Dead Space // Xbox 360
March 23, 2009
Dead Space seems intent to make you love and hate it in equal measure. For every three set pieces that have you gaping in wonder, there will be a fourth that has you weeping (or turning the air blue) in frustration. One section in particular, where you have to man a cannon and destroy asteroids flying towards the ship, is so out of character with the rest of the game that it almost derails the entire experience, making you slam the power off switch and swear to never play the game again (or was that just me?)
Perseverance, though, is key. Once you get past the inhuman, sadistic sections of the game, Dead Space then pulls out all the stops. Graphically, it’s a marvel, even in a current generation where gorgeous games are the norm, not the exception. The interface system is subtly integrated into existing elements on screen, thereby reducing the need for big ugly menu systems and health gauges cluttering up the HUD. Weapons are unique and extremely satisfying to use, particularly the Ripper – a gun that sends out a rotating ripsaw that carves into your enemies – I defy anyone not to use it and start cooing contentedly. Only the Pulse Rifle resembles anything from any other games in the FPS genre – by and large, the weapons are innovative and interesting.
The story is worthwhile without being the standout factor, fleshed out with constant communication with your comrades via the Riglink – basically a video connection built in to your spacesuit. These, and text-based logs from the missing crew members, bear a striking resemblance to the devices used in Bioshock, but you can’t begrudge Dead Space for using them when they work so effectively in immersing you in the plot. Credits collected from containers around the ship allow you to buy more weapons, and Power Nodes enable Isaac (your character) to upgrade his existing weapons and suit. And, believe me, this is an essential aspect in your quest to discover the ‘marker’. The Necromorph; mutated, heaving, fleshy lumps hell-bent on your destruction, get progressively more and more hellish – and only souped-up weapons will silence them for good.
Another area in which the game should be praised is in the sound design. Particularly in the sections where you must navigate a vacuum, where all extraneous noise gets muted out and only your echoed and hollow footsteps ring out from your speakers. As a graphical and sonic experience, Dead Space is a gem; a sparkling FPS jewel that only rarely threatens to lose it’s lustre when the game tries it’s hardest to punish you unfairly. Rise above it, grit your teeth and ready your Ripsaw, and the end result is a game that will stay in your games console (and your dreams) for some time.