Dead space was one of those games that had fallen under my radar. I’d heard good things, but never enough to push me into playing. When the buzz for Dead Space 2 started and with the amount of praise coming out for the original, I thought it was time I ventured onto the USG Ishimura. I wasn’t disappointed.
You play engineer Isaac Clarke who has been sent to investigate a distress call from the ‘planet cracking’ mining ship, USG Ishimura.
As you try to dock with the ship, you crash, forcing you and your crew onto the ship in search of transport. While exploring you become separated and can only watch as your crew is brutally attacked and killed by some unknown creatures.
Wandering around on your own with only video link and radio contact with the two surviving members of the team, you are guided through the ship to bring it back online and investigate the fate of the inhabitants.
This game is played in third person view which really puts your character into the environment. To help immerse the player even more is removal of the familiar HUD. All the information is represented on the suit or weapon, for example the health is indicated by a bar on the spine while the ammo is projected above the weapons.
The dark tones and tense music along with the industrial nature of the ship do a good job of keeping you on edge. As you wander through tight corridors with lights flickering and noises echoing around you, you can’t help but think something is just around the corner.
The creatures, or ‘Necromorphs’, themselves are unsettling. In the early part of the game you are mainly met by Necromorphs with limbs like scythes looking to jump out at you from any direction. As you progress through the game you encounter many different types, some attack from a distance, while most attack up close and personal with increasing damage and speed.
There are a couple of refreshing and challenging elements to dead space. One in particular is the ‘strategic dismemberment’. This encourages the player to sever limbs rather than aimlessly firing into enemies. While you can kill by firing aimlessly, shooting limbs kills them much quicker and more importantly conserves ammo. Ammo is scarce which really adds to the desperation of the situation. While you can buy ammo from ‘stations’ at limited locations, you frequently find yourself short of ammo, hoping to stumble across some in a stash or that the next enemy drops some.
Its not all run and gun. Each mission has some form of puzzle element to it, from simply swapping batteries to get a door to open, to rearranging satellites to get communications back online. These weren’t challenging puzzles but with the added pressure of Necromorphs they were sometimes problematic.
As you are an engineer you are not kitted out with a plethora of weaponry and unlimited supplies of ammo, but you have the means to upgrade the weapons you do have. At each stage of the ship you will come across work benches. To upgrade weapons at these work benches you need to acquire power nodes. There is at least one at each stage of the ship, and allows you to upgrade things like, damage and capacity. You also obtain credits as you progress through the game. With these you can buy new weapons, ammo or even upgrade your suit.
Each weapon you use has a secondary fire mode which you can switch between using the shoulder button. These vary between weapons and depending on the situation can prove useful.
Issac also has two other abilities, Kinesis and Stasis. These can prove vary useful and are powered using Stasis Module, which can be found on enemies in stashes or bought from the store. These can also be upgraded using the power nodes for things like range or duration.
Kinesis give you the ability to control objects from a distance. This is mainly used to help move objects for some of the puzzle elements of the game but they can also be used to throw objects, from limbs of enemies to exploding canisters. This can get you out of a tight spot when low on ammo. The Stasis ability allows you to slow down enemies. This gives you a chance to really take your aim.
There are also moments in the game where you find yourself in a vacuum. In these situations you move slower as you are fixed magnetically to the surface, but you are able to jump between surfaces. These sections are quite like mazes and since you also have a limited air supply, you have to navigate your way through quickly. While this was fun, I did find the camera angles frustrating. Jumping from one platform to the ceiling only to be disorientated as the camera repositions itself to you new location, leaving you with a choice of running out of air or heading back where you came. I found a few times it wouldn’t let me jump to seeming appropriate surfaces. Whether these were out of range was unclear and with the time limit it did result in a few annoying deaths.
I didn’t know what to expect from Dead Space but after playing it I can say I was impressed. This game pulls off the sci-fi horror genre well. Being a fan I couldn’t help but draw similarities with films of the same genre, Event Horizon and Pandorum instantly sprung to mind.
This game kept me hooked from start to finish and keeping me on the edge of my seat. It has been a while since a game got my heart racing and it really immersed me into the experience. This has definitely whetted my appetite to step into the role of Issac Clark for his next outing in Dead Space 2.
If you want a game that makes you play with the lights on, then this is for you.
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