Dead Space

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 89% (based on 120 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 170 ratings with 7 reviews)

All of my favourite horror games plagiarized to perfection

The Good
It is seemingly as if they took all my favourite scary games and mashed them together into one piece of bloody perfection.

The Graphics of Mass Effect? Check. The same style of interior semblance as Doom 3? Check. Audio and Video logs as story progression from Resident Evil and Doom 3? Check. The same fantastic camera angle and controls of Resident Evil 4? Check. Gruesome blood and guts enemies like those in The Thing? Check. Enemies that don't "just die," like those in The Thing? Check. * Shop and upgrades from Resident Evil 4? Check. *Just enough originality to make one damn good game? Check.

Suffice to say while playing this game, I feel like someone read my mind and made a game out of it.

The atmosphere is just perfect. It looks extremely similar to the environments found in Doom 3, however the over the shoulder camera and controls lifted from Resident Evil 4 make for much more genuine scares. Additionally the enemies aren't your typical "Bang. You're dead" type. Very much like the video game adaptation of The Thing, you must finish off the enemy otherwise they might just get right back up and eat your face. Where as in The Thing players had to weaken and then torch the creatures, Dead Space is slightly less tedious in that you must "creatively dismember" the bad guys to kill them.

Speaking of atmosphere, this is a no-HUD game. Your only indication of your life status is the spine on the back of your suit. Very immersive. Speaking of immersion, the audio is just perfect in this game. Creepy sounds coming from vents, subtle creaks to keep you on your toes. It all works perfectly to really bring you into the experience. On top of that the audio effects for things like machinery on the ship is top notch. The muffled audio during space walks is also a nice touch.

The storyline is great. Told through text, audio and video logs found throughout the game it tells a compelling story that makes you actually want to seek out the documents.Top notch voice acting brings it home as one of the most cinematic games to date.

Finally, Dead Space offers some great customization. If you can suspend your disbelief at the arbitrary shops throughout the ship then you're in for some great fun. Your EV suit is fully customizable and upgradable. In addition your inventory can be expanded, weapons upgraded and certain items combined, adding a good strategy element.

The Bad
Nothing really. It's clear most, if not all of Dead Space was inspired by prior games. However it's done so extremely well that I can forgive it.

The Bottom Line
A coming together of some of the best games in the horror genre make for one excellent game. If you liked any of the games I mentioned, or just plain like scary games, then check this one out for sure.

PlayStation 3 · by MegaMegaMan (2257) · 2009

Dead Space, where even a soft whisper can make you pee yourself...

The Good
Dead Space is a Space Survival game set on the planet cracking Spaceship the USG Ishimura. Firstly before I start anything. This is an original IP from EA. A trend I really like. Yes, now it’s a success, there is the possibility that EA will suck the innovative life out of it’s unique qualities, this hasn’t happened yet. But we’re not here to talk about what could be with the Dead Space universe. We are here to talk about Dead Space as it is now, so lets get on with it.

Let me get the point of this review over and done with before I burst like a zombie with excitement: Dead Space is good. As long as you aren’t too squeamish, you’ll love it.

Ah, that’s better.

Dead Space has taken something we have all seen before, Space, Zombies and gratuitous blood and violence and made a game that takes you on a Journey that you won’t forget. You star as the woefully undeveloped Issac Clark, an engineer who is thrust upon the USG Ishimura with his crew when the communication’s go dead. All hell breaks loose when they crash-land onboard. Most of the crew are dead and there is an unusual growth creeping over the entire ship. The dead are rising and have become something unholy. And all Issac has as a weapon is the heel of his foot and a device called a ‘Plasma Cutter’ designed to cut through rock. Not Flesh.

The world that EA Redwood have put together is really engaging with over 160 different audio logs, a downloadable graphic novel (available free on Xbox live as videos) and text logs that perforate around the ship. The back-story and history that the characters live in is deep and real and really adds to the weight of Issac’s journey.

As Issac you receive missions from your living comrades, trying to figure out what has happened to this ship as it floats above the broken planet below and how to get out alive. Initially your arsenal is small, just the ‘Plasma Cutter’, but quickly you can buy other weapons and ammo, obtain new suits to beef up your armour. On top of all that you can upgrade your weapons and suit to maximise your survival potential. There will be moments as you play where you’ll look at the two shots of ammo and the one single bar of health. One room between you and the next store and you know it’s going to be tight. The tension builds within you. It’s so good and the Dead Space plays on this beautifully.

One thing you’ll really notice when playing Dead Space is that there is no HUD (Heads Up Display). The game is HUD-less. It wasn’t dismembered in an unusual smelting accident or lost in a game of cards, it’s a design choice; an immersive one. Everything you do in Dead Space is in the environment and it’s a fantastic. The health bar is along Issac’s spine, the meter for your status module (a device that lets you slow time on an enemy or object) is on his back, even the amount of air you have left is displayed when you need it ticking away to you death if you don’t move fast. All of your actions feel real, it’s another level to the immersion. When you get a video message it projects in front of Issac as a hologram, when you look in your inventory it pops up too; but doesn’t pause the game. Often when you need to play with your inventory you either have to be bloody fast or find somewhere safe to do it. It builds the tension beautifully.

All this tension, all the creeks of the ship, all the growling of alien necomorph beasts, all of it adds to the breathtaking and pant wetting Atmosphere. Dead Space has the atmosphere down. If EA Redwood have done anything it’s Atmosphere.

It’s obvious that the development team took their cues from film and music, the quality at manipulating the player into being really scared of walking around a corner is impressive. The Ishimura will creak as parts of the ship shear off, blood lines the walls merely suggesting the massacre that has befallen the crew. Violins will shriek only to reveal an empty room, or is it empty? Even the audio logs can make you jump as communications is sporadic at best sometimes your fellow crew will just pop up loudly in front of you holographically. It’s all very clever and they owe me a new pair of pants. I can’t wear them again and I’m too ashamed to take them to a professional cleaner.

  • Ahem * ….yes…anyway moving on….

On the subject of the crew and characters, the voice acting is really good. Not only from the crew you landed with but from the audio logs that are scattered around the world. In a very Bioshock move, you can discover more about what befell the USG Ishimura by collecting and listening to audio logs. All of these tit-bits add to the atmosphere as they play as you walk around. Sometimes giving a hint to the horror that awaits around the next corner. You can instantly relate to the characters and they genuinely add to the world that has been layered before you.

Between fighting the animated and disfigured dead and exploration there is some light puzzling ranging from picking up power cells and putting them in wall slots to moving in zero G and moving yet more objects, it’s a nice change from the constant fear of attack, but as always sometimes it isn’t even that; dealing with a puzzle while trying not to die? Tense fun…..

The weapons predominantly are not designed to be used against enemies, they are designed to cut rock, move large deposits of metals and minerals not for cutting the limbs off the re-animated corpses of the ships crew. Which gives these weapons a certain overpowered charm. Yes they cut through rock, but they also don’t have much in the way of ammo. Adding to the ‘ohmygodimgonna****myself’ vibe this game has.

On the subject of these weapons and the killing of the necomorphs. They are afterall the living dead brought back in a new form from one or two or seven corpses. This means that the enemies all have different behaviours. One behaviour that seems to be universal is not going for the headshot. They get angry. Usually becoming faster and harder to kill. In Dead Space dispatching the enemy is all about dismemberment, cut off an enemy’s legs and they will crawl slowly towards you, cut off their arms and they won’t do as much damage. Eventually the necromorph will ‘die’ it’s flesh no longer useful for it’s purpose. It’s really satisfying and forces you to think and get better at aiming.

The upgrade system and is based on the idea that everything has a nano-chip and by upgrading various chips on weapons and on your suit interface (which upgrades every subsequent suit you buy from the shop not just the one you are wearing) you can shoot harder, breathe longer in no atmosphere (these sections can be particularly tense) and have a longer health bar. It’s all based on how many ‘nodes’ you have these are added to the nano chip and expand it accordingly.

This small part is one of the reasons for a second or third playthrough as there aren’t enough Nodes to upgrade everything in one playthrough.

So Replay-ability is high. In a very ‘resident evil’ fashion, you can carry over your items to the next playthrough but only on the same difficulty, only through a glitch can you use the best suit in the impossible difficulty setting. This is a bad move, the completionist in me finds this really jarring. Yes maybe impossible won’t be impossible with all the stuff I had. But who wants to play an impossible game? There is no joy in failing repeatedly. None.

The Bad
Dead Space is not without flaws, it’s save points and recharge stations are placed in such a way that sometimes the surprise of an event can be spoiled.

“Oh look there seems to be an air refuel station here, hmm likely that this room will be without atmosphere at some point.” Etc…

But even with it’s minor camera problems , the main protagonists undeveloped personality and history and a difficulty scale that can vastly change, there is enough balance between fighting and puzzles and you’ll enjoy exploring and hopefully saving your skin on the USG Ishimura.

The Bottom Line
It all boils down to a brilliant story, fantastic atmosphere and a really solid engine that brings this game to the top of the crop. The weak of stomach however need not apply.

A definite buy. Go forth and dismember.

Note to EA: I hope that EA sees that a new IP can be really profitable as long as it’s done well and given time to complete. Take note EA we like change so long as it’s good. No more than three Dead Space games please, I warn you I have a powered up Plasma Cutter and I’m not afraid to use it…..

Xbox 360 · by BinaryDragon (18) · 2008

Although its story is lacking a crucial element, Dead Space is a compelling and thrilling action horror.

The Good
I lurves me some survival horror. I've always clung on to the Silent Hill series and I have dabbled with Resident Evil . However, RE has been rather sickly lately. Don't get me wrong, Resident Evil 4 was a decent Third person shooter, but honestly, it lacked any true horror. I roll my eyes when people call it one of the scariest games ever. To me, true survival horror is a dead art. Then Dead Space came along.

What attracted me to Dead Space was its setting. As a movie buff, I love it when games can successfully give tribute to good movies. Dead Space does an awesome job giving tribute to 3 classic films: Ridley Scott's tense and famous "ALIEN," Andrei Tarkovosky's psychological answer to 2010, "Solyaris," and last but definitely not least, John Carpenter's sick & twisted "The Thing." What elements does Dead Space take from these films and pay tribute, you ask? Well, it has the creepy isolation of Alien and the feeling of dread being stalked by a monster much deadlier than yourself. It takes plot elements from Solyaris, concerning the space setting, the dead wife, and crew dying in strange mannerisms involving hallucinations. And from The Thing, it takes the monsters. The Thing had some f**ed up and very twisted baddies, and Dead Space's nasties resemble The Thing in many ways and their venereal horror approach is also similar. The game pays tribute, it doesn't rip off, and I respect that.

The story is simple, at least it starts off simple anyways: You are Isaac Clark (I see what you did there, devs >_>), an engineer sent with a small crew to answer a distress beacon from a mining ship known as the Ishimura. Naturally, it hits the fan and you are separated from your crew by a strange not-quite-alien not-quite-human monster known simply as "Necromorphs" (For those who don't speak Latin, this literally means "Dead Shape" or "Shape of Death" if you want to interpret it a different way. Clever, it suits them perfectly.) and you must survive. While this set up is fairly cliche and retreaded, what makes the plot compelling and interesting is the backstory and history of it all. There's a fascinating and deep backstory to the Ishimura, and what happened on this ship prior to your arrival. There's a lot interesting going on, and its easy to see why they gave the game companion pieces to make this backstory richer. The concurrent plot does get more interesting as it moves on as well. Isaac's chase for his wife is eerie and yet interesting, and pays a bit of tribute to Solyaris in its psychological elements. However, a certain element of this plotline ruins it... More on that later.

The graphics are awe inspiring at times. The detail is awesome, and chills will go down your spine whenever you look out into space and view planets, stars, eclipses and more. The detail is also used against you as well, but that's par for the course in horror games. The necromorphs truly do live up to the name of "Dead Shape" and are disgusting and scary. They tap a primal element and a fear that has always plagued me: Sub-humanity. To elaborate, sub-humanity is when a monster in a game/movie/comic/etc. is so twisted that it could pass as one of the filthiest alien creatures discovered, but in truth it was once human, and an echo of that humanity can be seen. When I encounter creatures like this, something so inhuman but containing small parts of the human form disturbs me and my skin crawls. The necromorphs are easily one of the most disturbing of these kinds of monsters, the more twisted they get, the creepier they are mostly because of their faces which look tormented and distressingly human. The amount of detail put into them is great, and all the other characters look great and there are some amazing special effects.

The sound design, as one would expect is one of the most important elements of the game, and the developers delivered. The game sounds freaky, and the various "types" of necromorph continue that same path of sub-humanity, emitting sounds that both sound human and yet utterly alien. Sometimes during shrieks you'll think you heard the last of the creatures humanity crying or even talking. The atmosphere is laid down by two things: The soundscape and the immersion. The game is one of the most immersive horror titles ever made, and will make you its bitch. It will never let you go, and it drags you through the game by your throat and always keep you in. You really feel like you are on the Ishimura, and much like System Shock 2 the fear here is that you are isolated alone on a ship full of ghosts, monsters, and only one human with questionable motifs to keep you company. The eerie soundscape is awesome, always providing scary sounds emanating from different parts of the ship and even around the dreaded corners. It doesn't do this game's excellent soundscape justice to use speakers, grab your stereo headphones and crank it up.

The gameplay is much like Resident Evil 4. In fact, its almost exact although in some ways improved. For one... YOU CAN MOVE WHILE AIMING. That was one of the things I hated most about RE4, why the hell can't you move while aiming? Thankfully, you can do that here. The combat also has a unique hook that works well: 'Strategic Dismemberment.' Y'see, there's only way to kill these bastards and that is to deprive them of their limbs (Although a word of warning: DO NOT TAKE OFF THE HEAD. I know its instinct to aim for the head, but this only makes them stronger.) and the way this is implemented is very well done. The term "strategic" is a proper way of describing it, because the games physics are so well done. Take off a bipedal creatures leg, and it will stumble to the ground giving you ample time to finish it as it desperately crawls. Take off the tail of the creatures I like to call scorpion-men, and they will do less damage. As you can guess, the game is pretty gory; but for once the gore actually makes the game scarier. As I said, taking off the head of a monster is not a good idea. One time I was in the vacuum of space and naturally, you can't hear much in a vacuum. A scorpion-man leaped at me and I took off its arm, its head, and gave it a big blast to the stomach. As his blood eerily floated through the zero gravity, I turned away thinking he was dead, but then I heard a soft growl in the vacuum and looked around expecting a new monster, but turned around and saw the headless, one armed creature crawling with its one arm towards me and I about crapped my pants there. Gameplay is great, and it works quite well and uses a tried and true formula but truthfully improves it.

The boss fights are epic, especially the one in zero gravity. The final boss is also incredible, and its one of those moments where you freeze, stare in wonderment as something massive appears, and go "WHAT THE HOLY F*** IS THAT!?!?!?" before running in fear and cowering behind a box. The boss fights are satisfying and awesome.

The game successfully pulls off monster closets, something games rarely can do. There are a couple times that the closets get predictable, but the game does a better job than most at keeping them relatively well hidden and the thick atmosphere will almost always make you jump.

The necromorphs are very fleshed out, each "specie" of necromorph is unique, has a unique AI, habits, and style. This makes them feel 3-Dimensional and real, which of course, also makes them scarier. There are no two species of necromorph alike, and this also makes the 'strategic dismemberment' even more interesting because you have to learn the biology of each specie, its weak point, and have to learn how to take each one down properly in unique manners.

The Bad
The story, as compelling as it is is lacking one crucial element: A protagonist. Sure, you control Isaac Clarke but he never says a word save for some notes in his journal between levels. You never even see his face save for a few seconds at the beginning. This means that his lost wife and the twists it takes lacks true emotion or power. You can't identify with Isaac, and that means you could care less that he's looking for his wife. The games story is told so well that you will still feel emotion for his wife and get interested, but it still lacks the true emotional and psychological impact it could've had thanks to the fact that Isaac has no character whatsoever. This makes what would've been an excellent story very lacking. Its still a great story, but this ruins some of the things the developers were trying to do.

The graphics may be great, but the game does suffer from an extreme case of "Browninitis." Browninitis is a disease that was present in the Quake games, but not truly severe until Doom 3. Since then, almost every shooter and horror game has contracted Browninitis. Symptoms include muddy textures, lack of any decoration and colour beyond brown and brownish gray, and can make even the best graphics look bland at times. Dead Space has a nearly fatal case of Browninitis. It's so disappointing that the otherwise beautiful graphics didn't get handled with more care and artistic flair. The ships environments are depressingly monotonous and it doesn't help that a few missions have you backtracking.

The final cut-scene is stock, cliche, and stupid as hell. It is a majour buzz kill for what could've been the only scene where Isaac actually shows his face and shows true emotion.

Although the game is scary, there are times that it uses scare tactics that don't really work and sometimes the weapons you can get are a little too powerful and you don't always feel as vulnerable as you should; although you can just choose to stick to other weapons if you feel too powerful.

Puzzles and horror games go hand in hand. Apparently Dead Space didn't get the memo. While there are a couple good puzzles, for the most part puzzles are repeated and aren't really "puzzles" because you've already solved them time and time again. It would've been nice to have a few more puzzles to keep the brain juices flowing as well as the adrenaline.

There are moments where the voice acting and dialogue can get hammy. While the voice acting is fairly good, particularly on the logs you find around the ship, sometimes your supporting cast overact or even underact.

Another flaw with the story is that there are too many questions even after finding ALL of the logs (Yes, I replayed just to find them ALL because I wanted some answers), reading the comics, and seeing that stupid animated movie. None of them answer one of my biggest questions: What the hell is the marker? and although we get that the marker is holy to the religion of Unitology, WHY is it holy to them? What are the Unitologists principles? Why did the Necromorphs come with the marker, when the game suggests that they proved there was no alien or bacterial life on the planet they found it on? What was that one Unitologist with the beard babbling about? If the necromorph is a polymorphic parasite from another planet, why was that bearded Unitologist guy creating a new species of them? Why did he have control over it? And that's just the first few questions I have. There's a lot that needs to be explained, and these questions sometimes open up plot holes that are going to take a lot of work to fill.

The Bottom Line
Dead Space is a great start for what could be a great series, it is one of the first true survival horror games in years, even if the action at times does walk into RE4 territory and makes the game a little less scary than it could've been. The incredible atmosphere, great story, scary monsters and set pieces will keep you on your seat and despite the fact that the story is incomplete without any true emotion or connection with the main character, the story carries weight and has a lot of potential in it. Its a flawed gem, but a gem is still a gem no matter how flawed. Its worth checking out if you are a survival horror fan.

Windows · by Kaddy B. (777) · 2009

In space, no one can hear you scream

The Good
The sheer amount of atmosphere.This is a labour of love, showing dedication in every pixel and every frame.The surroundings are awesome, its very interesting to see how a dedicated team can create such a dense setting and atmosphere although the game plays on a spaceship.Its claustrophobic, shocking, awesome. The game plays great (much better than for example Too Human), sounds terrifying, looks fantastic and will keep you at the edge of the seat.

The Bad
There are one, two scenes which can be a bit too hard the first 10 times You try it, but if You keep at it or play with friends, this really doesn't detract too much from the experience.Oh, and it borrows a lot from SYSTEM SHOCK 2, but You could call it an homage because it's so well done.

The Bottom Line
DEAD SPACE is a dream come true for fans of games like The Thing, Alien, Hellraiser, Event Horizon and such.It truly captures the atmosphere of such survival horror settings and keeps You in awe almost during its total lifetime.My compliments to the developers, as this is one of the rare gems where its very, very hard to find any flaws.The environments are totally convincing, the enemies totally challenging and terrifying, the story is very well told, the sound alone makes this all stand out.Although the story is not new and borrows a lot from the classic SYSTEM SHOCK 2, it retells this kind of story in an entertaining way.

Xbox 360 · by Emmanuel Henne (23) · 2008

Hollywood-style Production Value meets Survival Horror... What a marriage!

The Good
Yes, as you may have heard or read, this game is largely a mixture of previous, successful Survival Horror/Adventure franchises like System Shock 2, Resident Evil, Doom 3, BioShock, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Left4Dead, Singularity, Metroid Prime as well as numerous Sci-Fi movie plots which contribute to the basic atmosphere and premise of this game; mainly: Aliens, Event Horizon, Solaris and The Thing.

That’s not a bad thing in this case, and the similarities end at a fairly superficial level.

In the 25th Century, humanity's insane appetite for resources inevitably leads us to other planets, to extract their abundant mineral wealth, free from any ethical, political and environmental considerations to deal with.

Planets we think... will have no native life forms to interfere with our harvesting. Turns out, we encounter an alien species that harvest resources of a different kind. Dead flesh.

A huge "Planet-Cracker" ship, the USG Ishimura (appropriately meaning “Stone Village” in Japanese), sends out an emergency SOS signal while in orbit above Aegis VII, a nondescript planet in a distant solar system.

Isaac Clarke, who is one of the unluckiest and unassuming guys you'll ever meet in a video game, as well as nod to the great Sci-Fi pioneers Isaac Asimov & Arthur Clarke, is an experienced engineer is dispatched aboard the USG Kellion with a crew of 4, to investigate what they assume are just mere communications problems aboard the Ishimura. Sounds good huh? You have no idea.

What Dead Space does best in the over-saturated Survival Horror Genre is PERFECT things to a tee.

Ammunition and pick-up scarcity is at just the right balance to make the game difficult enough but not insanely frustrating for all but the most novice survival horror players.

Necromorph attacks have a consistent pace throughout the game, so you're never too comfortable and familiar with your enemy, but also never too far away from the next fire fight.

You're weapons feel underwhelming and rustic (because they are just improvised mining tools for the most part), so you're never too confident with your arsenal but at the same time they can be heavily modified to wreak serious hell on the USG Ishimura later on in the game. The customization aspect of your weapons, RIG (your space suit) and stasis/kinesis abilities provide some serious replay value.

The immersion factor sucks you into this game like few others (Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the closest at matching it) because of the HUD-less interface, in-game holographic projection screens instead of atmosphere-breaking menus and very interactive environments. Everything in the game is presented in a 3rd-person, over-the-shoulder perspective; rarely breaking from this angle.

Isaac's every step and action you undertake while breathing right down his neck, and the excellent physics and animation makes every heart-pounding, close encounter with the hideous Necromorphs all the more terrifying. You'll notice this the most if you let one of those suckers come too close and grab a hold of you or if one of them sneaks up behind you, in which case all you’ll see is a giant pointy arm come up behind Isaac that will require you to change your pants.

One factor that strikes you in a big way, is that you do feel like an everyman in the wrong place at the wrong time. Isaac doesn’t give you the impression of a super-human, one-man army like Duke Nukem or Master Chief. He feels very mortal, very afraid and very lonely; like any Space Engineer would be trying to combat the living dead on what was supposed to be a repair mission. Isaac doesn’t move very fast, his aim is quite slow (no this is not a design fault) and he isn’t very adept at hand-to-hand combat.

The locale is not only extremely well-designed but for once, everything in the setting MAKES SENSE. The Ishimura feels like a real, deep-space, mining vessel; not just a series of meaningless, inter-connected, metallic corridors with dim lighting and computer panels on the walls (I'm looking at you Doom 3).

There are numerous decks, roughly modelled after large military ships, all serving very specific and necessary tasks (i.e. the Flight Deck, where you first dock, Crew Quarters, where everyone sleeps, Medical Deck, where the infirmary is, Hydroponics Deck, which purifies the oxygen on-board and provides the entire ship's food supply). Everything is linked together via the centrally-located tram, which is basically the spine of the Ishimura and your continual source of progression in the game.

Everything makes sense. The artistic designers and graphic artists did their homework, and made a very believable and plausible world for you to explore. The technology you come across in the Ishimura doesn’t ever make you stop and go “Oh yeah right, like that could ever happen”. Zero-Gravity chambers, the Asteroid Defence System which protects the hull from rock impacts, the breath-taking Bridge, the way rooms compress and decompress when oxygen escapes/enters, the gravity tethers that hold giant objects in place, the deafening silence of a vacuum, even the little, nit-picky details like having numerous toilets on each deck or how quarantine is trigged when Necromorphs breaking into a room through the air vents… it just makes freakin’ sense.

What doesn't make sense though, at least at first, are your enemy: the Necromorphs (“Shape of Death” in Latin, I like that). The grotesque, walking, body-part scrapyards that roughly resemble parts of dead carcasses slapped together in random order.

They are uncomfortable to watch and even less pleasant to fight; your enemy in this game has that unique element of blending vague, human-like qualities with the most inhuman purposes, e.g. deformed babies that scurry along the walls with 3 retractable tentacles that can fire organic missiles at you.

They are incredibly well-designed creatures, very frightening and utterly relentless. You have to slice and dice your way into victory in Dead Space, there are no "BOOM HEADSHOT!" shortcuts. Just limb loppin' good times to be had.

The story is probably the best and most original (a rarity for EA nowadays) in the Survival Horror genre since Resident Evil and Silent Hill came out over a decade ago. The way it blends a love story with religious fanaticism and philosophy, as well a sinister agenda by the powers that be is very well done. The script is honestly more well-written and fleshed out than most horror films released nowadays. The numerous plot twists and character developments are flawlessly integrated into the gameplay, happening at just the right moments, never distracting you from your immediate goals and revealing just enough to keep you satisfied in your quest for understanding but never too much to allow you to figure out the story well before its conclusion.

The story is delivered in the tried-and-true storytelling method of past Survival Horror games: audio & video logs. In much the same way as System Shock 2, Doom 3 and BioShock reveal the background of what led to the disastrous downfall of their once Utopian settings, Dead Space will provide you often with cryptic and some not-so-cryptic voices/faces from the past describing most of what went on before Isaac and the USG Kellion arrived. I was genuinely surprised at the last two chapters of the game.

The designers really got me with some totally unexpected revelations.

Finally, as most know, sound design is everything when you’re trying to recreate a living nightmare of never-ending tension and suspense. What Dead Space does differently is not having an ambient sound design which is overlayed with a composed soundtrack, like almost all games these days. Dead Space has a continual, background sound track that is primarily composed of sound effects, cues and faint verbal whispering with subtle rhythms and music being used VERY sparingly and only in certain locations (e.g. each time you board and exit the tram).

This means essentially, whenever you’re not dissecting Necromorphs like high school biology projects, you are immersed the dark and eerie sounds of the Ishimura as the game’s ambient soundtrack. Is that metal clanking in the distance a broken machine or someone moving around? Am I really hearing those voices in my head or is it just my imagination? The beauty of the ambient sounds is that they blend so well into the game play to frighten you, for example; every time you receive a video transmission from the few living, breathing humanoids on the Ishimura a loud, electronic distortion noise breaks the silence; which if you’re in a pitch-dark room that is very quiet, can literally jolt you awake. Whenever you enter a vacuum, almost NOTHING can be heard (which is scientifically accurate as sound waves need air to travel any meaningful distance) aside from Isaac’s magnetic boots stomping on the floor and his labored breathing, which is terrific at allowing Necromorphs to come up right behind you, without you knowing until a pointy appendage dangles over Isaac’s head.

However the shining example of the excellent sound design in the game goes unequivocally to the voice acting, particularly via the rest of your crew, although the in-game audio logs are incredibly heart-felt and emotionally delivered. Many have praised it as Hollywood-quality voice acting and that’s because quite a number of the voice actors in the game are experienced Hollywood actors who have starred in big-budget, blockbusters like Peter Mensah from Avatar, 300, Tears of the Sun and Navid Negahban from TV shows like NCIS, 24 and CSI.

The Bad
Yes it does get predictable mid-way through the game, but so does every single other Survival Horror title once you've become desensitized to it. Some of the objectives you’re given are quite tedious and dull, (you will seriously regret Isaac’s career choice to become an Engineer, as the rest of your crew treat you as the universal DIY “fix-it” man) and some of the “peek-a-boo” scares are very predictable as are the different Necromorph types once you fight them enough times, but I mean, how clever can reanimated, dead body parts be?

Towards the end of the game, which clocks in at a respectable 12 hours of solid gameplay for most (maybe 11 or 10 if you're very accustomed with Survival Horror like I am), the designers crammed in a succession of major plot twists, stunning revelations and one big disappointment after another (from Isaac’s perspective) that will leave you feel slightly weary, unsure of the story and eager to conclude the events of the game. Several major plot twists are revealed in the space of just an hour or so, which I thought felt a bit rushed and panicky.

Aside from the last two chapters, which are noticeably shorter and have a frenzied pace, the ending is very climactic rest assured, and the game never let me down in my opinion. I was always engaged in the story, always intrigued by the latest revelations and always unsure where I would end up 10 minutes from now.

Survival Horror at its essence is about making the player feel less-than, inferior, helpless, desperate, unaware of the larger forces at work and giving him no glimmers of hope in the near future until it concludes.

Dead Space succeeds with flying colors in all aspects. Technically, on the PC version, there are no major deal-breakers or glitches aside from the widely reported “mouse lag” issue (which is actually to do with the frame rate being capped at 30 FPS instead of the more common 60 FPS) but which can very easily be rectified by forcing Visual Sync on in your graphics driver's control panel and then disabling VSync in the game’s visual settings menu. That did the trick for me.

The Bottom Line
Think of the dark corridors of Doom 3, the ruthlessly fast and hideously ugly zombies of Resident Evil, the "ghost town"-like planet colony of Aliens and the haunting atmosphere of Silent Hill, a place that was once a normal, likeable locale... and you have Dead Space. If you're at all a fan of Survival Horror, Science-Fiction settings or FPS games, or even better all of the above, then you’re going to enjoy the heck out Dead Space.

Windows · by Sharafciger (34) · 2011

EA shows they're still capable of original thinking.

The Good
You're a member of a repair crew that's tasked to rescue the mining ship U.S.G. Ishimura. Upon arrival you're greeted by some unwelcome visitors, which quickly devolves into a butcher's yard of body parts.

This is an over-the-shoulder 3rd person shooter, and you get to re-learn one of the basic rules of the genre: Head shots don't mean ANYTHING. In order to take down your enemies, you have to dismember them. The aliens have one objective: perpetuate themselves and spread. In order to do this, they have to kill humans, and then 'repurpose' their bodies. The Flood from Halo are a close analogy in this regard.

EA has done something new with the weapons and equipment, which is to allow you to upgrade them with power nodes. In one playthrough you can typically upgrade your suit and two weapons, so choose what you want to power up wisely.

Also new to Dead Space is how they handled Zero-G environments. A 360 degree battlefield takes some getting used to, and it's definitely well implemented.

The aliens themselves are suitably creepy, and do very well to convey the impression of more than just a bug hunt.

The Bad
I wish it could have been longer. There are 12 acts, and once you know what you're doing these acts take an average of 45 mins - 1 hour to complete. Also there's limited replayability incentive after you've completed the game. It took me two passes on Normal and one on Impossible to unlock all 1000 achievement points. 40 hours isn't too bad for a game, but damnit, this was fun. I wanted more!

The Bottom Line
Aliens meets Resident Evil.

Xbox 360 · by Sir Razorback (5) · 2009

In space, nobody can hear you yawn...

The Good
Good character-design.

Inventory is pretty clever.

Good scares are actually pretty common in this game.

You always know where to go.

The Bad
All enemies are killed in exactly the same way.

Chapters drag on for way too long.

Plot is not interesting in the slightest.

Level-design is very monotone.

Very little challenge.

The Bottom Line
Story

The story starts off with engineer Isaac on a spaceship with a small crew. The ship has been send to check up on a so-called planet-cracker vessel whose communication went completely silent. It doesn't take very long to realize that it's not just an unplugged telephone causing the trouble, as the ship has been infected with a mysterious alien race and most of the crew has been killed already. Isaac gets separated from his pals and has to find a way to escape the Ishimura (as the ship is called) with his life in tact, along the way he is also looking for his wife who was stationed at the ship.

It sounds like a pretty good setup and the Alien franchise has proven to us before that been trapped on a spaceship with alien lifeforms is frightening as all hell. The story itself is not very fantastic, but it does a good job at putting our hero in the worst places imaginable and is thus sufficient. My only gripe lies with the ever-so-important pacing, which is very bad in this title. There are a total of twelve chapters, but I stopped caring around the fifth, simply because each level drags on for eternities and just keeps getting longer and longer with every second. Every time you think you're done with a chapter, some plot-event demands you to travel halfway across the sector again to fix some broken computer or do some other engineer business.

I also briefly mentioned the side-story involving Isaac's missing wife, which might have seemed a bit too relevant to skim over. The intro features a brief message from her, but then it's not brought up again for almost half the game. It's a shame, because with such little narrative, it becomes even more obvious that most of the game consists of running through the same metal corridors for long amounts of time.

Gameplay

Since Isaac is an engineer, he is naturally not very familiar with the working of guns. What he does know, however, is how to use sharp objects and that's fortunate since the alien lifeforms are full of limps. This is what makes the combat in this game work, unlike a Resident Evil or Left 4 Dead, enemies can't just be killed by regular gunfire. The most effective way is to cut off their limbs, since that not only kills them faster, but also makes sure that they are less effective when they are brought back to life by some other foe. The combat also feels gratifying because of the great impact each weapon has, it genuinely feels like you have a power-tool in your hands and are mowing through fleshy foes.

Besides fighting your way through enemies, Isaac also has to do a lot of running around. Since this is a horror game, much of the emphasis lies on building atmosphere. This is however handicapped by the fact that all enemies are very weak. You might be shocked when an enemy jumps through a vent in front of you, but one good shot at their tentacles will stun them and a second shot will break them completely. All enemies succumb to this tactic: just aim for whatever limbs you see and cut them off. This eventually resulted in me still using the starting pistol several hours into the game and all the fancy tools in the shop just went completely by me.

The rest of the gameplay is very basic: missions consist of Isaac running around an area of the Ishimura looking for items to open up a path or a way to fix some broken systems. It's nice that it sorta sticks with the whole Engineering gag, but the events lack any sort of fun-factor. Sometimes you have to do a short puzzle, but the mechanics usually limit this to either picking something up or slowing it down, since that is all Isaac can really do. Sometimes you're in zero-gravity getting absolutely lost, but not in an engaging or interesting way and at other times you have to do little mini-games to progress, but these all control like absolute shit.

Presentation

The first hour or so was really frightening for me, since I had to run away from fucked-up monstrosities with no means of defense. Even when I found the pistol, it seemed very weak to me and I refrained from exploring too much. The sighing and breathing I heard coming from the other side of walls kept me on edge and, dang it, I was having a load of fun. As described in the Gameplay section of the review, though, it wasn't meant to last. When I realized just how feeble enemies were it sucked all the horror from the presentation and the few times the game did present me with a new foe, I could just freeze it with stasis and fire away at whatever obvious weak-spot we were using this time around.

When frightening the player no longer works, then trying to amaze them with jaw-dropping scenery is a good road to take. This should not be too difficult in practice, since we are already in space anyway. Just show us some awesome stars, planets and spaceships and you should be good. However, the game rarely goes outside and when it does, the view is often too limited to allow any kind of sightseeing. You also can't breath, which is quite logical when you think about it. A real waste, but at least the gory presentation during combat makes up for some of it. I just love the sounds of limbs been cut off...

Replay-value

Not recommended. The game is pretty long and lack the variety needed to justify a second run through it. You could make it a big interesting by using different weapons than before, picking a higher difficulty or taking different routes in the upgrade trees, but it's definitely limited to the fans only.

Verdict

I couldn't be bothered to make it to the end of Dead Space, simply because the pacing is just so bad. Spending hours tracking through various similarly-looking hallways with little to no combat or narrative to keep you engaged is pretty boring. It could have worked if the atmosphere they were trying to present worked well with the enemies they used, but it really doesn't work. It's like greeting your new neighbor every day, the first few times are interesting and you might feel the need to strike up a conversation, but after a few days you are just going to say "hi" and mozy along to work. That's my relationship with the necromorphs in a nutshell, except the greeting is a saw-blade.

If you are easier to scare than me, then the atmosphere might really get to you and if that happens, then I can recommend it to you. Ask yourself just how easily you lose yourself in a horrifying setpiece (a Silent Hill, perhaps) and you will know whether or not you should get this game.

Windows · by Asinine (957) · 2013

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Cavalary, Alaedrain, Jeanne, firefang9212, Wizo, Picard, Big John WV, Zeikman, Yearman, Alaka, Scaryfun, Cantillon, ryanbus84, Dario Lanzetti, Alsy, Patrick Bregger, POMAH, jaXen, Klaster_1, BostonGeorge, Solid Flamingo, jumpropeman, beetle120, Samuel Smith, Havoc Crow (formerly JudgeDeadd), chirinea, Utritum, Tim Janssen.