Dead Space Hands-On

EA's first survival horror game is now in alpha, and we got a chance to scare ourselves stupid with a new build of the game.

EA's first survival horror game, Dead Space, certainly isn't scared of lavishing on the gore. In fact, the game is so violent that we half-expect to see the disc dripping with blood once it ships this Halloween. Having just hit alpha, the developers have three months left to apply the final touches and then polish it all up for release. Thankfully, it's already shaping up as one of the most visually stunning games of the year, with an engine that promises to deliver the kind of scares that fans demand. Visiting London from its development home in Redwood Shores, the team showed us chapter two from the game and was kind enough to answer our questions as we played.

As the name suggests, Dead Space has a distinctly sci-fi theme--a setting that's in stark contrast to the sleepy towns of most survival horror games. The visual design is clearly influenced by such films as Event Horizon and Alien, as well as even recent video games, such as Mass Effect. However, unlike BioWare's space opera, you'll be alone for the vast majority of time in Dead Space. You play as Isaac, an engineer sent to repair a mining vessel used to farm foreign planets for essential resources. It doesn't take long for Isaac to realise that something's gone horribly wrong, though, and the ship has been overrun by an alien race called necromorphs.

You play as Isaac, a deep-space engineer whose trip to fix a mining craft goes horribly wrong.

Since he's an engineer, Isaac's fairly limited when it comes to weaponry, but his mining tool certainly comes in handy. The combat hinges on enemy dismemberment, and you'll have to target different areas of your enemies in order to take them down. Isaac's mining tool can be adjusted to shoot energy bolts both horizontally and vertically, which was effective enough to tear an arm or a leg off of most enemies we encountered. As with most survival horror games, ammunition is fairly limited, but you can physically smash enemies in the face if they get too close for comfort. There are other options too, though; we saw a particularly cool weapon in our demonstration where Isaac lowered himself on the ground and raised a weapon that fired bullets in a spiral motion. It was an undeniably cool weapon to clear a room with, though it may have had a strange John Woo feel to it.

While there was a great deal of combat in the level we played, there's set to be plenty of puzzle-solving as well. At the beginning of chapter two, we met a wounded woman who offered us a telekinesis attachment for our space suit. Attaching it to our wrist allowed us to pick up objects and move them around in midair, much as you did with Half-Life 2's gravity gun. Isaac also has the ability to slow down time, which can be a useful way of escaping enemies or solving certain puzzles. One example was a broken door mechanism, which was causing a huge steel door to rapidly open and close. The EA representative laughed at our first attempt at the puzzle because we used telekinesis to lift a dead person and place him in the way of the door. The answer, as it turned out, was to slow down time and run through before the mechanism crushed us to death.

Speaking of death, Dead Space has some absolutely gruesome animations with which to kill Isaac. The team showed us how necromorphs can overpower Isaac at close range, and you have to tap one of the face buttons to try to fend them off. Some of these animations are very impressive--Isaac will drop-kick smaller enemies through the air, but he has to wrestle the larger ones as they take chunks out of his flesh. Isaac's health system is displayed on the back of his suit, and if it gets too low, the enemies will be able to simply tear him limb from limb. Some necromorphs will repeatedly impale you with their claws before ripping your head off, while a larger enemy called Boss the Hunter will just tear you clean in half.

While we don't know too much about the history of the necromorphs, it's clear from a few encounters that they're capable of turning humans into one of their own. As we entered the medical deck, a necromorph dropped from a vent and proceeded to attack a human lying on an operating table. The human, then, transformed into a hideous creature and proceeded to break through the glass to attack us. Thankfully, by that point, we'd found weapons, such as pistols, and were able to slow him down by shooting at his legs before delivering a final shot to the head.

Dead Space uses lighting to deliver many of its scary moments.

Dead Space is an amazing-looking game, both technically and artistically. Using a custom-built engine, the environments and lighting effects are perfect for a survival horror game. A few artistic flourishes also really add to the atmosphere. The inventory system is particularly noteworthy because it's projected alongside Isaac as a 3D display. It's a striking depiction of the technology of the future because you can pan the camera round and see the menu as if it physically existed. With such a unique visual design, it's no wonder that a comic series is being penned while an animated movie will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray around the same time as the game.

The game also seemed to be running well on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3--this being the first time we've seen it running on Sony's system. If there were a lot of enemies onscreen, things did start to slow down, but that's an area the team expects to concentrate on now that it's hit alpha. A very cool feature that we got to see was the zero-gravity system, which will allow Isaac to walk upside down in the ship. You can walk on metallic surfaces, thanks to your magnetic boots, but you can also disengage and jump across to other platforms. Some other puzzles will revolve around limited oxygen supplies in which you'll have to pass through parts of the ship where the airlock has been broken. The developers are keeping quiet about other environments at this stage, but we hope to see more than just the mining ship USG Ishimura in the finished game.

Dead Space is looking very impressive, and with three months of development left, we're confident that EA Redwood Shores can polish the game even further. Both the developer and the publisher may be new to survival horror, but that lack of experience looks to have given EA a completely fresh approach to the genre. We're excited to see how it all turns out, but we'll no doubt see more of Dead Space in the coming months. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more news as we get it.

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218 comments
Berzi
Berzi

The game looks very encouraging and also the game story is impressive a new idea to make a horror game in space, can't wait for the release

spat69
spat69

looks like a combo of doom and bioshock

dj_c4
dj_c4

Do I see....Space Zombies?!? SNAP.

Detrun
Detrun

Man I can't wait to get this game! The comic back story and the soon to be released dvd only add to what will be an awesome experiance!

ToolNut90
ToolNut90

haha can't wait until Isaac gets back home expecting a hero's welcome but instead realises that even though he may have the will of a samurai. . . . .he's still a grease-monkey!!!:D

ToolNut90
ToolNut90

haha can't wait until Isaac gets back home expecting a hero's welcome but instead realises that even though he may have the will of a samurai. . . . .he's still a grease-monkey~!!!:D

DeathByControl
DeathByControl

hmm looks like it plays a bit like re4 works for me!:D

burock76
burock76

This is one of the games on my wishlist. Being a huge fan of survival-horror games, I don't think this game will dissappoint. just gimme something to dismember and make me jump off my seat.

xMADxDOGx
xMADxDOGx

yea , potentiols , actualy its possible, only think that i am wandering is ,how cool oO would be the story,servivel in space ? actualy it's very riginal ,prity cool ... + a scary effect ,brrr must be cold, but,if this game doesn't have some details like in games like "doom" ( demons ... dead schildren huggging you till def ... ) this game is just to simple ... and why is this guy has a walding helmet oO ( engenier,rite ... )

dantesergei
dantesergei

i think it has some potencial lets wait for more details of the story.

hendrix_986
hendrix_986

They said they want the feel of the game to be a mix of popular horror movies like Aliens, The Thing, and Event Horizon. Never can tell if its gonna kick ass until it ships.

Dill-Man
Dill-Man

This game has a TON of potential, just watched the comics and they're great, hopefully the game will follow through

Stjohnsbpj
Stjohnsbpj

This could prove interesting, however, I've been keeping my eye on DEAD ISLAND--Multi-level damage system with accurate pinpoint real-time damage (where you hit it is where it 'bleeds', or falls apart, or gets things stuck in it) an actual interactive environment like Condemned boasted (but was really just another list of usable weapons placed strategically) Supposedly in Dead Island, you can use ANYTHING, including glass you just broke, to throw at zombies. Though it will do little damage, it still looks pretty neat when you have a zombie chasing you with glass, paper cutter, staples, etc, stuck in it. Anyway, to each his own, I was sold on it. This (Dead Space) might be fun too, & of course theres ALWAYS RE-5..

boi-of-doom
boi-of-doom

"Is it me or is is "The Thing" in space. How come nobody's mentioned The Thing. Serious John Carpenter inspiration if you ask me!" no its not,its in alaska,but still,i can see the inspiration from that,mostly alien though,of course

GeneralArrow
GeneralArrow

Doom 3 wasn't that creepy but it was loads of fun...now if this game can scare me like F.E.A.R did I'll be happy.

blairstheman
blairstheman

I've had my eyes on RE5 ( Resident Evil 5) for a while now ( looks amazing), and now Dead Space has received my attention. Both RE5 and this look like their gonna turn out to be great games. I'll have to look into it more though.

hoolesy
hoolesy

This will be one of those games that I'm gagging to come out, then it does, I play the demo, p00 my pants and realise I'd not like to play it lol. Condemned is like that. Is it me or is is "The Thing" in space. How come nobody's mentioned The Thing. Serious John Carpenter inspiration if you ask me!

FraserAlexander
FraserAlexander

I hope it's not too scary, or scary 100% of the time, because that's just too stressful for me now. I need "breather's". lol

datniccah187
datniccah187

I'll check it out, i mean i'll probally rent it first, but it seems to have some potential.

scphan
scphan

yeah the character looks really ugly

Eko_Eko_Azarak
Eko_Eko_Azarak

I'm definately getting this as soon as it comes out. I've been excited about it since I first heard about it. BUT I REALLY NEED TO PLAY IT NOW!!

DiabloRaul
DiabloRaul

I'll have to look deeper into this game.

beeftothetaco
beeftothetaco

Looks interesting; I just hope EA doesn't screw it up.

Sepulcro_Br
Sepulcro_Br

I have good expectations about this game. EA usually makes good and innovative games and I don´t believe this one will be different. I will buy it as soon as it becomes available.

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

So what kind of release are we going to see hear, EA actually releasing something new, a little eunique and maybe, just maybe a good game? Or is this another over hyped, over marketed lack luster release promising nothing but empty promises? You won't see me dash out to preorder this, i'll wait to see if this is a great game, or just another...release from EA.

JACKAL1883
JACKAL1883

I am still waiting. i really like the idea of an event horizon type of game. they have a really good foundation for and excellent game. lets see if they don't screw it up. it has been a long time in production and I have been waiting since the news first hit when the PS3 was released.

HardcoreBunni
HardcoreBunni

I'm surprised that EA is actually stepping out from its comfort zone. First with Skate, and now with Dead Space. Not to mention it published Crysis. Both games were great, so I hope EA can make Dead Space the amazing game it should be. However, being EA, I'll wait for the review.

mattlom03
mattlom03

this game is gonna be good, so far it looks sick!

ossamesa
ossamesa

What's wrong with EA? Remember Crysis? What a great game. i think this will be great too

AJzim
AJzim

Looks like a good game. Should get feel the previews first.

BR0M
BR0M

>>>Electronic Arts people dont get too excited

lordmasterrof
lordmasterrof

as Vambran is saying, the fact that it's EA, scares me abit, they have really been sucking *** lately... so i'd wait for the review too, but it looks nice.

Vambran
Vambran

I must say this game does look good. But with EA involved , ill wait for the review before i go near this game.

amulbocus
amulbocus

Hope it has the same visceral gameplay that was Doom 3, no game has come out since that is as scary or heart pounding as doom 3 which is like 5 years old.

flawless_blade
flawless_blade

This game is gonna be so amazing it'll make my head a splode. Seriously. And we need RE5 to come out too!

Jerryman_25
Jerryman_25

its looks pretty good i can´t wait it looks awesome

Princess_Jill
Princess_Jill

Yay awesome! ^___^ I'm so happy :D Horror fans would love this game

dan7879
dan7879

looks wicked can't wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CRATOS2390
CRATOS2390

WOW!!! this game looks like it could be a sequel to The Thing. it's gonna be good.

joe_ender
joe_ender

comon EA and dont **** this up

Sharx66
Sharx66

This is a dream come true! EXACTLY my kind of game. In-space creepyness. I hope they keep long streches where you are alone and discover creepy part of the story or audio/video diaries. Something gone wrong + Horror + Space = Win.

CreatureRising
CreatureRising

@CptObivous1031 yep exactly i am very very Careful around there Games Last time i got Burnout Paradise after a day i supprisely coundlt talk to my out of country Friends for a month It was samething with Army of Two i mean really EA screws up alot of times (i remember when i used to like them lol)

CptObvious1031
CptObvious1031

It's like RE meets Mass Effect! Hopefully EA can deliver. Most of their games are so filled with bugs it's insane. Then they don't issue patches or support the games (cough BF2MC). I'm gonna be very weary about this game and probably rent before I buy.

acowcalled_jim
acowcalled_jim

hahaha. looks like this is one to be playing at 3 in the morning...... cant wait

miksalud
miksalud

Giefz me the creeps. Everything similar to DOOM (3) should be pretty scary ;)