Dead Space Review (360)
I used to be a big baby when it came to playing survival horror games. By that I mean I didn’t play them because I was too scared. Thankfully I have gotten over that and can enjoy the genre for the very reason I used to avoid it. I’m not sure why but for some reason it is fun to be scared. I guess it probably taps into some psychological principal or something. I’m no psychologists, I’m just a dude. I have been aware of Dead Space since it was first announced years ago. I told Will about it since he is a bigger Resident Evil fan than myself. That Halloween, I watched him play several hours of the game. I actually started playing it for myself a few months after that but stopped at the four hour mark. Now, years later, I finally put the game in my 360 and played it from start to finish. Review time is now.
What You Need To Know
As you probably already know if you read the previous paragraph, Dead Space is a survival horror game. The gameplay is a balance between Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4. There are moments of action but not so much that you lose the sense of being isolated and scared. You play as Isaac Clark, an engineer sent to repair the Planet Cracker class spaceship Ishimura. Communication had been lost with the Ishimura shortly after it started mining a desolate planet of its resources. As the story has to go because it’s a video game, Clark and his team nearly die as they crash into the Ishimura due to a malfunction of their own. Soon after crashing, Clark and the others learn the ship has been taken over by disfigured monsters called Necromorphs. These creatures are able to reanimate dead tissue, basically creating space zombies out of the former Ishimura crew. Isaac is most concerned about his girlfriend, Nicole, as she is a crew member of the Ishimura. You job is to help Isaac fight the Necromorphs, find Nicole and escape the Ishimura alive. And trust me, there are monsters around every corner.
The developers did a great job of creating a spooky atmosphere; a task that even eludes some Hollywood directors. Isaac is surrounded by a cold metal spaceship filled with darkness. This setting allows them to make you feel alone with the opportunity for monsters to come from any direction. If we are allowing Wuhu Island as a character, than the Ishimura has to be one as well. The ship speaks in hushed tones of metal clanks and escaping gas. Its personality is a reflection of the people now forced to live as abominations sprawling its dimly lit corridors. Every area of the ship is littered with signs of once happy people succumbing to a terror long since forgotten. As you can imagine the Necromorphs themselves are horrific and gory. The far removed likeness of something once human leaves no room for pity as you desperately shoot to stay alive. It all combines together for a great sense of terror; if you are into that sort of thing.
Feels A Little Cramped
While the Ishimura does feel like a spaceship, it kind of gets in the way at times. The tight hallways may be an accurate depiction of a ship but they make it hard to navigate; especially when you are being chased by something that may or may not want to eat you. My strategy of always fighting a single-front battle doesn’t work when I don’t have enough room to run around an enemy. I can imagine this was a choice made specifically by the developers to give you a greater sense of panic, which I can understand, but even when left to explore at my own pace I felt restricted by the lack of space. Often times I would fool the camera to give me an up-close view or Isaac’s helmet which looks fine at the normal distance but not from inches away. Obviously I was never meant to see it that close but due to space restrictions it happened several times.
Visceral (at the time EA Redwood Shores) took the time to develop a hudless system to relay all info back to the player. All weapons display their ammo with holographic displays and all doors and menus also exist in game as holograms. This immersion furthers the spooky atmosphere to make everything feel as lifelike as possible. While playing in the dark, setting close to my TV, I jumped at an in-game crash that I swore came from my fireplace. My head jerked as I fully expected to see a Necromorph climb out of it. After I came to my senses I realized the game had immersed me pretty well. It would have been easy for the developers to use a standard hud as any other shooter but working all this information into subtle, environmental cues is an excellent touch. It tells me they were passionate about making the game which makes me passionate to play it.
Seams Start To Show
Even with the stunning level or atmosphere and immersion, Dead Space is still a video game and that fact stands out at times. Upon entering a large room, I thought the room looked like a place to fight a boss. Two steps later a huge monster was barreling towards me. Other times I would find a room with an unusual number of ventilation fans and I would think this looks like a set up for an ambush. Moments later the room was flooded with Necromorphs. Other times with no monster in sight I would walk down long hallways that spill into a room. As I felt an encounter coming, the room would lock me in with several enemies. This kind of thing is a problem with a lot of games but it stands out so much as the rest of Dead Space feels so deep and surrounding. It’s an unwelcomed knock from reality that doesn’t ruin the experience but does force you to step back for a second.
Dead Space is a welcomed return for the survival horror genre. As much as I love RE 4 and RE 5, I miss being scared to walk around a corner. Dead Space is able to recapture those scary feelings while delivering plenty of solid action. The shooting has a good impact as it tears limbs off of your targets. The effort the developers sunk into this game shines through and made a connection with me. There are a few things that gnaw at the atmosphere but they don’t ruin the overall game. If you’re the type that likes being scared or if you’re looking for a shooter that has more than just shooting guns, I highly recommend you pick up Dead Space. The game has been out for several years so it will be fairly inexpensive. Plus it will set you up for the sequel with more to come; hopefully.