender age of ten. My parents were out of town and it was on TV.
I didn't sleep for days after that. While I'm older and maybe a bit
wiser these days, I'll be the first to admit that Dead Space kept me up at night. I can't stress enough how utterly nerve-wracking Dead Space can be. It will stay with you... especially when the lights go out!
Score = 9.5 / 10
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