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Dead Space Review

Review; Dec. 21, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Robert F. Ludwick
Dead Space is an excellent survival horror game, albeit with a couple hitches

The survival horror genre really came into its own when the first Resident Evil came out. What followed was the likes of Silent Hill and Condemned hitting the market. Thankfully, Dead Space was released in 2008 to provide the survival horror genre an excellent new franchise to build upon. If you haven't played Dead Space yet, then now may be the time to acquire it, especially with Dead Space 2 coming out January 2011.

Dead Space Screenshots
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Dead Space begins inside a shuttle destined for the USS Ishimura. The Ishimura is a mining craft, a "planet cracker" that is the biggest in its class and also one of the oldest, but it has been damaged and without communications for some time, prompting a repair team to arrive. As Isaac Clarke, you are a part of that repair team.

You crash land onto the Ishimura and find nobody around and no communications either. Upon starting to set up shop, you are attacked by creepy looking creatures. Thus begins a chain of events that leads you throughout the ship in an effort to fight off monsters and figure out just what the hell has happened to the Ishimura.

The top two elements for Dead Space aren't what you'll find in most games, such as precise controls or game play or even blistering multiplayer action. Not so in Dead Space. It's a single player linear plot game, and that's that. The top two elements for Dead Space are environment and plot.

Speaking of which, the environment in Dead Space is expertly crafted. The corridors of the Ishimura are varied and creepy with differing levels of lighting and gore to keep you sufficiently uneasy. The usage of the necromorphs, the enemies in the game, is also spot-on for the environment. Just when you think a hallway is bad enough with nearly no light, the music sets the stage, and then a necromorph jumps out with the intention of ripping your head off to reanimate your body later.

It is the plot, coupled with the environment, that plays a starring role in Dead Space. This game could be compared to modern-day survival horror movies. The plot is strong and puzzling enough not to allow you enough time to truly figure things out until very close to the end. From the beginning, in which you are attempting to get the transportation system back online, to later when you're trying to deploy a weapon to help bring the monsters to a quick end, this game lives by its plot.

However, that is also a chink in Dead Space's armor as well: The game relies too heavily on its plot. After the first couple chapters, you start to get a feel for the pacing and the level design. While Dead Space isn't a total loss as you start getting further into it, the repetitiveness and predictability of the game start to work against it. Really, the plot and some of the environments are the driving forces keeping this game playable until the end. If you end up learning the full plot beforehand or watch someone else play it, you may end up getting a little bored as you continue playing.

Visceral Games would have done well to incorporate a little randomness here. Sure, you'll need triggers and other timed functions to move the plot along, but certain rooms or sequences could see monster generation a little more randomly. Perhaps different mixes of monsters could emerge from the bowels of the ship. The point here is that upon replaying the game a second time, you already know where all of the monsters will emerge from. This brings Dead Space's replayability down significantly.

Regardless, there is a strategy to playing Dead Space. You can impact your character in the game via inventory management. You'll collect different weapons as the game progresses which will impact how you fight battles. Will you rely on a smaller gun that is designed to expertly cut apart single enemies, or will you break out the bigger weapons that hit multiple targets at once? Will you stop trying to cut up your enemies and will you simply try to blast them into submission?

Dead Space

Each weapon has two firing modes and its own specific ammunition type. And ammunition is one thing you will never feel that you have enough of. Scavenging is very important in Dead Space, and without it you will not survive. You will need to explore every nook and cranny in order to make it off the Ishimura alive, and this plays well into the way the game is designed. It causes you to immerse yourself in the environment and will allow you to see all of the different creepy things on board.

Not only will you have to manage weaponry inventory, you can upgrade your weapons, too. You collect items called power nodes on the ship; alternatively, you can buy them in the on-ship store system. These nodes will allow you to upgrade various parameters of your weapons, your suit, and the modules that plug into your suit. You can upgrade damage or capacity (much like a magazine in a gun). Because you will be unable to fully upgrade everything as the game progresses, you will have to make decisions on which weapons you want to make stronger. You may also have to decide between selling excess ammunition for nodes. With more nodes you can upgrade further, but can you continue to fire your weapons if you sell too much?

Regardless of its pitfalls, Dead Space is worthy of your attention if you haven't played the game yet. With the sequel approaching rapidly, revisiting Dead Space would be time well spent. It's an excellent entry into the survival horror genre and should not be missed. Just don't do like I did and spend hours trying to convince yourself to move around the corner up ahead.

Comments

rfludwick

rfludwick - Jan. 1, 2011 at 11:32:03am

It was still fun, despite the predictability.

JCXanirus

JCXanirus - Dec. 30, 2010 at 7:17:31pm

Just bought this for about $7.00 on Steam. Might be a while before I play it though, got a lot of other stuff too.

Review Score
8.3

Mature

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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