Dead Space Review: The Final Frontier

What’s going on peoples? DaveDaGamer here giving you a little dirt on “Dead Space.”

First and foremost I want to say, EA glad you are back, we’ve dearly missed you. You may or not know this, but back in the last gen, EA put out an impressive list of quality titles that had graphics and ambiance that were far above and beyond what other studios offered. I’m not talking about the EA Sports brand either, there have been such gems as “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potters,” some of the “James Bond” games, “Medal of Honor,” et al.

But along the way they began to buy out a lot of smaller developers and started putting out crap. (”Catwoman” need I say more?) Fortunately, it looks like they might have gotten their act together with “Dead Space.”

The story of “Dead Space” is not original, by any means. You come to a ship that has gone black (no communication in or out), and once there you find out that some big shit went down because all you can see is mass carnage and disembodiment. Why the hell are humans so inquisitive anyways? Do we really think if we come across some alien shite they are just gonna play nice? Or, maybe, their idea of playing nice is jumping into your stomach and coming up out your spine? We find Isaac as a lowly engineer who fixes stuff, and he soon shows how valuable he is due to his “everyday man” attire. If you’ve seen “Aliens” or any other space alien movie or game, then you know the story.

It’s been a LOOOOONG time since I’ve played a game that has kept me on my toes. I’m a firm believer that a scare in a video game does not come easy. Most of the time you are expecting it, and, to me, a scare in the game translates into “Holy Shit, I am going to die!,” figuratively, if not literally. Not many games have reached that level of “Survival Horror” and I really only put the “Resident Evil” series in there. All of the other games in the genre are more fright fests due to gore, and what you see on the screen. Flashes of images like people ripped apart, and nasty kills and things of the like are expected at this point, but do you really feel as if you aren’t going to survive? That’s the key element right there. It’s almost a feeling of despair that makes you say, “What’s next?,” and after every encounter you stop and check your limbs for anything missing.

Dogs crashing through windows unexpectedly and Big Bad men plowing through walls have quite a different effect, no? In those cases, the scare comes from not knowing if you can handle what is about to happen. (I’m thoroughly looking forward to “Left 4 Dead” for exactly this reason.) These games, or situations, pull you out of your comfort zone, and you make you cherish every discovery of an herb or health pack. Thank your lucky rabbits foot, that we don’t have these encounters in real life… there’s no insta-heal. At least that I know of.

Then we come to “Dead Space,” where I must say, they’ve done their homework figuring out what it takes to “scare” a gamer. You have the unexpected happen, you have the gory scenes, but, what really brings it together, is the excellent sound design. I really feel sorry for you people who play games through just your TV set speakers. SAVE UP and buy a surround sound system. Even if it’s cheap, it’s still better than what’s coming out of the TV.  It took me some time to warm up to having more than just that, but once you do there’s no turning back.

Excellent sound design, plus surrond sound, will have you actually turning your head to hear something behind you. That’s when you are “in” the game. Too many “Survival Horror” devs forget that, and only have things coming at you from the front. Not so in Dead Space. They take advantage of the atmosphere and crank it up a notch. Proof of this is when the game goes into Zero G durring a space walk outside of the ship; the audio changes to make it seem like what I imagine the real thing to be. (Next time I go into outer space I’ll confirm.)

The amazing sound is only one layer of the cake that is “Dead Space.” After playing through the first few levels, my mind raced to draw comparisons from games in the past. This is what “Doom 3″ should have been… Ok, now this is getting to be a bit similar to “Bioshock” with these audio recordings and enemies that might as well be splicers… Ah! I’m shooting and curb stomping like “Gears of War”…

It went on and on like that until the shit started hitting the fan. Then I came to the conclusion… Ok! So I’m fighting Las Plagas (”RE:4″ for the uninitiated) Then it hit me… Wow a developer has finally done what I’ve always wanted them to do: look at others for inspiration, find what they did right, and then make yourself a great game. There have been too many times where a game lacked on a front that an older game had already surpassed. You can tell that the “Dead Space” devs are fans of the genre.

At the beginning of the game you feel unstoppable, (unlike the “Silent Hill” series, but I digress), because Isaac walks around in what looks like an iron suit (it’s not), and he has the glowing map-it for a palm (Iron Man repulsors?), and it makes you say, “piece of cake.” Not to mention the hand cannon that you have for a gun called the plasma cutter, which comes in extra handy because, it turns out, these creatures are wholly different than anything you’ve ever faced. You can’t put em down unloading a clip into them, you have to use precision, and take the limbs off.  This adds to the heightened sense of “I AM GOING TO DIE!” when they swarm you, and you are trying to get a bead on a leg and someone… er… thing jumps on your back and…

yep, Isaac dies - very, very painfully.

“Dead Space” overcomes the power of the plasma cutter with the sheer placement of enemies in conjunction with your environment. You feel powerful, but not more so, when you encounter a new fiend - which EA deftly builds on throughout the game. The first time you encounter the raging Brute, that runs over barricades, and is armored in the front, is fantastic. What do you do? Run? Where you gonna go? Let’s just say you have to make use of the powers that be…

Powers? What powers? Isaac’s suit allows him to do amazing things. These abilities require what is called Stasis, which is a meter that runs out and can be refilled with stasis packs to perform them. I won’t spoil what they are, but, needless to say, you most definitely need them in order to make your way through the game.

This brings me to my next point about “Dead Space.” If you are running around constantly upgrading yourself, becoming more powerful, does the game just get boring? Nope. The first boss battle you encounter is one word… EPIC. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with what you have to do to beat it, but epic in the vein of OMG, I can’t believe I’m actually playing this! This looks like a cut scene! Or, it is so fun that you just want to keep fighting on and on, and, when you’ve depleted all your resources (it takes a whilllle to take the boss down), you stand there saying to yourself. Damn.

Now, to me, that’s all I ask of a video game - take me to someplace that I’ll enjoy, make me feel bad ass, and don’t bore me to death. Is that too much to ask? Give me quality graphics, spot on control, and a purpose, and I’m a happy camper. I tried to think of a game in recent memory that check off all of those boxes and I came to “Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat,” and not for its excellent multiplayer, but for its’ single player mission. They got everything so right, that it’s an experience you want everyone to have.

There you have it. “Dead Space” is a must play of this generation, and it deserves a solid 9 out of 10.

-DaveDaGamer Out!

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2 Responses to “Dead Space Review: The Final Frontier”

  1. DW on November 11th, 2008 7:31 pm

    Man this game is amazing. Seriously worth anyone’s time and money.


  2. UnitDaGamer on November 12th, 2008 1:35 am

    i give props to EA for dropping a good non sequel game!


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