Review: Dead Space (PS3)

Dead Space is a game that takes a host of influences and mashes them together to form the scariest game since Resident Evil 4. It features the basic storyline of the movie Event Horizon, the shooting mechanics of Resident Evil 4, a weapon modification system that resembles Final Fantasy X's sphere grid, and a ton of familiar elements from Alien and various sci-fi classics. Some of the standard "enemy jumps out of nowhere and scares the ever-living **** out of you" moments are there, but there's also a palpable tension the entire time on the doomed ship. At no point do you feel safe, and the game preys on your vulnerabilities and even violates some unwritten rules of the survival horror genre in order to make you feel even more uneasy. This is a game that is to be played late at night on a nice HDTV, with the lights turned down and the sound turned up.

Anyone who has seen Event Horizon will immediately notice the similarities between the 1997 sci-fi/horror film and this game. You're in deep space, investigating a ship that has played host to some kind of unspeakable horror. You immediately encounter some horrible sights and terrifying creatures, and you'll spend the rest of the game unraveling what went wrong. It's not the most intriguing or well-written story, but it does its job - it provides the backbone for a lot of action and a lot of scares.


One of my favorite aspects of the game is the total lack of a HUD. Everything you need to know is displayed within the game world. Your health and stasis power meter are displayed on the back of your suit, remaining ammo is displayed on the weapon's display, and any videos are displayed through a hologram system that's connected to your suit. This does wonders in terms of immersing you into the game experience.

Despite the fact that the game takes place in one location, it does a fantastic job of mixing things up. Some portions of the ship are standard "metallic corridor" fare, but others are more visually interesting. Some areas take place in a vacuum, meaning you won't even be able to hear the creatures creep up on you. You'll only hear the hollow echos of your gunshots, and these sections are usually a mad dash to get to the next airlock before your suit runs out of air.

Weapon upgrades are handled well, utilizing a multi-path approach. You collect power nodes throughout the ship, and you can use these to move along the upgrade path for your guns, armor, and special abilities. Each weapon functions uniquely, with most being perfect for some types of enemies but not ideal for others. For instance, a line rack can take down one of the mutant babies with one shot, but they're virtually useless against the small crawling enemies that come at you in swarms. A quick switch to your force gun or flamethrower will take them out swiftly, however.

The enemies are all terrifying, and each behaves in their own unique way. Giant, obese enemies will stick to walls and shoot tentacles, mutant babies will crawl along the floor and walls, another bounds at you at unnerving speed with razor-sharp claws - there's no shortage of ways to be brutally killed in Dead Space. There's a real sense of fear throughout all of this. You don't have a squad following you around like in some're a lone engineer in the most terrifying situation imaginable, and it's a blast.

Visually, Dead Space is stunning. The dark, flickering corridors instill a real sense of doom as you travel from room to room. You'll see shadows of creatures as they walk behind you and spin around to shoot them, but more often than not they're already in another location, ready to attack. The framerate is speedy, the art direction is fantastic, and the various environmental effects look great. The audio is even more impressive, with some gruesome sound effects and creature noises.

I've never been huge on the survival horror genre. The (pre-RE4) Resident Evil games had great jump-out-of-your-seat scares, but suffered from some wooden controls. Silent Hill had a great psychological uneasiness about it, but the gameplay wasn't quite up to par. Dead Space may borrow heavily from various inspirations, but it puts everything together in a fantastic, terrifying package. It easily stands up to the likes of Resident Evil 4 and Bioshock, and I can only hope we'll have many sequels to come.

Graphics: 9.5

Audio: 10

First Play: 9.5

Replay Value: 9.0

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9.5


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