After many months of isolation from the world in order to play Call of Duty, I decided to come out of my little cave and try something new. First on my list of rentals was Dead Space, the game I’ve been hearing praise about ever since its release last October. I’ve never been a huge fan of the survival horror genre, save for a few games such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil, simply because I’ve had terrible experiences with the genre’s controls and quite generally they just aren’t scary. Big scary looking monsters stopped being actually scary many years ago, and dead bodies falling from ceilings doesn’t get the job done anymore. It’s the horror games that provide a genuine disturbing story paired with some gruesome effects that really gets me going. Unfortunately Dead Space doesn’t go nearly as deep as I’d like, but it did provide a very fun experience. It felt more of a scary action game than a horror survival, which by no means makes it a bad game. Dead Space is a really fun shooter with an ultimately shallow, yet effective story.
The basic premise of Dead Space is that you’re stuck on a spaceship infested with strange alien lifeforms that breed from the corpses of the dead crew. After being separated from your own crew, who was sent to the mining colony to fix the broken communications equipment, you embark on a journey not only to find out what happened on the ship, but escape the ship and essentially save your own life. There are a couple small plot maneuvers but nothing very exciting. At the end of the day, I really didn’t care about the story. Obviously I wanted to get to the bottom of what went down on the ship, but nothing really drew me into the characters or whatever else was going on. Also, for the first 6 or so chapters, it feels like you’re running from objective to objective for no reason. For me, the game didn’t really pick up until around the 7th chapter, when it actually felt like I was finally accomplishing something on that God forsaken ship.
The overall look of Dead Space’s environments and characters is something to praise, however. The graphics are astonishing. The first time I dismembered an enemy and saw his leg fly through the air was just awesome. Going into the game, I thought that the environments would tend to be rather dull and repetitive since, for the most part, the whole game takes place on a single vessel. But EA did a great job of establishing each sector of the ship into a unique level. Levels such as the medical station, environmental deck, and the mining bay all help to mix up the visuals and make sure you’re never staring at the same scenery. The monsters are also very well designed. The monsters breed from the body of the colony’s crew, and so they’re very human like grotesque figures. There is a wide variety of monsters, such as monsters that have scorpion like tails instead of legs, and drag themselves along the floor, which are equally creepy. All in all, the monster design is much better than the usual clueless zombies we see in most horror games.
What stands above the graphics and storyline is the gameplay. Dead Space uses the same over-the-shoulder third person view and laser sight attachments as Resident Evil 4. This makes gunplay and aiming very easy. The point of Dead Space is to kill enemies by removing their limbs. Awesome, right? So depending on which gun you’re using, you can simply aim at the joints and shoot a couple times to blow of the enemies’ leg, arm, or head. However, once a monster has lost its leg and fallen on the ground, it will begin to drag itself towards you and swing at you with its arm. With the Plasma Cutter, you just change the sights to vertical lasers and you can now separate the arm from the shoulder. But how fun would it be to run around the entire game shooting a leg then an arm? This is where the multiple weapons come in. Among other weapons, you have the Ripper, which shoots circular saws, the Flamethrower, and the Contact Beam, a laser gun that can rip right through limbs. You’re also given the ability to upgrade the weapons in their damage, reload speed, and capacity. So depending on which weapons are your favourites (I stuck with the Plasma Cutter and the Ripper for most of the game), you can upgrade them into powerhouses. You also have the ability of Kinesis and Stasis, the ability to lift objects kinetically and the ability to slow down time. Although these two functions don’t really come into use a whole lot, there are some instances when you can lift up explosive barrels or fire extinguishers and plummet them towards the enemy. Even the Stasis felt like too much a chore for me to go around slowing down each enemy, so I usually only used when necessary. To mix up the pace, there are parts where you must use Kinesis to move around objects in zero gravity areas. One instance has you clear a hanger of debris by throwing them out of the hull, while tons of enemies are attacking you. Although it does mix up the pace a bit by giving you a secondary objective, it just feels out of place. The real money falls into killing monsters and ripping off their limbs, the other stuff isn’t needed.
I’m always looking for a great story in a videogame. I can forgive a game with boring gameplay and terrible graphics if it has an intriguing story. The storyline falls a bit flat for me, but any casual gamer would be more than happy with Dead Space, providing the awesome graphics and great gunplay. I haven’t really seen many games with the over-the-shoulder perspective and I think it’s a really neat alternative to the typical third person shooters. The laser sights on every gun also draw me in. I hate it in some games where you can shoot 5 bullets and miss every time. Aiming weapons in Dead Space is done so seamlessly; it isn’t a chore to kill monsters. Maybe it’s just because the last survival horror game I played was a disaster (Silent Hill: Homecoming), but Dead Space was a fun experience. I seriously didn’t want to put the game down, which is why I beat it in about 2 days with a gametime of around 12 hours. So if survival horror is your thing, or even if you want a cool shooter, Dead Space is definitely worth the rental. I consider it too short and not enough replayability for an actual purchase, but it’s definitely a really cool game.