Dead Space Xbox 360 Review

May 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

It’s bad enough somewhere being infested with rats, although it would be a whole lot worse if said place had an infestation of monsters to deal with. I don’t know if you could call it generous, but Dead Space gives you a ship full of unwelcoming creatures – the type that aren‘t afraid to show what main character, Isaac Clarke, is really made of, that being blood and bone.

After a rather grand opening scene that shows the emergence of the Ishimura ship that you soon find yourself trapped on, Isaac, along with a handful of others, boards the seemingly empty vessel in order to carry out repairs, although upon doing so they find a lot more than a mechanical fault. The Necromorphs have taken residence on the Ishimura and like any great horror title, these creatures are memorable, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are all enough of an eyesore to make any other ugly thing look like an attractive red rose. It gets weird from hereon, and then it just keeps getting weirder and weirder. EA have certainly done a good job with all the weirdness then.

EA deserve more praise than just for the weirdness, the depraved atmosphere that they have created is downright scary and whoever dreamt it up probably needs to visit Disneyland more often. The visuals and sound are both spectacularly good and contribute to the scariness of it all, meaning that there’s plenty of reasons for involuntary jumps, and some will find that all this nastiness will gnaw away at their soul, until cheery Disneyland and meeting Mickey Mouse doesn’t seem too much of a bad idea.

You’ll eventually come face to face with the earlier mentioned Necromorphs, and they won’t take too kindly to you being there, so, as engineers do daily, you pull out a gun and fight as if your life really depends on it (because it does). If you are expecting to down your enemies with a single headshot, then you’ll soon find out that this just isn’t very effective, as whilst they may very well lose their head, they’ll still be coming at you with a scary eagerness. Weak points here are generally the badly shaped limbs, and detaching them with some persuasive bullets will kill the Necromorphs sooner, saving you some ammo in the long run. It can become rather strategic, not only for conserving bullets but when you take into consideration that one particular creature begins to spill some small and annoying offspring if hit in the torso, then aiming directly for the limbs is always the preferable option to go with.

Dead Space is definitely film like in feel, thank god EA decided to keep the game free of screen clutter then. Isaac’s health shows up as a spine on the back of his suit along with his statis energy and oxygen levels, which all works very well and is as unobtrusive as one would hope, whilst the remaining ammo in a clip is displayed on each gun. If you get lost on the Ishimura, you could always refer to your map, although even better is that a locater system can be brought into play, displaying a blue guiding line to show you the direction of your next task, which fortunately doesn’t look out of place enough to undo the illusion of the amazing atmosphere.

As it traditionally goes for survival horror, you’ll be fighting off enemy hordes and solving puzzles as you move one step closer to getting out of the horrific predicament that you find yourself in. Zero gravity and air vacuums add to Dead Space’s excitement, with the former allowing you to soar through the air onto particular platforms as well as to send the scabby corpses of your enemies freely floating (it looks too relaxing for such monsters) in a rather haunting manner, whilst the latter has you keeping an eye on your oxygen gauge, refilling it with air canisters or by getting yourself somewhere where the air is breathable without the aid of your suits limited oxygen supply.

As for the puzzles, most are basic with the answer to the problem being as clear as day, whilst solutions are often met by moving things around as if you were god (using the kinesis module) as well as slowing things down (using stasis energy), both of which can also be used in various ways to help you make the Necromorph’s extinct.

Dead Space’s item system also makes the game feel like a battle for survival, with limited inventory space and the need to manage your equipment carefully. It’s initially annoying to have to make return trips to the frequent stores, to safely put away particular items that might not be needed at that moment in time, although this is eased somewhat by being able to drop items on the spot (it’s alright to litter on a ship full of monsters), and it’s also possible to purchase new suits with extra inventory space. If you need to make some cash, there’s some items that only exist to be sold, whilst unneeded equipment can also be exchanged for currency. As for purchasing, many items need to be unlocked and downloaded to the store by finding the respective schematic first. Whoever said that being an engineer on a ship full of murderous monsters is easy, was clearly wrong.

At least there’s an upgrade tree, similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid, that allows you to improve everything from elements of your suit, your guns, as well as your stasis energy, with the aim being to make things a little more bearable. Upgrades are earned by placing power nodes in holes, although as these power nodes are hard to come by, you can’t just upgrade without first giving thought, whilst upgrading everything to the max is only going to really happen with repeat play. Nodes can be found, or they can be purchased at stores for quite a hefty price, also, besides upgrading your equipment, they can be used to unlock optional rooms for you to raid for helpful items.

Dead Space has all the hallmarks of a successful horror game and, with it, EA has created a gorgeous masterpiece that is movie like in both look and feel. The sense of loneliness and the feeling that the beautifully designed Ishimura has actually been taken over by unimaginable creatures is yet another triumph for the development team. What’s not to like? Well, perhaps a few more bosses wouldn’t have gone amiss, and the use of backtracking could irk some. Small flaws aside, Dead Space is one of the gaming highlights of 2008 and if you have even the smallest of interest in survival horror, I just can’t recommend it highly enough.