Dead Space starts off onboard the bridge of a spaceship. The crew is going to find out what’s wrong with a mining space station which has sent out distress signals. Being a horror game, the alarm bells rang in my head, and I must stress this: If you ever find yourself in space and get a distress signal from anybody, DON’T FUCKING GO THERE! It always ends up in nasty aliens and horrible deaths!
Of course you end up at the space station, and it doesn't take long time before you realize the place if seriously messed up by horrible creatures. These alien life forms take over dead bodies and roam around with sharp, claw-like, long arms and legs. To kill them you need to cut of each limb off with your gun. This is the genius gameplay part of Dead Space. You need to kill enemies in a different way than just headshotting them like in a typical zombie game.
Dead Space is made up of chapters, which represent different parts of the space station. Each chapter presents you with a different task to do; starting up generators, restoring power etc. There are some backtracking chapters, but it helps to give a sense of familiarity to the environments. There are doors to unlock, items to find and help you upgrade your spacesuit and guns.
Visually the game is stunning; it shows a dark and modern space station in glorious detail. The outside views of space and planets, together with the lighting really look superb; in fact the lighting plays a huge part indoors too. It casts shadows from fans and enemies, helping to build up a fantastic atmosphere. If there is a downside though, I would have liked more “outdoor” views, less corridors and more colour variety. From trailers I’m guessing Dead Space 2 is fixing this.
I've already explained the gameplay part about how to take down enemies. However great idea this is it wouldn't help if the controls weren't good. Luckily they are awesome in Dead Space. The game controls like Gears of War; over the shoulder view and free aiming. This game is a lesson to developers like Capcom; there is no excuse to have slow, stagnant controls that won’t allow you to move freely while shooting. I hear people say: “but then the game gets too easy”. Bullshit. Dead Space never has very many enemies onscreen, and lets you control it like a FPS game and it’s still hard and puts you in many stressing, disturbing and tense moments. I went into many rooms SWAT-style with my gun aimed up high and cautiously turned each corner. I was scared as hell and the free controls only added a sense of it all being under my control and skill to survive.
I have to make a small note of the outdoor sections which had no sound except your heavy breathing and the rooms without gravity. They really spiced up the game and felt great! They made fighting a little more tricky and added variety to the gameplay.
These intense moments of enemies attacking you, either in a locked room or sneaking up when you don’t realize it added with the sheer amount of extreme gore make Dead Space one of the best survival horror games I have played. It’s right up there next to Silent Hill and Resident Evil. I don’t really watch so much horror movies, but I love horror games. They give you this intense fight for survival which just gets harder and worse during the game and it really feels good when you get to the end and can breathe out. You get the feeling you've taken part in surviving and fighting for your life.
(This article was first published on Monday, October 18, 2010 on my original IGN blog.)