The lights are on
Dead Space (DS) is a superb new entry in the survival-horror genre that never stops creating a very palpable and tension filled atmosphere throughout each of its twelve chapters. Combining the peril of the unknown with the thrill of exploration, you play as Issac Clarke--one member on a team sent in to aid the U.S.S. Ishimura--a mining ship whose distress signal you answer. Upon arrival you learn that something very nasty went down on this ship, and you spend the remaining hours piecing together clues as to what exactly that was. These clues are scattered throughout the ship in the form of crew audio diaries, and they recount the horrific details that happened on the ship and exactly what happened to the crew.
Combat is handled very differently in DS as necromorphs (the game's main enemy) cannot be killed by simple head shots; dismemberment is the key to victory in DS. Luckily you will acquire an impressive arsenal of unique weapons to help achieve this task. Although the game's default weapon (plasma cutter) proves to be a veritable Swiss Army knife towards Issac's goal of survival. This little baby can pretty much get you through the entire game all on its own. But to do that would be a disservice to the other inventive weapons such as the contact beam or ripper (among others) which are all thoroughly fun to use.
I would be remiss not to name another important "character" in this game as well: The U.S.S. Ishimura. As you wander precipitously down darkened corridors you might stop to take in the eerie sounds. Despite this derelict ship drifting vicariously through sterile space with a missing crew it is still very much alive. You will hear the creaking and groaning of the hull as it undergoes stress from sustained damage. Venture further into its bowels and you will occasionally hear the ever so subtle whispering of disembodied voices. You may even be lucky enough to hear a child's creepy serenade of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as you roam the lifeless corridors and stare in wonder as you pass evidence of gruesome acts performed by its former inhabitants. All these ambient effects serve to envelope you in a pure sense of dread, and it works really well.
Overall DS proves to be a sterling example to other developers about taking risks on new IPs and having them pay off. In an industry that has become complacent with sequel-itis, DS successfully stands out from the crowd as a new franchise that should not be missed.
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