Review: Dead Space

I rarely play PC games, but when my housemate got this I just had to give it a go. And I’m glad I did.

Lets get the graphics out of the way. For me, the first few chapters didn’t look great or run smoothly (my computer is just below the minimum specs). I then decided to sacrifice the resolution. I was able to turn a ton of effects on and it still ran smoothly. From that point on I was wowed a lot by the graphics, something that I never expected from my rubbish PC. Even the large environments ran really well on my setup, so a big thanks to the developers (I still can’t link this game to EA…it just doesn’t compute) to optimising it amazingly well for the PC.

The game feels both like a mixture of other games and it’s own thing. It seems to combine the best things about Metroid Prime, Bioshock and Resident Evil 4 to create one amazing experience. The game is incredibly scary (even when my graphics were set up poorly) and the combat enhances the horror a lot. You can’t shoot and run (you can, however, still walk around while aiming) and you kill things not by shooting randomly at it or going for the head, but by blasting off it’s limbs. The first gun is especially designed with this in mind – it shoots three blasts either horizontally or vertically.

There’s also a decent variety in enemies, especially later on. The simple ones start becoming less common at the perfect time, once you’re used to figuring out the best way to destroy something. Unfortunately this can be a bit too simple (bosses are mainly a case of blasting the big glowing parts). Even when you know how to kill each enemy in the best way, aiming carefully is still the best way to go. Which adds a lot of panic when there are a ton heading towards you. The only ones I hated were the tiny enemies which were extremely hard to shoot, especially with the game’s slow aiming system.

They are all well-designed and fall to pieces in a brilliant fashion. The basic enemies (the ones that still look partially human) also looked different from each other as you could tell what the person was wearing (as well as their gender) before they were taken over.

The story is told brilliantly well, the camera perspective never changes (it’s always close to your character, Isaac) and the lack of a HUD – all vital information is on your suit/weapons – means that the game is always seamless and flows very well. Your team communicates with you via a video feed projected from your suit. All menus (except the pause menu) are also projected in the same way – so using them with enemies about is very dangerous. Everything feels like part of the environment. You get fed a bits of the story as you progress though the game, and extra parts of the plot are rewarded for exploration in the form of Text, Audio and Video Logs (much like Metroid Prime and BioShock). A few scenes that happen in front of you seem a little odd because Isaac just stands there as if he doesn’t care. A little movement in these instances would have been nice.

The game sounds extremely spooky, too. There are a ton of great sounds effects: the creepy atmospheric music, the grunts an noised from nearby rooms and vents, the ship working and malfunctioning and loads of other great sounds. My favourite has to be a distant grunt/moaning of what sounds like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” you can hear at certain times.

There’s also quite a few puzzles along the way, which make use of your suit’s abilities to slow down objects or use a gravity gun. Some of these make use of some fantastic zero-gravity areas, complete with a ton of floating body parts. The physics in the game are spot on, except that the enemies become weightless – like Gears of War – it just looks very odd.

The story is dark and mysterious, the setting is spooky, the enemies can give you a lot of jumps and the atmosphere is astonishing. Dead Space is a truly fantastic game and can even make some annoying things – like the linearity and fetch quests – seem like an important part of the experience.

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