Dead Space

Review

posted 10/27/2008 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
For the most part the space station doesn't feel all that different from your normal haunted house; however there are moments when the game breaks free and goes in a brand new direction. One example of that is when you get to step outside of the ship. Not only do you have to worry about running out of oxygen, but you also get to fly around in zero gravity. Being able to leap dozens of feet and land on what would be the ceiling is really a lot of fun, and it adds a lot to this tried and true horror game formula.

I can't accurately talk about Dead Space without mentioning the games that clearly inspired it. I am, of course, talking about Resident Evil and BioShock. Although the story is set in space, there's no doubt that the game is taking its cues straight from the Resident Evil plotlines. What's more, the narrative is taken directly from BioShock, one of last year's best games. Throw in some similar plot devices, transportation, telekinesis power, and achievements and you have a game that is a little too similar to BioShock for comfort. Unfortunately what isn't taken from BioShock is probably taken from Resident Evil; I couldn't help but feel like I had seen many of the best elements in other survival horror games.


As I played through the game I was somewhat conflicted, while I was certainly having a lot of fun, I couldn't overlook how derivative Dead Space is. It's not just elements from popular video games, either. Some of the game's plot devices are reminiscent of some of Hollywood's biggest horror films. If you're a fan of Sci-Fi movies then you'll likely see at least one or two of the big twists coming a mile away. In the end I can't say that any of this took away from the overall experience, but I wish I could say more about all of the brand new innovations this game brought to the survival horror genre.

What kept me going was the great sense of pacing and the interesting (albeit generic) plotline. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a scary story, but the game's unique location and great cast of villains kept me on the edge of my seat. Every element of this game is spot-on, from the fantastic voice acting to the stunning visuals to the way you get sucked into the struggle of these people. It's all done surprisingly well, which is even more impressive when you consider that this is Electronic Arts' first stab at this genre. It's clear that the developers of Dead Space have been taking notes of the other recent horror games.

Not enough can be said about the game's impressive visuals. Now that the Xbox 360 is nearing its third birthday, I figured I was done being wowed by silky smooth graphics. I was wrong. Even though much of the game is dark, you can still see the impressive attention to detail found throughout the ship. Where the game excels is when you're standing in front of a huge window and you can see the rest of the solar system. Or when you're stepping outside of the ship and watching the oxygen get sucked out of the room. Or when you're battling one of the enormous bosses. Or when you have one of the gooey alien monsters jumping right into your face. There are dozens of these examples, each one permanently etched into my memory. I could go on for the next three paragraphs talking about all of the little things that make this game look so good, but you have no idea how great the visuals are until you see it up close and in person.

It would be enough for the game to just look good, but it also features one of the best soundtracks of the year. The game is filled with haunting incidental music, the type of thing you would hear from a big budget Sci-Fi film. But even more impressive are all of the sounds that accompany the music, from the dozens of different alien noises to how powerful all of the weapons sound. And that goes for when you're outside, too. The moment you walk outside of the ship you are met with a claustrophobic muted noise, the kind of sound that you can barely hear but you know is there. It's an incredible effect that makes you feel the difference (and the danger) of being outside. Dead Space is one of the few games where the audio can give you an almost visual experience.

On top of the great graphics, amazing audio and ten hour story, you get a game that feel comfortable and precise. It's always easy to aim your gun and the buttons never feel awkward. Even when you're forced to hold down two buttons at the same time, the control scheme somehow feels natural. It's nice to see that Resident Evil 4's over-the-shoulder gameplay is being imitated, that was really a great change to the survival horror genre.


At the end of the day Dead Space isn't doing anything especially new or noteworthy, but the things it does it does exceptionally well. For a lot of people this game is going to come out of nowhere, but once they see it they're going to be impressive with how polished and solid this experience is. The game sets up a great story, and even though I have some misgivings with the ugly space suit and the twisted ending, I still feel that this is the best survival horror game since Resident Evil 4.


B+
It's not without a few flaws, but those who go exploring around Dead Space will find it to be a fascinating survival horror game with an amazing presentation. Considering this is Electronic Arts' first stab at the genre it's hard not to be impressed with this game, I just wish that it was a little less derivative. Dead Space is a stunning game that every horror game fanatic needs in their collection!


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