Dead Space Review (Continued)

Another complaint is the 3D map. It's impossible to use but is the only negative of the game's otherwise welcome hudless display system. Fortunately a helpful locator beacon was added to show you the way to your objectives. The controls take a bit getting used to; Isaac's placement on-screen is not centered, but a bit to the left. Isaac can't jump or crouch, two things that I always feel constrained without.

For those who enjoy a good scare, especially of the sci-fi variety, Dead Space is a must title to play. For everyone else, give the demo a try and see if you like it. You might be surprised.

- Last Update 01/01/09

Dead Space Review ★★★★

Dead Space could easily be dismissed as yet another derivative sci-fi shooter. The story features a space ship that no one can make contact with, a greedy corporation (literally) destroying a planet for profit, and of course the dead corpses of the ship's crew that have been reanimated into hideous death-hungry monsters. Haven't we been through this before? I mean, does the gaming world really need more space-zombies?

That's sort of like asking on Superbowl Sunday (or any Sunday in Autumn), "Haven't we settled this football thing, already?" Repetition isn't by itself a bad thing; quite the contrary for those who enjoy whatever it is being repeated. And when the execution is as polished as what EA have shown in Dead Space, its fresh take might even add some new fans to the genre.

Perhaps the most obvious of the new twists that Dead Space brings to the experience is the widely-publicized "strategic dismemberment." Instead of gunning for the instant-kill head shot of most games, you'll need to sever the limbs of your Necromorphic foes to bring about their demise. Making every shot count is already imperative in the ammunition-scarce survival horror genre, but strategic dismemberment makes precision shooting even more imperative, as you now have multiple targets that must be hit on each monster. The panic level really goes up when multiple foes attack and you've got to fire quickly and accurately.

The game is dark, as one would expect, and there's a custom brightness setting to ensure that the shadows remain so. When there isn't much to see, the ears begin to take notice, and a good sound system or pair of headphones will grab the imagination when an unwelcome groan is heard in a room you thought you had to yourself. This type of suspense does not rise to the intensity found in, say, The Strangers, but these moments do rise above the typical, "Boo!"

To aid in restoring order to the chaos is the Stasis power. Stasis a charging Necromorph and its movment slows to a crawl - for a time. This adds a tactical element to your battles as you can prioritize which foes are most in need of pruning. You can either Stasis the others to get your attention later or Stasis the whole lot and make targeting easier. Upgrading your Stasis power allows the effect to last longer.

You can also upgrade your weapons as well as your hit points. The RPG-like aspect of the game is greatly welcomed -- customizing your game play to suit your preferred playing style enhances both the fun-factor as well as replayability. My first play-through I focused on a defensive play style by first upgrading Stasis and hit points. This strategy left me sorely lacking in firepower and I found a subsequent play-through where I focused on first upgrading my weapons to be much more successful. An offensive play style is the way to go in this game.

Dead Space's varied arsenal is another boon to replayability. You'll start with the Plasma Cutter, a mining tool used in Isaac's line of work. In fact, most of the weapons are not weapons outright but rather are mining implements that also happen to perform remarkably well at severing limbs. The Line Gun, the Plasma Cutter's big brother, has an upgradeable width that tears through huge numbers of limbs at once. The Force Gun pushes enemies away with lethal consequences, and the Ripper is a magnetic saw that is truly something to behold when controlled by someone with the right talent (and twisted mind). Two disappointments are the underpowered Flamethrower and the unimaginative Pulse Rifle.