Dead Space has a lot going for it. It offers an exciting Aliens-meets-Event Horizon story, has drop dead gorgeous graphics and has some of the best audio I've heard all year. It's also a fantastic controlling game that takes the survival horror genre to brand new locations. It has enough interesting weapons to keep you going and a solid group of voice actors. Yes, Dead Space has a lot going for it. But there's one thing it can't claim to be, and that's original.
It's easy to explain Dead Space; it's the exact cross between Resident Evil and last year's sleeper hit, BioShock. That's not hyperbole, just about every idea found in Dead Space was taken from either Resident Evil or BioShock. Not that this is a bad thing, both of those games are fantastic in their own right, and it's hard to fault somebody from wanting to ape some of the best (and creepiest) adventure games of all time. But at the same time the constant aping is so over the top and obvious that I would be insane for not noticing it.
But I digress; the story of Dead Space is right out of a modern day science fiction movie. You play Isaac Clarke, one of the unlucky people sent on a routine mission to repair its communications array. However, things are not as they seem. Almost immediately the crew is attacked by these freaky humanoid alien creatures, forcing everybody to flee and (surprise, surprise) splits you up from everybody else.
Upon further investigation Isaac learns (to his horror) that something very bad has happened to this large mining ship. This boat used to hold a thousand people, yet now there doesn't seem to be anybody alive. Worse yet, in their place are these aggressive aliens who don't seem to like your company very much. And these aren't just your regular old aliens, either. Oh no, these guys only seem to die when you shoot their limbs off, either their arms, legs, and even their head. From this point on Isaac is on his own in an attempt to find out what happened to his girlfriend, get rid of the aliens and uncover just what the heck is going on.
Throughout the course of this 10 hour game you will work your way all over this abandoned ship solving puzzles and shooting up bad guys. Through BioShock-style audio diaries you will learn what happened to the crew of this ship and where these monsters came from. You'll have to get your mind around a couple of major plot twists, and an ending that doesn't withstand scrutiny. All this while looking at some of the best visuals produced by the Xbox 360. If you're one of the many gamers who can't wait until Capcom releases Resident Evil 5 next spring, then Dead Space is the game for you.
You play the game from the third-person over-the-shoulder perspective, similar to that of Resident Evil 4. The game's big gimmick is in its combat. Unlike most zombie-infested survival horror games, Dead Space isn't about shooting at the body or the head. Instead you want to take off one of the limbs. You can do this with a whole host of different weapons, from your standard Plasma Cutter (which works like a handgun, only with the added bonus of firing three shots), the Pulse Rifle (an incredibly destructive machine gun), the Ripper (a hover saw blade), the Force Gun (basically a shotgun) and more. From beginning to end, the whole game revolves around shooting off different limbs, so it shouldn't surprise you that all of the enemies (including the bosses) have numerous limbs to blow off. There's something strangely rewarding about shooting off hundreds (maybe even thousands) of different limbs while searching for your missing girlfriend.
Another thing that sets Dead Space apart from other survival horror games is its lack of a heads-up display. Everything that would normally adorn the top of the screen has been placed either on your ugly space suit or on the gun itself. For example, your life is displayed via a blue bar running up the character's spine, your bullets are displayed using a futuristic holographic display right above the weapon, and so on. This holographic display business goes way passed showing ammo; you will also communicate with the other survivors using a video screen that pops up right in front of your face. This means that you can actually get stuff done while you're having a conversation, such as fighting bad guys and picking up fallen loot. The fact that you still have control and can continue your adventure while these "cinemas" are going on is really a great idea, especially after coming off of playing the Metal Gear Solid games.
The other big addition to the survival horror genre is the location itself, a space station. Obviously this isn't the first game in this genre to take you to space (Dino Crisis 3 and Run Like Hell spring to mind), but Dead Space is the first to truly get it right. Each part of the ship is spooky in its own way, and there's a surprising amount of attention to detail in this world. In a lot of ways the world reminded me of Rapture, BioShock's underwater dystopian world. Obviously this game isn't going for the same atmosphere, but it's hard not to think of Andrew Ryan's new world when you see the destroyed environments and fake advertisements plastered on the walls.
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