Immersive and thrilling, Dead Space does not disappoint.
holandes-voador wrote this review on .
If you just read the above paragraph out of context it would be hard to know what it is that you're reading about. From Event Horizon to Doom 3, Dead Space borrows many elements of other Sci-Fi plots. You will not find an original story here, but if what you're looking for is an excellent gameplay with great production values, you can't go wrong with this game.
Taking control of the silent hero Isaac Clarke, through a third person over the shoulder perspective, you will, little by little, discover what has happened aboard the station. By recovering some logs left by the now deceased crew of the Ishimura you'll learn about the creatures called Necromorphs, who now infest the ship and are hunting you. It is when fighting them that one of the most interesting aspects of this game appears, the Strategic Dismemberment.
You can kill Necromorphs by repeatedly shooting them at their chests, but you'll certainly waste a lot of your precious ammo with it. The way to faster dispose of them is to dismember their limbs, like their legs, tentacles, tail or even head. Even though some of them retain some humanoid form the usual weak spots, like a good placed head shot, will do little more than to stagger them for a little while. Only by tearing their limbs can you effectively kill them faster and conserve ammunition. This makes for an extremely exciting combat, for you must take each type of enemy in a different way. No matter how many times you may run into a Necromorph, severing their legs and later cutting of their arms never gets old.
Now, to properly get rid of an enemy you'll need a good arsenal and Dead Space is not short on supply. There are seven weapons in total, but they are all varied and have a second fire mode. It's true that the most reliable is your initial weapon, the Plasma Cutter, and some of them - like the Flame Thrower or the Ripper - don't feel very useful; but their "coolness" alone will make you'll want to go back to them from time to time, just to see how they feel like. Aside from the weapons, Isaac's Rig (his armor) gets upgraded early into the game with the Stasis and Telekinesis. With Stasis you'll be able to slow down objects, which is how most puzzles in the game are solved, and enemies, which makes dismembering them a lot easier. Telekinesis will be used mostly to solving puzzles. Although it can also be used for combat, like throwing an explosive barrel or a severed claw back at enemies, this part never feels fleshed out and is underused. Only when playing at the hardest difficulty of the game did I start paying attention to how I could use this for my advantage, so I could conserve more ammo. All weapons and armor can be upgraded by going to a bench. You can implant nodes into your equipment, making them do more damage, have greater ammo capacity, shoot faster, etc. You can find these nodes in some cabins or you can buy them at the store.
Throughout the Ishimura you'll run across stores. In here you can buy ammunition for your guns, health packs and even new suits or weapons, given that you find the schematics for them. It's never explained in any log exactly how these stores function. Though it may not be the point of the game to wonder about such things, it strikes me as weird that a civilian is able to buy a flame thrower while working in a space station, but that's okay. Once you leave these thoughts behind you'll see that the store is a nice implement. It may not be very deep, but the combination of the store and the bench provide you with some strategy at how you may want to tackle the game. You may prefer to keep a lot of health and stasis packs stashed in case you need them later, or you might feel that selling them and buying as many power nodes as you can to upgrades your weapons is the right thing to do. As I said, it isn't really deep and you'll most likely only wonder what you want to upgrade on your first playthrough, but it's something nice to have.
Your objectives will be given to you by the surviving members of your team. They are mostly consisted on you repairing something that needs immediate fixing or you'll all die, like turning on the asteroid defense system of the ship or finding out why the air is becoming toxic. It seems that every time you have just resolved a problem another thing, bigger this time, has appeared. Even though it may seem artificial the way these threats show up they never seem tackled on and you never feel that what you're doing is pointless. Getting to the end of a chapter after guaranteeing your survival for a while longer is a reward in itself.
One aspect though that is not so rewarding are the boss fights. They are short in number, only three, and each of the bosses look a lot alike. There is a in game reason for their similarity, but a greater variation of their designs would be more appreciated. This does not mean they do not look good, in fact their sheer size and greatness will leave you with your mouth ajar. Unfortunately you'll quickly remember to close it when you see how easy it is too kill them, even at greater difficulties. On a side note, if you consider yourself as part of the "hardcore" videogame audience, do yourself a favor and go straight to the hard difficulty. Not that you'll breeze through normal, but there was not a moment on normal where I felt I had overcome something. You'll have a good amount of challenge without feeling like pulling your hair out on the hard difficulty.
As I mentioned about the bosses, they look really good. But this does not apply only to them. In fact, the entire game is an eye candy. The Ishimura's interior looks good and is very detailed, as well as the enemies. Two places specially, the ships bridge and the last chapter, look incredible. This, allied with a great sound design make up for a very immersive experience. Hearing asteroids bumping on ship's hull, or enemies crawling around the vents really adds up to the horror atmosphere that the game wants to provide; and trust me, you will jump a few times out of seat. It's a shame though that about a third into the game the horror starts to fade away; I could always predict where enemies would jump out from, and thus not be scared. Also your weapons will start to get stronger and you'll know how to effectively kill each enemy. The game will still manage to give a fright or two, but the atmosphere goes away.
Dead Space does not create a new paradigm, but that's okay because it's not what it wants to do. Its story and some aspects of its universe may not be strikingly original or very well explored, but they are enough to make you want to go all the way through. It fulfills its role of being a very good and well made action game focused on its gameplay experience.