Developers: EA Redwoods Shore
Publishers: Electronic Arts
Plot: Issac Clarke (the player), Zach Hammond and Kendra Daniels answer a distress call from the Ishimura, only to find the crew dead. After some investigation, it turns out that they are not alone…
Dead Space 3 is finally out. Although it will be a while before I am able to afford the new game, I thought it would be the perfect time to take a trip down memory lane and do a review on the first Dead Space game. It is the kind of game I stumbled onto by accident. I was bored one evening and borrowed a random game from my mate: this game was Dead Space.
The easiest way to describe Dead Space is survival horror, instantly bringing the idea of Silent Hill and Resident Evil to the forefront of any gamer’s mind. Plot-wise, it isn’t really that unique either: a virus tears through a claustrophobic setting, re-animating corpses into monsters. Suddenly, the unnamed members of your team are violently killed off and you are separated from everyone else. Cue 12 terrifying levels of wandering through a ghostly spaceship with things jumping out at you from the shadows.
Let’s focus on the survival horror aspect for a moment. I said that it is nothing new in survival horror territory (with the small exception of being in space). The lack of originality doesn’t matter, because it takes what made Resident Evil so good and beats it at its own game. The horror is almost unbearable and never lets up. Unlike Resident Evil, the only time it sacrifices horror for action is nearer the end, when the novelty of the Necromorphs have worn off. It also strikes psychological horror whenever it can, as Isaac witnesses the very last of the Ishimura crew, hollow from simple terror and madness.
As for the actual monsters: they are clever in their own way. They break certain rules of the survival horror monster code (which hasn’t been too imaginative since the zombie was created), creating a cool villain. Bullets to the head are harmless to them; you need to fight every instinct action games have given us and aim for their limbs. Also, these bad guys are re-animated dead tissue, meaning that the usual ‘suicide to save our body and friends’ way out doesn’t work. There are several moments in the game, when you see a crew member who heroically shot himself, only to turn into one of ‘those things’ moments later anyway,
The survival horror nature already makes it a good game. What makes Dead Space a great game is that it doesn’t stop there. It also adopts the Sci-Fi nature of the genre and gives us futuristic game play that we wouldn’t even see in Gears of War or Halo. The anti-grav moments are done perfectly, showing off a talented imagination, but also giving us space to adopt our own creative way of getting around the problem. Another moment where the Sci-Fi comes into play is when you enter the cold vacuum of space. You are swallowed by pure silence, even when fighting a Necromorph. It is really easy to believe that you are alone in space at this point in the game: no one is coming to save you.
The action is fairly clever as well. It gives us a range of weapons, each with their own unique points. Most players will settle with the first gun you are given, as its aim is by far the most trustworthy and you can work on upgrading it straight away. However, the other weapons have their own charms (the Ripper can deal with extreme close combat and the flamethrower can take care of the smaller, swarming enemies). The gadgets are good, as well. Stasis and Kinesis not only help the player get through obstacles, but can be used to help with the fighting if the player chooses. I would have liked more from the Kinesis, but the idea was in the right place.
The script is pretty standard, although games are only just adopting movie-esque storylines. Cue evil scientist, your commander’s motives being shady, it is all standard survival horror territory. It is the kind of game, where you can predict the exact moment a character is going to die: you see him in the distance, count to three and usually a sniper bullet pierces his chest. It does give us a few good twists in the final few levels.
But the story is just a device to give us this great game. It delivers on every front: fear, action and Sci-Fi. It is the kind of game we hoped the Alien vs. Predator would turn out to be. I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of Dead Space 3 to throw myself right back into the nightmare.
Final verdict: The survival horror franchise hasn’t been this good in a while. Not only that but we have been given a gaming series that seems to have a long leash of life in it.