Developer(s) – Visceral Games
Publisher(s) – Electronic Arts
Designer(s) – Glen Schofield & Brett Robbins
Writer(s) – Warren Ellis, Rick Remender & Antony Johnstone
PEGI – 18
Released a week or two before Halloween in all regions, and featuring a much better plot line than even the Alien franchise in my own personal opinion, Dead Space is one of the more standout survival horrors to me in quite a few different ways. Though I found that concept would be milked for the subsequent two games what would eventually become a trilogy (indeed, I think when players know what they’re up against, it’s harder for them to feel scared by it, since it doesn’t come across as unexpected anymore at that point), the original game is a compelling blend of jump scares, tension, scary imagery and substance in gameplay to a lesser extent.
Graphics – 8/10
From a graphical standpoint, the first game would be nothing compared to the attention to detail that would be incorporated in both Dead Space 2 and 3, but where the original game truly excels above the aforementioned games in its horrific atmosphere and extremely effective use of lighting throughout. The murky and bloodstained setting of the spaceship USG Ishimura provides an exemplary setting for a very exceptional survival horror story; the likes of which I would never see again until many years later when I played Outlast.
Gameplay – 5.5/10
Though I can wax poetic about the atmosphere and conceptual design of the game (and later on, the story), the thing I can’t praise this game profusely for is its gameplay. A linear third-person shooter, the objective of which is to simply blast through every enemy in sight, upgrade equipment along the way and complete a minimal amount of side quests. For how vast and varied the setting is, I would have thought the developers could have easily made it into an open-world game; especially since it does involve players having to go back to previous areas. There was certainly enough room for more side missions than there was added too. At first glance, I half-expected this game would provide something different in terms of gameplay from most survival horrors, but in the end, all it helped me to do was to fuel my skepticisms of the genre of it focusing too much on scaring and too little on gameplay.
Controls – 10/10
The only small issue I had, to begin with, was figuring out the mechanic of switching the dimensions of the plasma cutter to shoot either horizontal or vertical lines to line up with enemy targets. But that proved to just be semantics; there are no issues with the controls whatsoever. It plays out much better than Resident Evil 5, whereby players had to stand still whilst aiming.
Lifespan – 4/10
With only a few chapters and a limited amount of side missions, this game can be made to last for about six hours, which is pretty disappointing for a game of it’s potential. I find that a lot of survival horrors also suffer due to a short lifespan; I couldn’t rave about even some of the most critically acclaimed games over the previous two years, such as The Last of Us. Disturbingly, many people were willing to disregard the fact that they only last a limited amount of time and bestow upon it an unprecedented amount of acclaim and awards; Dead Space was no exception.
Storyline – 10/10
The one aspect I mustn’t criticize this game for, however, is its story; it’s interesting, tension-filled, exciting, and full of twists and turns towards the end. In a time when Earth’s resources are ravaged, and humanity has turned to outer space to mine for natural resources, a mining ship, the USG Ishimura, has gone dark, and so a small repair crew has been dispatched to investigate. They are Zach Hammond, Kendra Daniels, and the protagonist, engineering specialist Isaac Clarke. Isaac’s girlfriend Nicole is a medical office onboard the ship and is worried that something may have happened to her. But what the find on the Ishimura, in traditional survival horror fashion, turns out to be much more than what they either bargained for, or liked to have found, and events unfold into a much more convoluted and serious situation than any of the repair team could have possibly imagined.
Originality – 6/10
Though the game does follow a lot of the many preset conventions of survival horror, the story is exemplary, and the atmosphere and gritty realism of the science fiction setting of the Ishimura make for something fairly different to most other games in the genre. I just wish there could have been as much added to the gameplay, as I firmly believe there could have been added to it.
To sum up, Dead Space is a fairly good game, and it does provide an enjoyable new take on the survival horror genre, but like most survival horror games, I think there was indeed plenty of room for improvement. I think if developers had realized that, then they wouldn’t have rested on their laurels when coming to develop Dead Space 2 and 3 and possibly bothered to add a little bit more to the table in terms of gameplay.