Dead Space Updated Hands-On - Environments, Story, Combat

We have the worst day ever in EA's upcoming sci-fi horror game.

EA's upcoming sci-fi horror game Dead Space drops you into the not-so-lucky space suit of Isaac Clarke, a member of a deep space rescue team. Unfortunately for Clarke, his own rescue team finds itself in need of rescue quicker than Corporal Dwayne Hicks of Aliens can say, "Game over, man!" The game is being developed internally at EA and has been making us jump since we got our first look some months ago. We finally got our hands on a work-in-progress version of the game for the Xbox 360 to see how the various demos we've seen all fit together.

Welcome to Dead Space. Watch your step.

Our version of the game let us start a brand new game, which eased us into the story. If you're a fan of science fiction movies and games, Dead Space's narrative should feel familiar. Like at the start of a lot of hair-raising sci-fi tales, the game has a team of folks going to investigate a ship (in this case, the USS Ishimura) with which contact has been lost. And just like in those sci-fi nail-biters you may be familiar with, things end up going horribly wrong for said team. In fact, your ship will meet an unsightly end early on in the game. And in Dead Space, Isaac's special lady is onboard the derelict ship...which makes things personal.

Your core goal is to find your lady friend and get the heck out of there with your surviving teammates. Of course, because you just know things aren't going to be easy, there's also a mystery to uncover, namely what happened to the Ishimura's crew of 1,000 people. To add some urgency to the proceedings, the Ishimura has seen better days and requires you to do some repair work to get around. This is, of course, all complicated by the fact that there's all manner of unpleasant creatures lurking between you and just about everywhere you need to go.

What happened to everyone? Why couldn't your lady friend have picked a less ill-fated assignment? We don't want to spoil the plot, but we will say this: Clark eventually discovers that many of the deadly threats he finds are actually what's left of the Ishimura's crew. Exactly what happened to them is what you'll have to discover as you explore the ship. As for your girl picking a better assignment, well, you're just that lucky. You'll discover all this and more as you make your way through the massive ship--on foot and by tram--as part of what appears to be a linear story.

Dead Space's approach to gameplay should be familiar to veteran players of third-person action games. You'll run around, explore, solve puzzles, and strategically dismember the creatures you come across. Yep, strategically. Although the enemies you face do seem space zombies of some sort, shooting them in the head just doesn't get you very far. You'll have to take out the arms, legs, and other important appendages before finally taking your enemies down for good. You'll have plenty of options for how to do this as you explore the game and buy yourself more weapons. Yes, in the future, there are vending machine-style shops that sell you stuff. You'll start out with a simple cutter but find tons more if you've got the cash. You'll also be able to upgrade your suit, which is basically the only thing that stands between you and horrible death.

Besides offering functional goods, such as weapons and upgraded suits, the vending machines will also offer health and ammo. You can also increase the types of items available in the machines by finding blueprints of new items. You'll find more money and ammo with careful exploration as well. However, one of the most important items to find are special nodes that you can use at workbenches you come across on the ship. You'll be able to use these nodes to power up different attributes on your weapons or suit; this will be crucial to survival.

Shooting them in the head doesn't quite cut it on this derelict spaceship.

While all of the above may sound pretty standard, Dead Space gets a BioShock-like twist thanks to the addition of special powers you can gain, such as slowing time or moving objects. They come in handy when solving puzzles. Other elements in the mix are the space- and zero-gravity sequences, which force you to either get through areas before your suit runs out of air or figure out how to get through rooms that feel like an MC Escher painting. While it may sound like a crazy quilt of mechanics rolled together, it actually works pretty well from what we've played. There's a good amount of variety, and the story elements that are peppered throughout have been keeping the action interesting so far.

Dead Space's control scheme seems to work pretty well, although we're still having trouble getting used to the camera system, which seems to require some hand-holding, using the right analog stick to tweak our view of the game. Otherwise, running around, shooting, and using your special abilities works fairly well most of the time. The controls map out well to the Xbox 360 controller and are easy to pick up.

Dead Space has impressive graphics. All the better to show off gory scenes like this.

The visuals in the game continue to impress us with their creepy lighting and high level of detail. The opening cinematic, made using the game engine, shows off the impressive visuals, giving you a good look at the scope and size of the Ishimura. The massive ship is a creepy place chock full of disturbing visuals. If you set aside the abominations that are roaming the hall, the ship itself goes from being a shiny pinnacle of technology to a disturbing labyrinth in which you don't want to be alone. You'll see blood, viscera, and plenty of signs that things have gone really wrong. To add to the creepiness, you'll be able to interact with the debris and corpses to varying degrees, such as stomping boxes or shuffling around the remains of defeated enemies. Speaking of the creatures you'll be facing, Dead Space features an unnerving cast of abominations that range from recognizable humanoids to "What hell is that??" In fact, some of the creature design seems reminiscent of the most unnerving critters in John Carpenter's The Thing. Fortunately, the creatures also blow up nicely, and this happens a lot throughout the course of the game. From a performance standpoint, the work-in-progress version of the game we played seems to run smoothly on the Xbox 360.

Dead Space's audio adds a great deal to the game's presentation. It seems to play a crucial role in setting the game's creepy tone. The ambient audio seems to be coming together very well and is extremely effective at being unsettling. For instance, you'll hear plenty of creeping and skittering of little feet (and other appendages) as you make your way through the ship. Gunfire and the like are equally immersive. However, we have to say it's the little details that seem most impressive, such as the distortion that happens when you're going about your business in the zero-gravity sequences. The combination of all of these factors makes for an immersive experience that fits really well with the graphics. The voice acting we've heard seems a bit inconsistent in some places (some characters sound fine while others are a little on the soap opera side), but hopefully, this will be remedied in the final version.

This horror-themed game will be available in time for Halloween.

Based on what we played, Dead Space is shaping up to be a solid debut for an original game. True, the story doesn't appear to be straying too far from the kind of sci-fi horror you might expect from having seen screenshots of the game and read descriptions. And while the same can be said for the gameplay, there are definitely some neat ideas on display. The first few chapters we played seemed solid and began to really get interesting in terms of gameplay and story. We're anxious to see the rest of the game to find out how it all comes together. Dead Space is currently slated to ship next month for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Look for the game on GameSpot's live weekly broadcast show, On the Spot, prior to that, as well as a full review once the game hits store shelves.

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359 comments
mattgressel
mattgressel

The game looks bad ass! Gonna play it today!! :D

talonkin
talonkin

I wonder if this game can match up to the mighty System Shock game or if this will turn out to be a clone of doom 3 set in space

-insert_coin-
-insert_coin-

Xbox/PC review (same thing) makes me look forward to the game. Would like a heads up on the PS3 too, but i guess i can live without

heybuddy142
heybuddy142

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Prophet2142
Prophet2142

This looks pretty awesome! The tense atomosphere makes it seem well worth playing.

slagman5
slagman5

Wait, did he just make a mention about Hicks saying "Game over man!" in Aliens??? Someone didn't watch the movie before quoting it...

Zedit
Zedit

So on the xbox360 a user score of 9.0... :) On the Pc better graphics and maybe controls cause of the mouse. Can't wait.. it must be like a new doom 3 for the pc. Not much good horror games since doom3, fear and condemned. :)

lowkey254
lowkey254

I didn't see it in the article but does this have a co-op campaign?

si-lurino
si-lurino

Isaac Clarke... i wonder if it's a play between Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, both are Sci Fi writers of great reknown... either way... i wonder what might differentiate between this one and other horror survivals, namely resident evil, silent hill, and sorts...

Karmazyn
Karmazyn

Wow I can't wait for it. Sounds like a lots of fun. In space nobody will hear your scream...

supersynvegeta
supersynvegeta

Yeah....uhhh...It was Hudson who said that not Hicks LOL. In any case the game looks awesome so far.

Rochie101
Rochie101

Ricardo Torres, FYI, It wasn't Cpl Dwayne Hicks who said that ya BOOB! It was PFC Hudson, If your gonna quote one of the all time great Sci-Fi Horror movies you might want to watch it first! jeez this sites gone downhill!

guitarg33k
guitarg33k

rated-r-83 is rite i loved run like hell and this don't look to let down either

ebgamesnake112
ebgamesnake112

I find the way how he holds the weapon with one hand kind of awkward. But I guess it makes sense, cuz it was meant to be an engineering tool, the weapon that is.

Karmazyn
Karmazyn

I can't wait. Wow it will be awesome. Love this type of games.

Rated-R-83
Rated-R-83

I can not wait until next week when this game comes out. I think it will be totally awesome and pretty creepy at the same time. It looks like the Run Like Hell game for PS2 but like 100% better.

Blazing_Beard
Blazing_Beard

agreeing with ifoughtpiranhas, game looks rippin but i fear it WILL go unnoticed like the darkness, which is still one of my favorite games for the 360 to date

JOTJ
JOTJ

this game looks amazing but its a bit of a doom rip

180failure
180failure

I bet this game will scare the s**t out off me, can't wait.

ifoughtpiranhas
ifoughtpiranhas

This game looks absolutely amazing. I hope it doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated like The Darkness did.

msilva69
msilva69

i will definely had to get this game i going to cancel my spider man and get this one instead.

Stefean
Stefean

I was so ready to comment on the Hudson/Hicks mistake, but I should have known this crowd had it covered. Love this place!

mrkame16
mrkame16

of all the recent horror genre of games this one looks promising..ill play dead space to quench my thirst till Resident Evil 5 comes out.

vexy1987
vexy1987

Might be worth a play through, though I never finish playing through a horror game, I always chicken out half way through, it happend with Resident Evil, it happened with Doom 3 and it will happen with this! :P

ArticRecon
ArticRecon

ah I'll pass.......... Fallout 3 baby!

KG2343
KG2343

Is there an online mode?

redskinStu
redskinStu

That's right, it was Hudson, not Hicks. Sharp eyes, man.

13Wicked13
13Wicked13

this is going to be a great game

ithual
ithual

Actually, it was Hudson from Aliens who said "Game over Man!" not Hicks

sub-raid
sub-raid

i disagree with Derek1177 they is fine the way it is! Well finding ammo is a better idea but buying ammo is not going to make the game bad. you are disappointed ? why ? dead space 3rd person better than first person, that way u can see his armor and his health on his back. in my opinion if dead space is first person tthe game would be ruined.

sub-raid
sub-raid

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

sub-raid
sub-raid

i will totaly get this game it's the best it's special and unique really and there is a lot of gore in it hwta makes it more exiting ! don't forget the wepons the aiming is new.

wr12c
wr12c

cool crazy game :D

wr12c
wr12c

cool crazy game :D

ctburesch
ctburesch

I originally had no interest in this game, but from I read on here and Gameinformer (which is much better in my opinion) I am now waiting for this game quite excitedly and actually just paid off my deposit at gamestop. I can't wait.

HAL5000
HAL5000

I look forward to "killing with a purpose" again in space...but lets hope it isn't meretricious. I need a good adrenaline rush in a game that does not follow the pack but leads the multitudes into a new gaming experience.

chilean_dream
chilean_dream

System Shock 2 was the scariest space game of all time. This looks like its going to perhaps take over the throne.

socialninjitsu
socialninjitsu

mikeyg, I couldn't agree more. You hit the high-mark. Dime-a-dozen losers buy shallow 'startle' games, destroying genuinely strong titles like SH1. Their sequels are dumbed down for these same idiots, so true fans lose out and never see anything as good as the first. I totally miss the PS1 mentality, where they were still testing deep waters.

stoerdy
stoerdy

to me this games looks great, reminds me of Bioforge, Im getting this at releaseday.

mikeyg756
mikeyg756

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Aksarafrezz
Aksarafrezz

huhu reminds me of dino crisis 3 lol no hard feelings fan (^ . ^)

dalesinger
dalesinger

I think it looks great because its not like other mindless fps space shooter combat systems. Its like re4 meets doom3 type of thing. It seems faster paced than RE4 but not pure insanity like doom3. A perfect balance. It also looks scarier than RE4's disappointing scares.

Wezker619
Wezker619

if people were hoping this would be a fps you are sadly mistaken. Like all good horror games *RE and Silent Hill* They have kept it 3rd person just like Dead Space. Im really looking forward to this game beacause I forgot the last game that scared me in space. Not Doom 3 either.

Dawg9000
Dawg9000

Hmmph. I thought we were playing a Horror Game not Ratchet and Clank.

jwood729
jwood729

"with those things runnin around, you can count me out"

Hermoin
Hermoin

yea man "why don't you put her in charge"

jwood729
jwood729

Hicks didn't say "game over man" hudson did..get it right noobs

VendettaIV
VendettaIV

Is it just me or did this preview put anyone else to sleep? Not only does the game sound bland but the writing was as well. Maybe you shouldn't follow the script so much next time and just tell us how it is Torres...this is just like every other SH FPS out there...