Review - Dead Space

Dead Space is a third-person shooter with a bit of horror thrown in. You play as Isaac Clarke (a nod to sci-fi authors Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), an engineer who is part of the rescue team on board the USG Kellion on a mission to investigate what has happened to a vessel that mines planets by tearing loose sections of it and grinding them down, a so called planet cracker. The ship is the USG Ishimura and attempts to hail her are met with silence...

As a space-engineer you gain access to a number of cool tools. Early on you equip yourself with a Plasma cutter, a mining tool for cutting rock, which as it turns out is also quite handy for severing the limbs off of Necromorphs - the name given to the creatures that have infected the Ishimura. They form from the mutilated bodies of the ships crew into deadly monsters. Other tools at your disposal are the stasis field generator that shoots projectiles that slow down time in an area so that moving objects can be handled more easily, this comes in handy when dealing with several quick enemies at once. There is also the kinesis module that you use to move/throw large objects (a.k.a. the gravity gun). There are also several other weapons that become available during the course of the game.

One of game developers primary goals is to draw player into the experience to such a degree that they are engulfed in the game world and forget that it is just a game, what is commonly referred to as Suspension of Disbelief. To this end EA Redwood Shores have given their all. From the moment the main menu is loaded you are in the Dead Space universe and you can already turn your head slightly by moving the right analog stick. Once in the game you'll notice the complete lack of a HUD, instead this information is well integrated into the game world - your life bar is displayed as a glowing segmented line along Isaac's spine (as well as on other characters), ammo is displayed as a holographic number above your weapons when drawn and you can at any moment hit R3 (pushing the right stick) to have a line projected on the ground indicating the direction of your next objective.

As the game begins Isaac is watching a video from his girlfriend Nicole, the image is projected in the air in front of him. All video and text logs that you find, as well as your inventory function in this way as well, they are projected in the air and you remain in the game world while viewing them, you can even rotate the camera around so that you see them mirrored from behind. Through out the Ishimura you will come across store-, workbench- and save stations that let you buy/sell/store items, upgrade weapons and equipment and save your progress. All of these project screens in a similar way so that you don't feel like you are taken out of the experience. It all works to great effect.

When attempting to describe Dead Space the word "innovation" pops up. But Dead Space isn't really innovative. The story is a mix of pieces violently ripped from the Alien-movies and stitched together into a single story with aspects of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris thrown in for good measure. The game mechanics are basically lifted from Gears of War and by extension Resident Evil 4. Graphically this is a beautiful game, but it stays within the boundaries extended by the current generation. What Dead Space does have that most games lack, is that extra layer (or maybe even two) of finish.

Dead Space is Quality with a capital 'Q' and it's apparent in all aspects of the game. I have never seen a more polished game. Everything has been meticulously tweaked to perfection: tempo, viewpoints, sound effects, music, voice acting, controls and graphics. I didn't once feel that the game dragged on, that there where difficulty spikes, any camera issues or that the music became repetitive. I didn't encounter a single bug, not the slightest graphics flaw or strange sound, or that my character was unresponsive.

I basically never replay a game, with the exception of Half-Life 2 (and HL2: Ep1) I haven't replayed a game since the 8-bit era. But with Dead Space I restarted as soon as the credits had rolled and I just want more. Not because the game is too short - it took me around 15 hours, and granted I was being very methodical - but expect to get 12-15 hours out of it on your first play-through unless you rush through it. I am also not much of a collector (at least not any more), I feel no need to keep games in general after finishing them and am happy to sell or trade them on. There are a few exceptions: Shadow of the Colossus, Okami and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker spring to mind and they will now be joined by Dead Space, that's how good it is. I am anxiously looking forward to the sequel and I am also very excited for the Wii prequel. It is quite likely that I'll play more Dead Space this year, and if it turns out to be the best game I play all 2009, I won't be disappointed.

In closing
Other games strive for perfection in graphics (Killzone 2), atmosphere (Half-Life 2), game mechanics (Advance Wars), Story/message (Braid), emotions (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus), or dialog (Mass Effect). Dead Space doesn't out do them in any one category, instead it's just very competent in all these areas which leaves me little choice but to give it full marks.

My Score: 10 of 10

Translated from original review on PixelPlayer.se

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