Dead Space is a terrifying survival horror experience, from its blood-drenched outset to its bone chilling conclusion

User Rating: 10 | Dead Space PS3
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Contains: Strong Bloody Violence, Gore and Sustained Horror
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Dead Space is a survival horror, 'over-the-shoulder' third person shooter that takes place onboard a stricken interstellar mining ship named the USG Ishimura, which has been infested by hostile aliens known as Necromorphs after unearthing a strange artifact on a distant planet.

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STORY - 5/5
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Dead Space's heart-pounding introduction is straightforward yet compelling. You are Isaac Clarke, on a routine repair mission to fix the communications array on board a large planet-cracker, deep space mining vessel - the USG Ishimura. You are also hoping to make contact with your girlfriend and medical specialist Nicole onboard, who's last cryptic recording, seemed one of uncomforting distress. However, as you watch the opening sequence of Dead Space, with brief mission details and information about the USG Ishimura, you round a corner of asteroids to realise there are no lights on, and the massive mining ship looks somewhat abandoned. Could a communications blackout really have happened on board such a large vessel, and if so, why no communication contact with the crew? After a struggle making contact, you are quickly thrust back into your seat as a docking guidance system malfunction occurs, causing you and your team to crash into the USG Ishimura, and thereafter looking for a new means of transport. But as you search the abandoned ship looking for any signs of anyone, you are attacked by grotesque monsters that kill off everyone but you, Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond. After a frantic event, you must run for life unarmed to safety, with the nightmare only just becoming apparent of your chance of survival, and the nightmarish realisation of being isolated in a now hostile environment becomes clear - you are trapped, and there is no help coming.
It doesn't take 10 minutes into the story before your heart will uncontrollably start pounding, and the deeply engrossing story of how an alien infestation wiped out virtually the entire crew is a mystery that is both compelling and chilling to unravel, right from the blood drenched opening scene, to the bone-chilling conclusion. Audio logs detailing some of the crew's last few moments or intentions to escape are sometimes downright chilling, and text reports and video logs do a fantastic job of fleshing out the back-story of the nightmare and piecing together the events that transpired before your arrival, while giving an intriguing insight into how it all started while further enhancing the already engaging narrative.

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CHARACTERS - 5/5
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After being momentarily cut off from your crew, engineer Isaac Clarke must fight his way through the stricken interstellar mining ship, which has been taken over and infested by a polymorphic, virus-like, unknown alien organism that transforms and reanimates corpses into grotesque monstrosities called Necromorphs. Silent protagonist Isaac Clarke is a ship system specialist, and your skills at engineering will be put to use throughout the game to restore some balance to the derelict vessel. You are guided on mission objectives by the 2 other main characters in the game - Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond. Kendra is a technologist, assisting Isaac navigate through the Ishimura by giving directions, telling you how to complete objectives by showing some biochemistry and technological knowledge, while also providing entry to areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. Zach Hammond is the senior security officer who survives the initial necromorph assault at the beginning along with Kendra, and shows an initial desire to complete the original mission they were sent on and not to abort, which puts him under suspicion by Kendra for his desire to fulfil the mission request and not attempt to escape. You remain throughout the game very much alone, remaining in radio and video log contact for guidance and mission objectives, while also encountering mentally unstable survivors of the infestation who have been driven insane from the ordeal they've survived. Your encounter with them is usually very brief as they quickly resort to a suicide escape from the horror within the USG Ishimura, and after everything you will witness in the game, who would blame them escaping a far worse fate of transformation?
The characters in Dead Space are perfect as the actors provide their likenesses for the game, are convincing and compelling in their role and the development of the horror story they are wrapped up in, their personalities are all projected perfectly in the tense circumstances giving you a real dilemma of who to trust, and the silent protagonist works well and makes him a likeable, playable character who you'll want to keep alive to find out Nicole's unknown fate.

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GAMEPLAY - 5/5
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"Forget about shooting them in the body, you gotta cut off the limbs, grab a cutter… anything, just cut of the limbs!" The riveting recording of a survivor warns you of the core gameplay mechanic that you are encouraged, and often forced, to execute upon the necromorph alien race - strategic dismemberment. Keeping to Isaac's profession, nearly all of the weapons in Dead Space are improvised from regular mining tools, such as a wide beamed slicer, an industrial rotary saw and a hydrazine torch, all of which are every day mining tools within the game's sci-fi futuristic setting. Methodically cutting off the necromorphs limbs to defeat them is a consistent feature needed for every combat situation in order to conserve ammunition or to specifically eradicate that monster from the overwhelming odds stacked up against you quickly. Truly terrifying gameplay sustains the horror, and a nervous sensation will constantly be felt when you traverse towards an objective through the dark corridors and vividly imagined quarters of the USG Ishimura, with the threatening necromorph species readying an attack at all imminent situations.
Cutting up the necromorphs limb by bloody limb provides intense horror sequences that always result in absolute bloodbaths, as the effective weapons easily slice through the necromorphs fragile structures, cutting through bone, flesh and tissue within seconds to halt them in their tracks or to aggravate them even further into attempting to disembowel you. Weapons have alternate fire modes that vary from timed explosive mines that disintegrate limbs and shatter the structures of enemies, or even weapon aiming improvisations that change the reticule for more precise means of dismemberment. The game does a good job of recognising the weapons you have at the time, by only providing ammo for the weapons you have, so you never have to worry about picking up useless ammo for a weapon you don't have equipped.
You can resort to melee combat where appropriate, and while swinging a right hook with your weapon looks a heavy and long procedure leaving you vulnerable, it's only fair because of how easy the game would be and enforces some realism on the lack of agility Isaac's awesome looking suit has. Stomping crates for supplies, and stomping the limbs off foes for blood spurting visuals feels and looks great, and if an enemy does get within reach of you, sometimes you'll be grabbed by an appendage of some sort and will have to tap a button quickly in order to reject the necromorphs attempts at causing a brutal finisher, where you'll be chopped and dismembered, inducing a cruel sense of irony.

A fantastic presentational feature that remains completely outstanding throughout the game and enhances that science fiction style of plot is a holographic display projected from Isaac's RIG uniform. When you receive objective updates and video logs they are all transparently displayed in front of you in real time, leaving you vulnerable to a possible attack. A traditional heads up display is not evident at all in Dead Space, but all the information is inventively shown on Isaac. Your ammo shows up on your weapon when you bring it up to aim or use as a flashlight, your health is integrated into the spine of Isaac's armor and the inventory system which displays objectives, a 3 dimensional map and all your collected items and weapons is displayed in real time and these holographically presented menus and gameplay elements continually immerse you within the survival horror experience and are quite simply worth marvelling at for the achievement made. Even ammo and items offer a unique touch of the blue holographic projection to show you the exact location if you are within the proximity of it, and just as impressive is the save system that projects another translucent layer upon the wall it's placed.

Other than weapons, Isaac is also equipped with other tools to help him survive, solve puzzles, and combat enemies more effectively. Isaac's Stasis ability is a finite energy source that can be used to slow down enemies and objects temporarily allowing you to complete an environmental puzzle-related objective or to precisely target specific limbs on an enemy, and a Kinesis module which you can use with no cost allows Isaac to pick up and throw items, which again can be of use in puzzles or against enemies where explosive canisters and even severed enemy limbs can be used for effectiveness to conserve ammo. Dead Space also features vacuum and zero gravity environments, and Isaac can navigate through them using his pressurized suit and magnetic boots. Isaac will eventually suffocate while in a vacuum or a toxic environment as his suit can only contain a limited amount of air, so a large amount of tension and pressure is forced onto you because of your limited time, but there are always oxygen refill tanks located within the setting if you do get into a troubling situation and begin to panic. You can jump around in weightless environments freely to navigate away from hazards or to solve an objective in zero gravity, with some levels even leading out onto the surface of the ship's hull, where you must watch out for floating debris that may cause you to lose your footing and a very unfortunate and gruesome death.

Taking into account that the necromorphs were once humans but horrifically transformed into a fate worse than death, upon being cut up and defeated, they'll drop ammo for your weapons, valuable items or credits (the game's source of currency). Frequently searching in containers and lockers is also a means for having a healthy supply of ammunition when the necromorphs attack, or money to spend at the store. Stores are neat additions in the game where your collected credits can be spent on additional ammo, new weapons, health packs or other related boosters to assist in gameplay. Schematics are rare collectibles that unlock much needed items at the store, things that include suit upgrades and large medical packs, and upon entering the store with a schematic, it will be downloaded into the system and available for purchase. Schematics are always perfectly paced when they're implemented into the horror adventure, encouraging you to explore various corners of the ship despite how scared you may feel, and along with finding new schematics are power nodes frequently found in fuse boxes throughout the Ishimura. Power nodes are used to upgrade your weapons, and as an engineer, you can make use of the numerous nanotech workbenches scattered about the ship. Each piece of equipment or weapon you have will show a circuit board diagram, where you can solder nodes into circuit to link them up to upgrade damage, faster reload or more health, and each weapon has a unique design to how you go about completing it fully. Power nodes can also be used to open optional door locks which may contain specific valuables behind or extra audio logs that are of secret intelligence that are sometimes opportunities that you may not want to miss. Inventory management is a key element of the game, as you can carry only a certain amount of things in the spaces provided until you upgrade your suit. Balancing your ammo with health packs and other important items forces you to consider your inventory with deep thought, and with the store's safe device, you can sell what you can't carry or don't need for credits, or leave it in there so you can pick it back up at any other store you come across at a later date.

The objectives you are given throughout the game all aid towards balancing out some control on the USG Ishimura and enabling critical system repair, sending you around the ship to not only uncover the origin of the necromorph invasion and other story-related conspiracies, but to gain some advantages over the critical chance of survival you are faced with. To see the direction you need to go, all you need to do is tap R3 and a beam of light is unveiled along the ground the leads towards your next objective which is an innovative and believable integration to the game as your suit is the source of origin for the beam of light showing your path. A large amount of the Ishimura's vital systems are down, and to establish success, you'll have to travel around the ship to repair the problems. Whether you are sent to ignite the engines or asked to manually override the defence system of the ship protecting you from incoming asteroids, the objectives are all interesting even if most consist of pressing a switch, and even though they get repetitive and involve a lot of backtracking the paths you came after successfully fixing a disruption, the introduction of new enemies and scares keeps things feeling fresh and intense, and always avoiding repetition. When a level is completed you'll be directed back to the tram station you came into the level on, and this acts as a means of travel to the next chapter of game, cleverly implemented to disguise a load screen and in a way keeps the sensation you feel flowing. Arriving at the tram will undoubtedly bring some relief to your stomach and your mental strength allowing you a few minutes of feeling safe from the nightmarish horror and improbable task of escape you are constantly battling with, until you stop at your destination and you relive the horror all over again.
Dead Space introduces a brilliant gameplay mechanic of strategic dismemberment setting itself apart from other games of the genre and producing a large quantity of gore with all the slicing up you are encouraged to do, and with outstanding overall presentation that range from the holographic HUD to the well developed upgrade system and keeping you on the edge of your seat with truly terrifying gameplay moments, the gameplay department is unrivalled while you attempt to survive unscathed through the necromorph infection that has breached the entire mining vessel and brutally diminished the whole crew.

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GRAPHICS - 5/5
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Dead Space was developed in just over a year, from the time they announced it was being made, to the date it was released, but the whole look of the game suggests that it must have taken longer. The breathtaking visuals and incredibly detailed art design bring the inside of the USG Ishimura to life, and all the attention to detail makes for a totally convincing and believable deep space mining vessel. Whether you are witnessing asteroids rain down in space from the safety of the USG Ishimura's bridge atrium or admiring the visual style when entering a zero gravity vacuum where the dark and gloomy look is drained slightly to more brighter colours, the graphics are just sublime throughout. Dark and light colour contrasts are used perfectly, with amazing lighting balance so as to not put you in complete darkness, but also to not provide too much light to break that frightened immersion of being alone in the dark. Your flashlight will help cut a path through the dark visuals of the Ishimura, highlighting all the gory imagery as you tread through the many disfigured corpses of unfortunate crew members who couldn't escape the inevitable death once the infection was onboard. Blood and guts are splattered over walls and messages are scrawled in blood to convey the sense of urgency when the necromorphs savaged the helpless crew, writing their last few words of warning as they bled to death from severed limbs or disemboweled physical bodies. The colour of blood is a typical substance you'll step in when dismembering the necromorphs, and the bloody detail on the surface it spreads on while the wound still pumps blood is a disturbing visual sight that you'll just have to get used to. The entire game is visually stunning, with smooth animations, good-looking character models, solid framerate, no screen tearing and impressive holographic displays (videos and menus) to back up the artistic level design. A very minor technical issue to point out would be that the shadows Isaac casts are of low resolution with noticeably blocky pixels, but this is obviously done at a lower resolution to sustain performance with the framerate and the rest of the visuals, and overall this is the only negative aspect of the game to possibly pick out. Fortunately it's an unimportant one and only becomes apparent if you study his shadow in bright areas.

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SOUND - 5/5
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The necromorphs of course make the game terrifying, but what really amps up the suspense and the nerves when in tight, life threatening scenarios is the incredible, nerve-wracking audio that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the course of the nightmarish survival horror experience right to the end and never lets it grip on you weaken on proceedings. The Dead Space soundtrack is so good in fact, that it was rightly nominated and won sound and audio awards by various game websites, including Best Sound Design and Atmosphere here on Gamespot. The sound effects of weapons firing is just as you'd imagine, and the dismemberment and blood-spurting sounds of shredded necromorphs is a deliciously disturbing mix that is just plain awesome, while even the lighter sounds of simply picking up credits or ammo and adding it to your inventory is a perfectly acceptable sci-fi effect that suits the game setting. Another memorable example of clever audio effects is when you enter a vacuum with no oxygen. All sound effects and audio are suitably dulled to convey the effects of having no oxygen in space, and while the music is silent, Isaac's heavy breathing is amplified, further enhancing that feeling of being in a suffocating atmosphere. Voice acting is perfect throughout the game, well cast actors portray the characters really well and increase the dramatic chain of events in the story and make it that bit more engrossing.

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CONTROLS - 5/5
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A great layout of controls which are all responsive ensure that you won't press wrong buttons if you get into a terrifying situation that requires a very quick escape instead of remaining where you are and standing to fight. To run you hold L2, and to perform melee actions you press either R2 for a stomp attack or R1 for a weapon swing. Picking up items or shaking off enemies if they are attempting to initiate a brutal death finisher is X and if you do become threatened with a possible chance of death, you can save time from opening the inventory with triangle and press square to instantly inject and refill your health meter with a medical pack. Changing weapons is very easy, you can only carry up to 4 weapons at a time and each is assigned to one of the 4 analog arrow buttons so you can rapidly change weapon load-out during combat scenes. As soon as you aim with L1 however, new options open up. Holding L1 and tapping R1 fires your weapon, tapping R2 is alternate fire mode, X reloads the weapon, triangle is used to jump to valid surfaces in zero-G environments, holding circle uses your kinesis module to life an object and subsequently tapping R1 will fire the object where you are aiming, and finally tapping square fires a stasis projectile. Navigating the dark and intimidating decks of the derelict vessel are managed with your suit's built-in navigation system, and so by clicking R3, a holographic route will appear that leads you to your current objective. To provide accurate triangulation results though, all movement is restricted while the navigation system is in use. All the configurations are very easy to learn, and it's a great layout that suit's the game perfectly.

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ATMOSPHERE - 5/5
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Dead Space is a nail-biting experience, right from the nightmarish opening sequence you will be consistently terrorised by the menacing necromorphs that are persistent in their attempts to transform you into one of them. The atmosphere is unsurpassable and is simply terrifying from beginning to end. With important contributions from the nerve-wracking audio and unsettling gory imagery everywhere you go, Dead Space holds onto and sustains the important scare factor that takes refuge in the pit of your stomach and the mentality of your brain. Dead Space is heavily reliant on the survival horror gameplay, rarely giving you a chance to relax or bring a sigh of relief, you are always being threatened or terrorised by the alien antagonists, and the atmosphere keeps you unsettled and maintains that fear you feel. It isn't a psychologically scary game, but generates the scares with solid forms and blood curdling jumps rather than mentally induced transparent confrontations with enemies where you'll be transfixed to the spot and reaching down into your own sanity asking whether or not you are capable of moving on and continuing your mission. The necromorphs crawl through the vents, and you have no clue as to when they'll attack, and the sounds of victims screaming in agony echoes through the abandoned corridors of the blood-filled USG Ishimura as they suffer a fate worse than death. Dead Space is not only an edge-of-your-seat horror ride, but also a mentally disturbing game that plays with your mental strength and endurance capability. The tone is consistent, forcing you to feel nervous and unsettled, and when you witness the mental instability of deranged victims take their lives in unforgettable ways by either smashing their head into a wall until their skull is crushed and brain matter slides down the walls or by blowing their brains out with a last saved bullet in a gun, you question yourself if that will be how Isaac ends his nightmare and falls victim to the inevitable truth that there is no help coming.

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ENEMY AI - 5/5
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The necromorphs are unknown alien organisms that have transformed the mining vessel into a bloodbath and a place of complete misery. All hope seems lost, and what's worse is that these necromorphs are very intelligent of the ship's design and constantly traverse it and produce shocking entries onto your position by using the ventilation systems to their advantage. They are co-ordinated and always attempt to flank you before attacking in waves and groups, forcing you to panic and adapt very quickly to which type of necromorphs you are dealing with and how to defeat them quickly. They will lure you where they want before all attacking at once in a frantic struggle at who's going to bath in your blood drenched corpse first and snack on your flesh, and the horror is just intense. Not only are the necromorphs intelligent at finding weak points in the ship to attack you surprisingly, but their terrifying appearances can adapt to new tactics if you don't dismember them efficiently. Aiming for the head will only aggravate most necromorphs and cause them to go into a blind rage with slashing blades grown from the shoulder. Necromorphs mostly resemble humans, but with a creepy twist to their manic features, where arms are growing out of the stomach and blades formed where arms should be. Dismembering the legs will slow them down, but they'll still be intent on getting you by crawling, using their blade-like arms for support. Necromorph babies can jump around the walls and ceiling of the Ishimura and attack by firing an organic substance from tentacles, and scorpion like necromorphs can leap great distances and whip you with their tale, and if you dismember that, they'll change their stance and go to extreme lengths to see you dead by charging at you. All the different types of necromorphs are brilliantly designed with twisted appendages sprouting all over the place, and sprouting new limbs if certain ones become sliced off. The way they quickly adapt is a frightening aspect about them, and their organised and co-ordinated attack formations make them deadly when in packs, and fending them off as quickly and brutally as you can is critical for your chances to succeed and progress on towards an objective. You have to carefully assess each necromorph, inflict damage on their weaknesses, and make sure they aren't playing dead which many of them do before jumping up and putting you in a shocked state. Being certain they are completely shredded is also important, and this clever planning by certain necromorphs can not only cause you to lose control and a grip on the scenario, but also keep you mentally aware each time a corpse is in your path. There are also a few boss battles where you engage in against large necromorphs, and saying how you encounter them would spoil the game, but these confrontations are epic and memorable long after you complete the game.

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LENGTH - 5/5
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Dead Space's deeply engrossing story will last a very good length of about 15 hours, and the length may possibly be increased depending on how cautious you are when approaching each room you enter and how often you thoroughly search the ship's lockers and containers for much needed and valuable items and ammo.

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REPLAY VALUE - 5/5
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Dead Space's film-worthy script, innovative strategic dismemberment gameplay mechanic and nightmarish atmosphere contributed by the exceptional audio and gruesome imagery is just a few of the reasons why Dead Space is worth replaying again and again. Upgrading weapons and equipment fully via the nano-circuit repair workbench will take at least 2 playthroughs, possibly more depending on how often you decide to purchase power nodes from the store using credits. Power nodes must be sequentially installed along upgrade paths, and so numerous power nodes will be used to simply fill gaps in the circuit rather than be placed to an upgrade of your choosing, and this layout forces you to choose wisely with the rare power nodes you've collected so as to not waste them.
Overall Dead Space is terrifying sci-fi shooter that provides haunting situations that can only be culminated in bloodshed. The holographic HUD, inventory system, video and text log presentation keeps you immersed in the creepy and breathtaking environments of the USG Ishimura, and the outstanding sound design does a perfect of job of making your flesh crawl while also causing an inner battle with your self-conscious sanity and mental endurance throughout in this totally engrossing and terrifying deep space, survival horror adventure.

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OVERALL SUMMARY - 10/10
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Good Points: Deeply engrossing story, Strategic dismemberment gameplay results in all sorts of intense bloodbaths, Breathtaking visuals and level design, Weapons are improvised from futuristic mining tools, Truly terrifying deep-space adventure with a sustained spine-tingling atmosphere, Blood-curdling audio and believable sound effects, Terrific voice acting enhances plot and character progression, Lots of unsettling gruesome imagery, Frighteningly intelligent and menacing enemies that can adapt to bodily damage and dismembered limbs, Overall presentation is stunning with holographically projected menus and HUD display all presented in real time to keep you immersed.

Bad Points: Blocky pixels on protagonist's shadow.

Discussion

1 comments
midway_nights
midway_nights

it was an amazing game to be remembered for a long time, i must say it brought the same feeling that resident evil 4 brought in 2005 on ps2.