Dead Space

Publisher:  EA
Year: 2008
Systems: X-Box 360, PS3
Game Type: Third-Person Shooter

Rating:

Review:
It’s not easy to create a good horror game.  It’s not easy to do a good third-person shooter.  It’s tough to do a space game that isn’t derivative or boring.  Dead Space does all three, and it does it very well.  The game reminds me of the movie Event Horizon in many ways, and it captures the concept of “space horror” as well as the original Alien.

You play Issac, an engineer on  rescue vessel Kellion, which is responding to a distress call from the mining ship Ishimura.  The Kellion crashes into the Ishimura, and the crew ends up separated.  As Issac works to repair the big ship and keep it from crashing into the planet it’s orbiting, he encounters bizarre monsters – the undead, mutated crew.  With little more than engineering tools to fight the horrifying ghouls, Issac has to battle his way through the ship.  He is also plagued by memories of his fiance, Nicole, who was on the Ishimura.

Unlike usual “zombie” killing games, the monsters in Dead Space don’t react well to head or torso shots.  The best way to kill them is by dismembering them, which is quite unusual and leads to some interesting fights.  The game also makes very good use of the already frightening aspect of a space ship about to crash, giving you the feeling that you need to hurry even as the monsters attempt to kill you.  Coupled with atmospheric lighting and plenty of jump scares from monsters popping out of ventilation ducts, Dead Space can be a really spooky game to play, especially in the dark.

The game also eschews a normal HUD, giving it a much more cinematic feel, and Issac himself is somewhat creepy, looking like an armored gimp instead of the typical space marine or stellar warrior.  Master Chief he is not, and you get the feeling as the game goes on that Issac is slowly losing his mind.

While the game is really good at being frightening, it does have a few flaws that keep it from being perfect.  There are certain bits of the game, especially the asteroid defense mini-game, that are pretty lack-luster.  Additionally, the unusual kill method for the monsters, while unique and innovative, does make it very difficult for first time players who are more used to the standard “aim for center mass” style of game play.

The story is top notch, but a lot of it is a bit difficult to follow in order because the primary story line is broken into logs that you generally find on your way.  However, since you often have a choice of which missions to accomplish first, you can end up with information that is out of order and confusing.  The short anime made as a tie-in to the game helps sort out a lot of the back story and is definitely worth watching, especially if you pick up one of the newer packs of the game that has the DVD included.

I would recommend picking up Dead Space if you like scares and third-person games.  Those who are looking for a standard “shoot’em up” will be disappointed, but if you’re looking for a game with more to it that combat, Dead Space will not disappoint.

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