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Review- Dead Space (multiconsole)
VIDEOGAME: DEAD SPACE
DEVELOPER: EA GAMES
PUBLISHER: EA GAMES
SYSTEMS: PLAYSTATION 3 (reviewed version), XBOX 360, and PC.
RATING: M (MATURE for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language)
Endorphin Factor: 5/5
Frustration Factor: 3/5
Average: 4.25 /5
GAMES IT COULD BE COMPARED TO: Resident Evil 4
DETAILS: Space....the final frontier....or your final resting place if you're not careful. These are the exploits of the shuttle crew of the ISC Kelion. It's terminal mission, to explore the hulk of the ISG Ishimura. To fix it, and to stay alive. To boldly go where the foolishly brave dare to go.
Ok....so that was a bad "Star Trek" like opening to a game that is far from it.
EA Games has often been maligned for running some franchises into the ground (largely its sports titles), but has cranked out a real gem with this game.
Dead Space is a third person (over the shoulder view) survival horror game set in deepest space, aboard a derelict mining vessel, above an alien planet. (The only other survival horror game I know that was set in an extraterrestrial environment was the budget priced "Martian Gothic" for Playstation One.)
The ISG Ishimura is the largest of the Planetcracker-class vessels in service. It goes out and cracks dead planets open to determine mining prospects. Contact has been lost with the Ishimura (crewed by 1,000 people), and it is up to Engineer Isaac Clarke and his small team to repair the communications of the planetcracker. At least, repairing the ship was the idea. Soon after coming into close contact with the ship, the Kelion crashes aboard the Ishimura, and within minutes of stepping onto the planetcracker, the horror begins. You are chased down by a severely disfigured alien creature that intends to kill your crew. So you rush to safety, and your game truly begins.
Guided by your rather dysfunctional team who are very cynical of each other's motivations, you embark not on a mission to repair the Ishimura, but now just to get enough of its systems operational so you can actually escape the horrific fate that has befallen its crew. The ship has been savaged by strange, alien life forms which have infected the crew and transformed them into grossly deformed hostiles known as "necromorphs". For the most part, the story is rather cliche, but the execution more than makes up for it.
Combat is the star of the show here, particularly in the method with which you must deal with these necromorphs. Your primary weapon is a "plasma cutter" which can fire in a vertical or horizontal line. The weapon is capable of dismembering your attackers (the recommended attack, as opposed to just aiming for the body) with a few well placed shots, depending on how much power you've allocated to its damage attribute. (more on that later) You eventually pick up other weapons and implements, including a Kinesis manipulator, which allows you to grab most loose objects in the game, and bring them to you, to move them to another spot, to drop them at your feet, or to repulse them away like a projectile. This comes in handy if you see a goody lying just down the hall, but you don't quite want to venture that far yet, until you've gained that goody....so bring it to you, instead of you going to it. You also eventually pick up a stasis generator, which slows down most fast moving objects and necromorphs. Handy for getting around certain puzzles, or for slowing down that big necro coming at you with blood in its eyes so you can deal with it, or escape from it, depending on your inventory's status at the time.
Other weapons include a pulse rifle which fires pulse rounds, a line gun which fires a wide plasma beam, good for dealing with multitentacled creatures, although it has no vertical/horizontal mode, it's just vertical. A contact beam, which is basically a big power beam capable of doing massive damage, and will stop most smaller necromorphs with just one or two charged shots. A force gun which can repulse several necros away from you if they get too close. A flame thrower which is good for dealing with swarms of smaller critters, and a ripper which fires saw blades that you can manipulate to dwell on a target, and sever their limbs. All weapons have a secondary mode of fire which, well, you'll have to play the game to determine what they do.
You start out with a basic mining suit, but can upgrade to more advanced suits (either by downloading ones that are available online, which I did), or find schematics to better suits. When you beat the game, a military suit is unlocked, if you've done rather well. Your stats from the previous round carry over into the next round, so you are much more powerful when you start the game the next time around.
You will happen upon automated "stores" scattered throughout the Ishimura. This is where you can purchase or sell weapons, ammo, aids, suits, or even store them ala Resident Evil. (And if you stow your gear in one store, it will be available at every store, just like those storage chests in Resident Evil.) You will also come upon workbenches which allow you to upgrade your weapons, your rig (that's your suit), and your kinesis and stasis devices. Upgrades are accomplished by collecting "power nodes" throughout the Ishimura. Power nodes are also short in supply, so, you will agonize over just what you wish to upgrade. And occasionally, you might come upon a door which can only be opened with spending a power node, so there's even more tactical and logistical consideration to burden you.
In your wanderings through the mammoth planetcracker, you will come upon supply crates which kinda resemble old Xboxes. Stomp on them, shoot them open, or smack them with your weapon melee style to get their contents. You will also find supply lockers, emergency containers, and ground containers which will contain things to aid you on your mission. Your suit has a finite number of inventory slots, but most ammunition stacks to a maximum number, so you can actually carry a lot more than you realize. Better suits also have more inventory slots, and more oxygen time.
Ah....precious oxygen and gravity. Your suit is equipped with both a rechargable air tank, and gravity boots for zero-g and vacuum operations. If your air runs out while you are in vacuum, you will swiftly take damage until you can replenish the air tank (either with backup tanks you can find, or with wall rechargers which will refill your tank). When you step out of the vacuum, your tank auto-replenishes without having to use an air can. You can upgrade your airtime at the bench with power nodes. (You can also upgrade the number of hit points Isaac has.) Zero-G ops add another element to the game in which you can jump from floor to ceiling, floor to wall, wall to ceiling, or what not, as long as your weapon doesn't blink red when you attempt to jump. Sometimes this can be frustrating in combat if you are beset by necromorphs while in a zero-g environment, and are scrambling for a place to jump to, away from your attackers.
Visually, this game draws inspiration from space horror films like Alien and Event Horizon, and it utilizes those inspirations well. When you walk through dark, dusty corridors, where the light filters down through grating all around (ala Alien), or you come upon some rather gothic looking machinery (similar to the black hole generator in Event Horizon's engine room). The creatures are horrible disfigurations of nature, and combined with the ambient lighting in some levels, are very disturbing to look at and fight with.
The sound presentation in this game is top notch also, from the voice acting, down to the paranoia inducing sound effects. (Was that a necromorph I heard around the corner?) When you enter vacuum, your sound is confined to what you can hear in your suit, from your heavy breathing, to your footsteps resonating through your suit.
There are other elements that will inspire paranoia throughout this game, but I don't want to spoil it for potential new players. All I will say is, paranoia, this game creates most effectively. (Play this game in the dark too. MUA HA HA HA!!!)
Like I said, the story of the game is rather cliche, and the "plot twist" is not entirely unexpected, but the overall execution of the game is so well done, most folks might not mind the few shortcomings.
There are also a few minigames in Dead Space, such as a shooting gallery with which you can score prizes, a Zero G basket ball court which will open up nearby storage lockers depending on your score, and a couple of levels where you have to man the Ishimura's "mass-driver" guns to deal with external threats.
There are a couple of scenarios where your controls get fracked up, and you're scrambling to survive while dealing with a massive threat, and sometimes that can get a little frustrating, but they're not impossible to overcome.
Overall, I am very pleased with this game. It makes me itch for Capcom's upcoming Resident Evil 5, and its gameplay is reminiscent (and improves in some ways) on Resident Evil 4.
Blood and Gore: Blood, blood everywhere, and not a drop to drink.
Intense Violence: Lots of dismemberment, of both the necros, and of yourself should you end up dying at the hands/tentacles/claws/gores or one of the necromorphs.
Strong Language: Similar to a light R-rated use of language, including the F-bomb, but nowhere near as pervasive as, say, Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row.
BOTTOM LINE: Survival horror fans might well get their fix with this game. I highly recommend it, and for many, it'll make a good stopgap until Capcom releases Resident Evil 5.