Once in a while, a game comes along that changes the way you think about a particular genre. First, Super Mario Brothers single-handedly changed the platforming genre forever. Then, The Legend of Zelda helped to bring RPG games to the mainstream. Well, Dead Space has that same revolutionary impact on the survival-horror genre. This game is incredibly atmospheric, dark, and isolating, but still manages to throw the right amount of action in along the way. This is the game that sets the standard for survival-horror games to come.
You play as Isaac Clarke, a ship systems engineer aboard the USG Kellion, sent on a mission with a small team to respond to an emergency distress call from the USG Ishimura. The Ishimura is a very large ship used to mine entire planets one at a time. Once the Kellion reaches the Ishimura, they find the ship in complete disrepair and blood everywhere. It is up to you to work with the emergency response team to find out what happened to the crew of the ship.
It is difficult to pick a single thing that makes Dead Space one of the best survival horror games of all time. Everything about this game just feels great. The game takes a 3rd-person over-the-shoulder perspective while exploring the Ishimura. The game controls and feels a lot like Resident Evil, which is definitely a good thing, considering that was where the 3rd-person view was perfected. You’ll find Isaac easy to control and he moves around quickly. All of the weapons have laser targeting, so you will always know where you are shooting. Sometimes, the melee attacks are a little awkward because of the way Isaac swings his arms, but you’ll hit the mark after a swing or two. All in al,l the game controls are great and shouldn’t give you any problems.
Visually, the game looks great. Since this is a little bit of an older title, the graphics are a touch dated, but because of theenvironments you play in, you won’t notice a difference. Many of the enemies and textures look good with no complaints to make. Where the game really stands head and shoulder above the competition is the sounds. Walking down the dark, dreary, blood-soaked walls of the Ishimura, you will hear all sorts of disturbing things, and the score of the game compliments the setting and story well. The best kind of horror is rarely seen, but heard instead, and Dead Space delivers that in droves. As you walk down a hall, you’ll hear things falling over in the distance, enemies scurrying behind walls, and enemies howling in the dark. Occasionally, the score will get louder when there are no enemies around or slow when there are enemies close by, so you’ll always be on edge. It really is just so well done that it makes you hope that new games model themselves after this.
Another area that the game really excels in is their ability to isolate you, making you feel completely alone. There is no heads up display, and no ability to communicate with your team mates unless they contact you. One of the best parts is that Isaac does not speak at all. As a rough estimate, over 90% of the story is spent between you and the hoards of enemies the game throws at you. Speaking of hoards of enemies, the character design in this game is the best that’s been seen in a while. The hero’s suits look great and the enemies you fight are truly terrifying. From the sounds they make, to the way they trudge towards you; it’s just plain scary. There are survivors on board the Ishimura, and you think that once you get to them, you are in a safe haven, but that is rarely the case. Most survivors have been driven insane by the events on the ship and usually provide little help, pushing you back into isolation. Again, this is just survival horror at its best.
Lastly, the weapon design in this game is great. Isaac is an engineer on a mining ship, so they don’t have military type weapons. All the weapons Isaac uses are tools that he would use to repair a ship. This is an extremely novel angle, considering that these weapons are unconventional, at best. Sure, we’ve seen grenades and machine guns a million times before, but when have you seen a plasma cutter or a saw being used as a primary weapon? For me, these weapons add to the vision of Isaac as an unlikely hero. After all, he is just an engineer, and he isn’t left with an arsenal that is going to make things any easier.
Dead Space is a rare classic that changes its genre in ways we didn’t know were possible. From the controls, to the story, there is very little to complain about and plenty to love about this title. The game is beautiful, and the atmosphere it places you in will scare you on some level. Whether it’s the ambiance or the sheer violence, this game is not for the faint of heart. Those willing to brave the challenge will be rewarded with one of the best games of this generation.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Dead Space developed by Visceral Games published by EA
- Very Scary Environment
- Tight Controls
- Great Story