With the upcoming (and already on sale) Dead Space 3, Mr. Towelhead, who appears to have a thing for franchises, felt like doing a Dead Space series review. Starting with the first game, obviously. And later on Mr. Towelhead will review Dead Space 2. For now, all images are copyright of EA Games and Visceral Games, and used to educate you on how F*** OMG! Dead Space is. Enjoy.

Mr. Towelhead reviews:

dead space_cover

DEAD SPACE

Dead Space was released in 2008, published by EA Games, and developed by Visceral Games. The games designers were Glen Schofield and Bret Robbins. As for the genre we are talking about a survival horror, third person shooter, science fiction game. Survival horror games like Resident Evil, rely on horror (dah) and survival (more dah). Basically you are thrown into a horrific situation and must survive against all odds with limited options. Third person shooter games, like Gears of War rely on action and shooting things with the camera place over-shoulder behind the protagonist, and you having a gun (shooter game, dah) and you shoot things in front of you. And sci-fi, because it takes place in space. Tada.

What made Dead Space such a beloved game were a couple of original and well planned concepts.

CONCEPT

While most survival horror games take place in modern times Dead Space dared to do so in a future time. Not only that, the protagonist is a regular engineer with no military training. No police, no army, no thug or anything, a regular engineer with no weapons training. Yet as an engineer you help yourself by customizing mining equipment into rudimentary weapons.

Although you fight mutated zombies (not so original), instead of spraying zombies with bullets, accuracy is the only key to survival. The enemies (called necromorphs) can only be put down by severing their limbs. With only limited ammo every bullet counts, and pissing a magazine into the body of mass of a single enemy will get you killed sooner than you can scream “Argh!”.

More over different enemies have different anatomical structures, and so improvisation and quick reflexes are a key to surviving.

STORY

The story is surprisingly original, for a third person shooter that is. * SPOILER ALERT *

A crazy religious cult, with (possibly intentional) hints of scientology and the government have a thing for an alien artifact that they want to test/destroy/gain control of. Unfortunately this artifact has the, slight tendency to make people crazy, force them to self-mutilation and finally spawns necromorph infectors that can turn living and dead human tissue into monstrous creatures for all sorts of different infection spreading purposes. Yey!

* SPOILER ALERT END *

You enter the place with no idea of what is happening and hope to rescue your sister/girlfriend. * In the german version of Dead Space 1, Nicole is referred to, as your sister. Yet in Dead Space 2, she is referred to, as your girl. So there. Story-wise you will be given clues throughout the game of what the hell happened, and each audio or video log you encounter, a part from telling the story provides a disturbing side of the madness that’s taken on board, further immersion into the universe.

Dead Space will convince you through ambience, light, sound effects and of course the monsters

dead space_space

Dead Space does rely on jump scares, but mainly the atmosphere, the sound effects, the impressive graphics and details of the word around you will drive the horror story, and in a way drive you slowly to madness. And scare the living shi* out of you.

GAMEPLAY

Another conceptual aspect that was a delight of Dead Space is that the game menu is accessed live as a holograph in front of you. Weapons and item management is done while enemies may (and will) attack you. To compensate you have a number of hot keys to quickly access items, weapons and movements.

As a dedicated engineer you can access work stations and toy around with your equipment to improve it, while you also have access to shops where you can buy items, weapons and improved gear. What is cool, is that you don’t have access to “normal” weapons, except for a riffle. Because the hero wouldn’t even know how to use them. Instead you manufacture all sorts of cutting devices from mining equipment. This also added a ton of flair and immersion (you could call it realistic).

The USG Ishimura is called a miracle of modern technology. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Credits for the screenshot go to: Lukas Zierau!

dead space_ishimura

NOTHING works around this giant piece of crap and watching it crash into the planet is the most satisfying thing to do in the game! Ups, spoiler alert :S On a second thought I just realized that  the Ishimura doesn’t crash at the end, its only a meteor. Oh sad reality, it would have been fun to see that piece of crap die.

One aspect of the game that annoyed me a bit, was that level progression meant going about, basically, shopping lists for your comrades. Nothing in the ship works to the point of being ridiculous. You will be fetching fuel, connecting wires, collecting access keys, overriding emergency protocols, sending SOS signals and so on at the orders from your idiotic partners who can do next to nothing and die, for the entire game. I for once wanted to tell them to F* off and let me decide what to do. In a way it made me miss the days when game levels meant nothing more than going from point A to point B and fighting a Boss Battle.

GAME MECHANICS

While you can move decently, our hero is still an engineer and goes about, clumsily. You are slow, turn around slowly, can’t take cover and your physical strength is insufficient, whereas your enemies are strong, fast and numerous. Your only chance of survival is accuracy and adaptability.

Attention to detail is another nice part of the experience. You can portray a map of the level you are in, zoom in and out, move around, display different objectives and show directions. And you can do all this live, you can even walk around with the holographic map displayed.

There are a few other extras like zero gravity jumping, telekinesis and stasis field projection. Worth mentioning is that, in easy difficulty you will barely bother to upgrade or even use these features. Beyond normal difficulty you WILL DIE unless you learn how to master these features.

DESIGN

A “regular” zombie, you minding its own business :D

dead space_zombie

The enemy design is out of this world. You will encounter a ton of the “regular” zombies. And by “regular” I mean mutated humans with sliced upon jaws, four arms and blades coming out of their palms. But you will also encounter a great bunch of really messed-up live forms, all made up from human life and dead remains with their unique set of abilities, weaknesses and generally just messed-up-ness!

On this regard, the boss design is really not so decent. You will encounter about three bosses, and they all are gigantic tentacles with nodes (weak points), so that will disappoint you.

No sexual innuendo here, just a giant clitoris with rape tentacles. Nothing fancy.

dead space_tentacle

VERDICT

For a survival horror Dead Space is unique, original, gory, involving and truly scary by means of the story and atmosphere… and a few jump scares. Boss battles are ridiculous and flat, no story behind, no involvement and the boss monster design is terrible. The regular enemies that you encounter by the lot, ARE the true boss battles of the game and a driving force of antagonism that will challenge our hero, a simple engineer to become a surviving champion and maybe, maybe even see your love interest again.

I can’t possibly be objective because I liked it so much.

10 / 10

If you like video games and specially if you like third person shooters and/or survival horror games you will love every single moment of Dead Space. On the other hand, if your gaming addiction revolves around relaxation, you know jump n run games, you should probably avoid Dead Space.

P.D. My favorite enemy was the guardian, because it was still alive and featured a human somewhat conscious of what was happening to her. As an enemy fix to a wall, you would instinctively disregard it as a minor danger until you realized (often too late) how big of a threat it was. Frustrated by its fire capabilities and difficulty to put down I decided to simply ignore it and run by passed it. You know what happened next.

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