Review: Dead Space

With so many games safely hiding behind their sequels does EA’s new IP have what it takes to deserve your hard earned dollar?

EA, in recent years, has positioned itself as a brand gamers love to hate. Micro-transaction fiascoes coupled with annual title releases, ad-nausea, give you the feeling EA has gone to the well too many times. Dead Space is definitely a step in the right direction for EA. Brand new IP’s are few and far between these days, which is why Dead Space is a welcomed entry into the survival horror genre, however new and interesting does not always equate to worth playing. Is Dead Space worthy of finding a place in your game library? Let’s find out!

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On the surface, the story masquerades itself as a throw away. Gigantic interstellar space ship gets taken over by an alien life form that threatens the human race, Event Horizon anyone? Dig a little deeper and the story becomes very intriguing, with details begging to be discovered (I’ll leave that up to you). You take control of Issac Clarke (clever combination of science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke) a futuristic engineer sent on a routine maintenance trip to the USG Ishimura. The “planet cracker” known as the USG Ishimura harvests precious raw materials from planets throughout the galaxy, aka mammoth sized space craft. Along for the ride is token pretty girl/technical specialist Kendra Daniels and hardened security office Zach Hammond. Both supporting characters lend to the story nicely, never feeling out of place. Isaac’s love interest is also stationed on the ship which adds to the tension. After executing a less than desired landing on the USG Ishimura you quickly realize all is not well.

Dead Space sends a clear message right from the start. You are the prey not the predator. These predators, kindly referred to as Necromorphs, are mutations of their human carriers sporting organic, razor sharp limbs. Rather than a traditional headshot, Necromorphs must be relieved of their aforementioned limbs, know as “Strategic Dismemberment.” The AI is extremely resourceful and intelligent. During the early stages of the game I found myself running low on ammo and trying to flee the scene. Retreating into a previous “safe room” proved fatal, as the Necromorphs can take advantage of the ships ventilation system and track you down. Which is a nice change from the enter room, kill everything, door magically opens mechanic of several games. Not to mention, when the AI feels out manned they will retreat into these vents for a strategic flanking maneuver. Controlling Isaac takes a little practice but those used to Resident Evil 4 will have no problem as the controls closely mirror Capcom’s gem. Unlike Resident Evil 4, Isaac’s movement is very agile and responsive; you never feel like a lumbering tank trying to adjust position. Dead Space is devoid of any HUD system which really adds to the immersion of the game. Everything you need to be aware of is displayed on Isaac’s gear or from holographic images, all in real time. Weapons are not your standard fare either, consisting of engineering tools rather than traditional firearms. One unique tool, known as the ripper, suspends a rotating saw blade perfect for slicing and dicing Necromorphs. Projectile weapons are not your only resource; the stasis module grants the ability to slow enemies and objects allowing for some nice puzzle solving scenarios. The kinesis module allows Isaac to pickup and shoot objects, a la Half-Life 2’s gravity gun. Weapon and gear upgrades are handled through “work benches” spread within the game world. Power nodes are required in order to upgrade your equipment which can be found or purchased in the various store locations. Zero-gravity sections are dispersed throughout the story leading to some very interesting and exciting game play moments.

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Everything about Dead Space screams polish. The visuals are amazing, the audio is incredible and the lighting is some of the best I have seen. Due yourself a favor, play this game with the lights off and the volume cranked to 11, your neighbors will forgive you someday. After completing the game, around 10 hours, you next play though keeps your current upgrades. One major design flaw; is the inability to change the difficulty level while keeping your upgrades. I still can’t understand why EA would cripple this particular feature.

All in all Dead Space in a refreshing new look at the survival horror genre. If grinning from ear to ear, while your heart is pounding out of your chest sounds like good fun, then look no further. Don’t get me wrong it is not without its faults. For many the lack of multiplayer, amount of backtracking (which fits within the story), and numerous you fixed this, now this is broken moments may deter you. Another thing worth mentioning is how the difficulty level is handled. Hard is the new normal. If you are looking for a challenge start there, while the normal difficulty will satisfy the casual gamer. I encourage you to look past the flaws as clearly Dead Space was developed by gamers for gamers. This game is easily a rental, if survival horror is your thing, you can feel confident in adding it to your game library.

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