Dead Space Review
|Developer:||EA Redwood Shores|
|Release Date:||October 24th, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
The lights are flickering, the slow drip of cooling fluid hitting the deck plates echoes in the darkness. Down the corridor you stalk, plasma cutter held in front of you, spotlight casting shadows over the walls. Then there's a rattling noise as something scuttles down the air vent next to you, and a buzzing noise as a set of speakers activate, and a horribly distorted voice mumbles "Welcome, Isaac Clark, to the USG Ishimura."
And that was only the first part of the game.
I'm not one for overstatement, and I rarely go into a game expecting anything but a short and enjoyable blast through an alien invasion, but with Dead Space I was simply amazed- this game is fantastic.
The story is impressive. Starting out onboard a shuttle, the playable character- Isaac Clarke- and a team of repair technicians are travelling through space. Suddenly the ship drops out of 'shockpoint' (hyperdrive) and the shuttle starts its approach to the USG Ishimura, a 'Planet-cracker' mining vessel, which has been suffering some strange technical issues since ripping massive chunks of the planet and out into deep space.
Isaac and his team land the shuttle in the deserted hangar bay and head for the airlock, when all hell breaks loose- Isaac and his team are separated straight away, the Ishimura is headed on a collision course with the planet and the crew have all gone insane or been transformed into hideous deformed monsters who exist for one purpose- to Eat. Your. Face.
And what's worse is that somewhere, on the numerous decks of the ship, Isaac's girlfriend Nicole is trying to survive.
Now, I'm not going to go into more detail than that, because the story is simply brilliant, and is told very cleverly through the plot and the numerous audio and video logs that lie around- but needless to say, it's well-written and exciting, and will even make you question your character's sanity at points.
The main thrust of the game revolves around getting off the Ishimura as soon as possible, which is a problem when the ship is in such a mess, forcing Isaac to scuttle about, putting out fires and fixing things while fending off the enemy- the Necromorphs.
The objectives make sense- the ship's engines are down- so Isaac goes to fix them, the oxygen is failing- so Isaac goes to kill the poisonous Necromorphs clogging the system, but the repetitive nature of the objectives can start to grate after a while- though this is easily overshadowed by the true genius of the rest of the game.
The environments are rendered in a spooky yet beautiful style, making full use of the Xbox's graphics engine. Although a lot of the game takes place in corridors and atriums of the massive vessel, there are a lot of moments where Isaac will be fighting the hideous enemies in dangerous situations such as zero gravity, or even a few moments where he is fighting the Necromorphs outside the ship itself- making air, as well as ammo, a scarce resource.
Zero-G battles can be incredible- Isaac can attach himself to any wall, and jumping between them to escape an enemy makes every battle intense, if a little disorientating. Kill an enemy, and their body will drift aimlessly through the air, bouncing off walls and spinning forever in a stunning dance of death. And while outside of the hull, the brilliantly atmospheric sounds become muffled, reducing the gunfire and screaming to background noise, while Isaac's grunts and yells become louder, as does his hurried breathing as the air drains away- it's quite a scary experience.
Weapons and equipment are also brilliantly designed: Isaac's RIG uniform incorporates gravity boots, a sealed environment system, air and armour, so it is ideal for fending off the tentacles and claws of the enemy. What's more, all the relevant data that the player needs is projected directly onto the armour itself- menu screens, the map and the inventory appear in the air in front of him, and when in vacuum, a timer appears on his back, counting down the seconds of oxygen left in his RIG. Even his weapons have all the relevant info plastered on them, such as heat and ammo, and come with a targeting laser- essential for battling the deformed crew. The way that the developers incorporated the information into the armour is a very clever stroke- leaving the gamer to immerse him or her in the environment, rather than having persistent health bars or ammo indicators.
The weapons available to Isaac are a motley selection of mining tools and scavenged military equipment, which never the less manage to serve admirably in a pinch. Plus, as the best way to defeat a Necromorphs is literally to dismember them, the scavenged weapons are more than enough for the job.
For example, the first weapon Isaac comes across is a plasma cutter- a directional pistol-like gun that fires lines of fire capable of slicing through skin. When facing a Necromorphs, the best thing to do is to aim for its legs- as blowing its head off achieves nothing. With the plasma cutter it is easy to literally slice the enemy to pieces, finishing it off with a brutal stamp or punch to make sure it doesn't get up again- but be warned, Necromorphs are persistent, and slicing off the legs won't stop it getting up and dragging itself with its arms, wailing the whole time. Also in the armoury is a mush bigger version of the plasma cutter- the line gun, a handy assault rifle, a flamethrower, a shotgun (of sorts), and my personal favourite- the ripper- a remote chainsaw which spits out a blade and can be used to tear the enemy to shreds- all accompanied with the sounds of tearing flesh.
Enemies themselves come in all shapes and sizes, from humanoid stalking beasts to massive armoured bipeds to tiny wall-crawling creatures with tentacles that fire bile at you- and with all of them the same rules apply- tear them to shreds with the weapons. Though for me the creepiest creatures were the tall bipeds who explode into a swarm of little creatures that climb up Isaac's RIG and try to strangle him- most of which are a screaming human head with tentacles- nice.
Overall, Dead Space is a brilliantly conceived game, with a stellar story, brilliant setting and action-packed experience. Once you step onto the decks of the USG Ishimura, be prepared to fight for your life time and time again, or suffer a fate worse than death at every turn- don't miss it.
- Fantastic storyline.
- Brilliant graphics.
- Terrifying in the dark.
Not so good stuff
- Objectives can be repetitive.
- No, that's really the only thing that's wrong.
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