Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dead Space

Game: Dead Space

System: Xbox360, PS3, PC

Release: October 2008

Electronic Arts has taken numerous risks during 2008 on new intellectual properties (IP). One of these original games, Mirror’s Edge, received an impressive 4 out of 5. It provided an entertaining change of pace that attempted to bring acrobatic plat-forming to the first person perspective. Another new IP was Army of Two which failed miserably to deliver a new spin on the third person shooter. Sure the game had some strong points, but it can’t hold a candle to Gears of War. The last new IP, that I had a chance to play, was Dead Space; a solid survivor horror game that has won numerous awards for its sound and atmosphere. Out of all the new IP’s mentioned, Dead Space is arguably the most successful.

Dead Space provides an awesome single player experience despite having a rudimentary plot. The main character is a silent engineer named Isaac Clarke. He is on a repair mission with a small crew to help the USG Ishimura. This large mining ship “cracks” planets for precious metals, but has mysteriously fallen silent—much like the protagonist. To add a personal touch Isaac’s significant other is on the beleaguered ship. Of course the docking procedure goes horribly wrong, nasty alien creatures attack, and the fight for survival begins.
The story is just strong enough to push you through to the next level. The gameplay and atmosphere, however, are solid. Isaac’s slow movements match his somewhat heavy appearance. Conversely the enemies are fast and vicious. This sets an awesome tone for the overall feel of the game. There are also numerous sections where you are in a total vacuum, and the change in sound creates an extremely believable experience. Other areas have no gravity, and players get to jump from wall to wall to complete objectives. Even one of the epic boss fights takes place in zero gravity creating an intense and memorable experience. This game goes out of its way to ensure that players will never forget that they are on a cursed space ship.

To maintain the immersion the UI is presented through a series of in-game holograms. The visual appeal of this interface is fantastic, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it employed in other games. Weapons are diverse, and like most survival horror games supplies are limited. Adding to the suspense, and utilizing the alt fire feature, is the use of severing limbs to quickly take down enemies. Throw in a telekinesis ability for moving objects, and a stasis technique for some crowd control, and you have Dead Space’s gameplay in a nutshell.

Dead Space does an excellent job providing an intense sci-fi horror experience. The plot is generic, but the overall presentation is spectacular. The boss fights are epic, the zero gravity and vacuum sections are a blast, and UI is simply wonderful. Replay value is driven with second play-throughs where players keep power ups from a previously completed game. Snerts Snazzy Score grants Dead Space 4.9 out of 5.

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