great sci-fi backdrop, creepy atmosphere and satisfying shooting make this easy enough to recommend
BLKR4330 wrote this review on .
anyway, dead space is a game where something went terribly wrong on a space mining vessel, you as a player get mixed up in all of this, are gradually explained what more or less occurred and of course are expected to find some resolve.
as this game has so many reviews already i decided to just go into the aspects of the game that stood out for me (either positively or negatively) to give an idea of what to expect.
this deserves special mention as the game wastes no time to set the mood and actually has an intro sequence that does so very nicely. i don't see a lot of intro's anymore.. i remember i would sit and wait at every start menu back in the snes days cause 9 out of 10 you would be treated to an intro sequence but i rarely see them in pc games.
the character is seen from behind and you accompany him by looking along his right shoulder. this allows you to see the character and his vital statistics which are incorporated in his suit. i can see what they tried to do with this but it really obstructs a lot of what goes on on the left side of your fov. so much so that if you're in a position where running away is really the only alternative, it is best to keep a orientation to the right, or clockwise direction in confined spaces. it doesn't help in this respect that the mouse controls feel clunky at times so it can be hard to look around.
you can't jump or crouch which always feels a little weird. even in portions of the game where there is no gravity they came up with an unusual way to move around by aiming your weapon to the location you want to jump to and then tapping a button to make the jump. this works well enough but it does stand in the way of feeling in control of your character, which helps immerse you in the game.
the main character is pretty much a blank page and there is really no character development in the game. you are treated, multiple times, to a recording which shows a girlfriend (or wife?) as one of the crewmembers on the ship desperately calling out to him, but that is really all you learn about what makes this guy tick. there is zero explanation of who this guy is, why his bond to this woman is special enough to care about, why he is able to fight of these aliens where the whole crew of the ship has failed, why he even wants to keep going when the odds are stacked up against him or when it's pretty obvious he's being used to help other people's agendas. he also doesn't speak during the game. i know gordon freeman pulls this off but in third person it's extra strange to see someone not move a muscle while treated to some fairly shocking images on his view screen for example.
all in all, this character never transcends being just a tool really. funnily enough this counts for you as a player to interact with the game world, but also for npc's as he is in great part an errand boy. this is not necessarily a problem but i do consider being able to identify or even care for the character as a good thing and here that's just not going to happen.
the ship looks grand when you approach it for the first time, one of your first objectives is to fix a tram system which runs between different parts of the ship and the tutorial explains about a 3d map projected by your suit which you should get accustomed to, all of which give you an overwhelming sense of this huge ship (and thus maze) you are about to enter. this is far from the truth however. the tram's main purpose is to split up the action in different levels / chapters, within these levels your movement is very limited and you will not use the map, instead you can hit the ctrl button which instantly draws you a path of where to go. i generally don't like this kind of hand holding as it only serves to make you lazy.
level design still does a fairly good job of maintaining the illusion of a huge ship though and a lot of detail went into these levels so it's easy enough to not only imagine where you are but also identify different decks and their original function. apart from what is part of your mission objectives there is very little to interact with.
the weapons are really good and satisfying to use. only problem is they are fairly expensive (you have to buy them from stores) and very underpowered from the start. there's an upgrade sytem which allows you to improve certain aspects of each weapon. this requires nodes which can be found around the ship. these nodes are fairly scarce, especially at first, and upgrading a weapon requires a fairly large number of them. what this means is that you will really save them all for one weapon, making it more or less impossible to change weapons as you will be replacing a good weapon for a weaker one. i only tried the flamethrower and the ripper but ended up selling them as they just ate up ammo which in turn costs inventory space, while barely doing damage compared to my souped up mineral cutter (the weapon you start off with) which i had used a lot of nodes on.
there are also two melee attacks available. there's a kick/stomp and sort of punch. i really like melee attacks in shooters as they offer variety and the sense of accomplishment can be amazing when you pull of a string of melee attacks to battle yourself out of a seemingly impossible situation. in this game though, they prove to be useless in the heat of a fight. the kick sounds and looks almighty but enemies seem to barely notice it. the punch is very slow so if you miss you are sure to get a heavy punishment and it is really not worth the risk cause when you do strike it still takes many punches to bring down your average foe. both are just really underpowered to be of use (i should maybe point out that i played this on hard, melee might still be effective on easier settings)
the really great thing about the melee attacks is stomping enemies after you killed them. the look, sound and feel of impact are done to perfection so it's really a great way to vent some frustration to stomp a corpse in half after an enemy cost you way too much health and/or ammo ;-) enemies will also play dead sometimes so it never hurts to kick them while they're down.
the game doesn't wait long to tell you that you really need to focus your attention on limbs. this is what does the most damage to these aliens. it's counter-intuitive of course but it adds a bit of tactics to the combat because you can't just unload a weapon and expect the enemy to die, you have to figure out what to shoot and what's most effective. sometimes it's best to disarm a foe by shooting off the arms (or arm like things) and other times it works best to slow them down first by shooting the legs, etc.
the combat becomes a little problematic when enemies get very close. you can quickly lose orientation. they resolved this by giving enemies the ability to grab you, this makes combat switch to a button mashing minigame which if you win causes you to break free and usually killing the enemy, or at least knocking them back to some distance. the punch-, or more like swing-, melee attack was probably also put in the game to knock enemies back but this is really a last resort. you really don't want them to get close anyway so this doesn't happen all that much and this doesn't become a big problem.
there's a good number of different aliens as well as enhanced versions of them. each can best be approached with a slightly different tactic which you mostly learn by trial and error. at first this just helps you save ammo, later on it becomes necesary to quickly knock them out of the fight when multiple foes attack at once. enemies also have tactics of their own where some will storm at you to get in close with their sharp blade like arms, while others have long ranged attacks and will keep their distance. all in all there's a good mix and variety.
it seems a lot of work has gone into the design of the aliens and some look truely gruesome. special mention as far as i'm concerned also for the really huge enemies. what i found particularly clever was that most enemies have their own finishing moves as it were. it is a small cut-scene where you are being killed in a unique way and you can't skip through this so it really serves and felt as a punishment for dying.
i've seen many peoples call this a scary game. i thought it really wasn't. the survival horror element never really gets of the ground. when you run out of ammo you're as good as dead but there is so much ammo, money and medpacs laying around that this is unlikely to happen. on top of that each enemy you kill leaves behind a treat. there were barely 2 or 3 instances where my ammo was low enough to cause a slight panic and i seemed to always have at least 2 back-up health kits in my inventory at any given time. the stasis and oxygen pacs were an even bigger joke as i never used a single one. every time you needed either of those there would be a dispenser on the wall never far away.
what also doesn't help is that the game rarely surprises you. once you get through the opening levels you learn it's fairly consistent in the rate of enemies it throws your way and it does so at predictable points in the game.
what's left then is the atmosphere. this is really a strong point of the game. it is plain intimidating at first. the game is filled with creepy sounds, grueling sights and some convincing voice acting in the horror stories left behind by the crew. only downside for me was that it's all a little too pollished for my tastes. i think if the game were a little rougher around the edges it would have really come to life.
the plot (slight spoilers)
to me the plot seemed a bit of an after thought at times. it seems good for the first part as you are really anxious to learn what's going on but, once you find out and think back i can't help but being left with questions and it's a little unclear what the different npc's motives were for doing what they did. i don't mean this in an open ended kind of way, but more like that their actions at one point don't mix well with their actions at another point (eg: why launch a distress beacon when the character telling you to do this already knows about a ship that's on it's way? and, if some characters already had advance knowledge of what was likely going on, what was the point of going there on a small ship on a so called repair mission?)
other then that your objectives mostly come about by things like: you need to take this elevator, oh wait there is no power, restore that first, oh wait you need to get a spare part from the maintenance room to restore the power, oh wait the door is locked so you need a key first, etc.
what struck me more than once while playing is that this game seems to borrow a lot from other games. so much so that i doubt it's a coincidence and worthy of mention. the look and feel of the planet and mining station reminded me a lot of escape from butcher bay, while the ship and gameplay mechanics strongly reminded me of doom 3, there's even what is basically a gravity gun and large part of the story and story telling have a lot in common with system shock 2. i have heard some sound effects which seem to be taken directly from games like half-life 2 and fallout. as these are all great games i assume this is a purposely made homage to these games.
gameplay: 7 - solid shooting is hindered by flawed controls somewhat, game gets a little tedious at some points, has too much hand holding for my taste, forgettable objectives and rinse and repeat scenarios, especially towards the end.
graphics: 9 - looks fantastic and ran without a hitch.
sound: 10 - weapon sounds, ambient noises and music that get your heart racing.
value: 8 - budget price by now, around 15 hours worth of playtime for first play through and likelihood of at least a second playthrough.
tilt: 7 - they killed their own horror element, it feels, what they tend to call over-produced in the music business (and therefor somehow less than the sum of it's parts). innovative hud and menu's immerse you in the action. as a lot of elements are clearly copied from other sources it's hard to fully give credit for them even though it works well.
overall i would give this a total score of an 8 (although just barely). it's easy enough to recommend but i doubt it will make any classic games lists, certainly not mine.