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Game: Dead Space
]Time to Complete: 8-10 hours
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
Creating a successful horror game is tricky. There needs to be just enough of a blend tension, fear and scare tactics so the game does not fall to mundane generic enemies jumping out at players. Dead Space not only creates the one of the best atmospheres in a horror video game, it’s full of enough puzzles, frights and dilemmas to make even the most jaded 3rd Person Shooter player sit up and take notice.
You play as Isaac Clarke, a space engineer, traveling to the USG Ishimura, a “Planet Cracker” which is emitting a distress call. After a tense opening sequence, Isaac boards the ship with his coworkers, Lt. Zach Hammond, security officer, and Kendra Daniels, a computer expert, and soon realizes this is no ordinary distress call as the ship has been overrun by an alien race. Isaac gets separated from his coworkers and must fight his way through the alien monsters to bring the ship back online and find a way off the Ishimura.
Dead Space has taken every great piece of third person gameplay in the history of video games and combines it together to deliver an entertaining, enjoyable journey. You navigate Isaac from an over-the-shoulder view. There is no Heads Up Display (HUD) in Dead Space. Your health is indicated by the light meter embedded in the spine of your suit spine. Your ammo is displayed above your weapon when you aim and your stasis meter is also located on the back of your suit. What is stasis? It is a piece of technology that gives you the ability to slow down objects and enemies for puzzle solving and reaction time. You can recharge your stasis by accessing stations located throughout the ship or by finding portable stasis packs. Isaac also has the ability to use Kinesis, which allows him to move heavy objects or acquire objects that are out of reach. Stasis becomes available to Isaac a few minutes into the game, and Kinesis becomes available for use when entering the second chapter and has unlimited use.
The game's most unique and striking appeal is operating in zero gravity or a vacuum. When entering a Zero-G zone, Isaac has the ability to jump from one side of the area to another. This opens up an new realm of puzzle solving and is some of the most fun sequences in the game.
The enemies in Dead Space are deformed humans that were killed and turned into monsters by a race of alien creatures. There are a dozen or so different styles of enemies that navigate their way through the ships ventilation system, which means you may encounter an enemy at any given time. As many enemies as there are, they all can be taken out with the same technique: begin by shooting off their limbs first. Direct hits to the body will waste ammo, especially during fights with the tougher, more advanced enemies. Some of the more memorable enemies are the epic boss fights that also combine a little Zero-G action. The threats on the ship are sometimes not always enemy related. Dead Space shifts gears twice for a little Han Solo, “Don’t Get Cocky” turret action.
So how do you take out all the enemies? With a wide range of weaponry of course. Isaac begins the game with a Cutter, an extremely accurate “laser” that fires a wide beam either horizontally or vertically. There are tons of lockers and chests to explore during the course of the game. Some lockers may contain ammo and others may contain credits, which can be used in Stores. At these Store locations, Isaac can store, ammo and items. Isaac is limited in the number of items he can carry, however the number of items can be increased if he upgrades his suit. Usually near by a store, is a Workbench, where Isaac can upgrade his weapons and gear.
There is a lot of backtracking in Dead Space. At the beginning of each chapter, Issac exits a tram which carries passengers from one section of the ship to another, and at the end of each chapter he makes his way back to the same tram to journey to the next section of the ship. Isaac visits some sections of the ship more than once. There are tons of save points throughout Dead Space, probably more than there should be. Even if you don not save, Dead Space autosaves so much that you really do not have to save once through the entire game, unless you want to exit out of Dead Space or turn off your PS3. To make the game even easier, the developers also added in a feature that actually maps out the direction Isaac needs to travel to complete his next objective. This feature is displayed by a blue outline on the ground.
The problem that most avid gamers will notice is that everything, aside from the zero gravity gameplay, has been borrowed from past films, novels, or other games. The over the shoulder view bares a striking resemblance to Resident Evil 4, the monsters are mere replicas of John Carpenter's The Thing, parallels in Event Horizon are seen throughout the entire game including some obvious set design rip offs and features in Doom 3 and System Shock are also used in Dead Space. It is at this point where we stop and think: are these references by the EA Readwood Game designers an homage to their favs or are they simply thefts? No matter, the similarities are not enough to take away from the Dead Space experience which delivers a terrifying story, but the influences are definitely obvious.
Graphics and Sound:
Dead Space does everything right graphically. It looks beautiful in full 1080p when staring out into the vast ocean of space, blowing an enemies head off, or playing through some beautiful level designs of what a 'Planet Cracker's' engine room, maintenance bay and mining section may look like.
The sound effects are also top notch in Dead Space. As Isaac communicates with his team, a 2D holograph image appears before Isaac, which the player can rotate. The static overlaid onto the video and audio logs is incorporated nicely, and the creeks and cracks heard throughout the broken ship add much to the atmosphere. Listen for the lullaby.
Players may pick up quickly on how EA tries to scare its players. They use the same formula that Hollywood does, during a tense or critical moment in the game they play loud music like the typical brass pieces you hear in most horror movies. More often than not this takes place when a player looks in the direction of an enemy. So this tactic may help a player in certain areas rather than scare him or her. If a player is not paying attention and some random horns start playing, that is a pretty good indication that there was probably a monster that ran past the door that they probably missed.
Pros: controls work extremely well on the PS3, terrifying boss battles, graphics and sound are gripping,
Cons : unoriginal enemies, predictable but engaging story, very easy to beat, lots of backtracking
I recommend this game in spite of my criticism of the unoriginality of some of its elements but it is defendable to question why this game has been so highly touted. Some have labeled Dead Space as the ‘Worlds Scariest Game’ and people are shouting from roof tops to “Buy this game immediately!”. The game isn’t perfect, but what is? It has a wonderfully smooth flowing story, a great environment, near perfect controls and graphics that can make a grown man cry. Dead Space is solid game that should be experienced by as many players as possible. There are striking resemblances to a dozen pieces of work, but they are forgivable. Expect a sequel.
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