Let me start with this: Dead Space is the e = mc2 of survival horror games. For once we actually have a game with the horror label that is actually scary. Not the zombie head explosion festivals of Resident Evil or the awkward but hardly scary Silent Hill series. This game will scare you from start to finish with constant fear of something being around the next corner waiting to grab you and bite you to death. Play it in the dark if you like but don’t blame me when you’re in the fetal position checking every air vent in the room with a nail gun and flash light.
Moving on to the review. Dead Space places you in the shoes of engineer Isaac Clarke. Isaac has come to the Ishimura to repair the massive orbital mining ship (called a planet cracker) after it sent a distress call reporting sabotage and strange happenings but then lost contact with its parent company C.E.C. But lets face it, it’s never that easy. Unfortunately Isaac’s ex-girlfriend, Nicole is also on board. Unfortunately she sent poor Isaac a message before the Ishimura dropped off the radar, and things didn’t look or sound too good. Of course, as with all horror games, things pretty much go horribly astray from the get go when you’re ship explodes, have your crew is mangled and some monstrous abominations are chasing you high and low looking to tear you to bits .
As a setting, this game hits the peak of perfection. The levels are balanced and fun to play through, and even the times where you back track manage to offer a good deal of entertainment with new baddies and areas to open. The Ishimura may just have replaced the Battlestar Galactica as my favorite spacecraft. The ship looks great. The interiors are nice and built in perfect tune with the story’s chilling atmosphere and concept. Occasional sounds such as a wrench clattering along and a random scream will have you constantly shivering wondering if something’s about to happen as you explore the dark environments all alone and fearing that you just might find what you’re hoping you won’t. Honestly I’d call the atmosphere the most incredible part of this game. Ishimura is perfect, and really makes this game what it is; awesome.
The ship is easy to traverse. If you can’t figure out where to go by reading the map, you can also click the right stick and follow the nice holographic line. You don’t need to worry about getting lost or having no idea where to go. It’s all fairly well laid out and easy to follow. You never have a HUD disrupting you’re view as all you’re information appears on you’re character. Ammunition is on your gun, health a long blue bar on Isaac’s back.
I also feel the need to note that the zero gravity sections of the game are insanely brilliant. Jumping from bulk head to bulk head to reach a door on the far side and doing more than a little puzzle solving as you work is just awe inspiring. Mix in the solid puzzle solving, a limited air supply, and occasional creepy critters, it makes me wish someone would make an entire game with nothing but zero-g!
The enemies are just as good, with a wide arrange of types from simple attackers and tanks, to little jumpers and enemy spawners. The Necromorphs are as creepy as a game villain can get and are some of the coolest who will ever enter you’re gun sights. They swarm in when you least expect it, often jumping in as soon as you’ve let you’re guard down, popping through the floor, jumping through the ceiling, tearing through vents, and even the dead one’s should be watched carefully if they’re on the ground but you didn’t shoot at them. The fact that you have to shoot of the limbs (trust me, the head doesn’t help you much here) only makes the whole scenario that much creepier. The bosses are a little easy (save for the final boss) but every now and then you’ll find a moment where the generic enemies are going to cause a heart attack.
How do you fight these murderous abominations? Mining tools. No I’m serious you there who’s looking at me like I’m crazy. Mining tools. Don’t let that fool you though. These improvised weapons are as lethal as they come (there’s a reason miners need to be careful with nail guns). You can find all you’re typical pistols, shot guns, and other generic weapons here in the form of mining equipment. The weapons are all useful and all upgradable. You’ll find a situation where every single one is useful in some way to aid in you’re survival. Upgrade them to boost reload speed, damage, and clip capacity along with other factors that vary by weapon. Put it all together and you’ve got all the fire arms you’ll ever need to fight the infection. Better yet, they control fluidly and perfectly. No more sloppy or sluggish horror game controls, this is how a horror game should feel in your hands.
Combat can vary easily leaving you more than just the shot till they drop option to dispense enemies. There are occasional environmental hazards and some items of your own such as a stasis field and telekinesis.
Item management is fairly easy. You get only a few storage spots at the start but as you upgrade your armor you’ll find you are getting more space to put things. You items menu appears in front of Isaac via a holographic display which in my view is a brilliant idea. Using the most necessary ones is easy too as you just have to press X to heal on the fly.
The story is not the best aspect of the of the game but it functions perfectly as you and you’re surviving fellow engineers attempt to survive this orbiting death trap. There are few cut scenes and they are all played out in front of your character via a holographic display meaning you’re never taken out of the game experience. As you traverse the Ishimura in your quest for survival you’ll come across video, audio, and text recordings that can fill you in on the crew, and the events leading up to the Ishimura’s downfall. Surprisingly as you read. Listen, and watch these tid-bits you’ll find you might actually come to like some of these folks and pity that they’re not around anymore. They are really an interesting bunch ranging from lovers, mad men, religious fanatics, and a mad religiously fanatic scientist! You might even start to like you’re engineering compatriots as you all work to escape the ship right up to the end of the game.
I honestly can’t think of a single major complaint as I played through this game. To reiterate: Yeah it’s that good. It has struck the perfect balance between difficulty and ease of play, constantly challenging but never frustratingly difficult in a way that you want to throw the controller into you’re TV. The controls are solid and flawless and the game looks and sounds incredible. If it were up to me I’d call it the greatest horror game ever made. The only little nit-picks I could in any way come up with are small, so small in fact they’re barely worth noting but I’ll give them to you anyway.
At times Isaac feels more like a Fed-ex delivery boy than a hero. He spends most of his time running around and picking up stuff for you’re compatriots to aid in you’re survival and though it varies it is mostly a take the package from point A to point B and kill some badies on the way if you could please sort of thing. The puzzles are fun but might leave you a bit confused as to what to do at one and can be overly simplistic during the rest. The game can be a little short at about 10-12 hours to complete a play through, but honestly, I can see myself replaying the story three or four times easily. The map can at times be oddly angled making it difficult to read as well. Also of note is that though Isaac says he's looking for Nicole, he never really acts like it. Granted he has other worries but he never seems to go out of his way to search for her or to let his search interfere with surviving. It never actually feels like much of a story factor.
But frankly these things feel insignificant next to the rest of the game. It’s amazing and frankly I can’t think of any reason not to buy and play it till you’re eyes bleed (unless you don’t like horror or want single player).
Overall: 10/10 (No, you’re not imagining that. It’s a perfect score )
Rent or Buy: I'm leaning towards buy (buy it! Buy it NOW) but give it a rent if you want to be sure. No real harm in it.
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