Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/20/08 | Genre: Survival Horror
While EA may be best known for their sports lineup, it is important to remember that they are one of the few in the industry that can take a chance on a new, unproven IP. With their latest game, Dead Space, EA has done just that and they came up with a winner.
In terms of sheer production values, Dead Space is the best game EA has released. The entire experience is slick; the UI is incredibly intuitive, the play control is precise and the game is visually impressive and aurally phenomenal. Dead Space is not the type of game you would expect from a family-friendly developer/publisher like Electronic Arts. The game features some of the most brutal scenes in gaming history. To defeat the monsters aboard the USG Ishimura, you'll need to shred them to pieces by blowing off various appendages; decapitations are not so uncommon either.
When the game begins, you find yourself aboard a ship that has picked up the S.O.S. from the mining ship USG Ishimura. Your team is dispatched to help out the crew and to get the ship operational again, but as you approach, things go haywire and you are forced to make an emergency landing in the docking bay. Once the team enters the Ishimura, things turn south rather quickly. Within minutes you find yourself running down dark corridors, helpless against the necromorphs chasing close behind.
It's ok though, you're not helpless for long. You soon come across your first weapon, the plasma cutter, and can start dishing out a little payback. The weapons of Dead Space, while not incredibly varied, are all quite capable of dismembering the enemies you encounter. They also feature nice laser sighting as blue beams are projected out from the gun that not only look cool, but make aiming a breeze.
This new aiming mechanism is just one of the many great new features implemented by the developers at EA that make Dead Space a usability masterpiece. The game is very nearly HUDless and it's hard to convey just how big of a difference this makes. Your health meter is displayed directly on Isaac's back as part of his suit as is your remaining stasis energy. In fact, nearly all of the typically mundane status elements and menus have been integrated cleverly into the suit or other items. For instance, your ammo count for weapons is displayed from the weapon itself, not in a box in the corner of the screen. Also, maps and inventory screens popup in front of you as if they're being displayed by a projector from his suit. Dead Space represents a fresh approach to UI in games and it's not unwelcome.
As mentioned earlier, the game is quite impressive from a technical standpoint and while the visuals are great, the audio is what truly sucks you into the game. Dead Space makes the best use of surround sound in games to date. The general ambiance of the ship is spooky with the echos of pipes creaking, ghostly whispers and necromorphs scampering through the ventilation shafts.
There are plenty of moments in the game that will make you jump, especially near the beginning. Dead Space feels very much like a survival/horror title in the first few chapters, but evolves into more of an action game by the end when you're assaulted by larger and larger waves of necromorphs. Ammo and health item conservation isn't much of a concern on the lower difficulty levels. Throughout the game you'll find credits that you can spend at stores to purchase all kinds of things from new weapons to suit upgrades which allow you to carry more items and bolster your armor. You can also upgrade your weapons at the numerous work benches around the ship to give you extra stopping power, faster reloads and increased carrying capacities.
Upgrading your suit, abilities and weapons will help out a lot in the later stages of the game. Unfortunately, these upgrades also bring us to the single biggest flaw in the game. Once you've played through the game you are not allowed to change the difficulty settings and keep your upgrades for a second time through. You must either replay the game on the same difficulty or lose all your upgrades and start anew on a different setting. This seems like an obvious problem; after all, isn't the whole point of upgrading your equipment to better prepare you for stronger threats? Let's hope this gets fixed in the sequel.
There's no doubt that EA has successfully launched a new franchise with Dead Space. The game is fun to play, the world is intriguing and the UI breaks new ground in the industry and is light years ahead of the bland and cluttered look of the company's sports franchises. Dead Space is a definite 'must buy' for gamers of proper age and a franchise we can't wait to see more of.
Real Life Rating
Dead Space certainly earns it's M rating from the ESRB. There's blood by the bucket load throughout the game and you'll spend a large majority of your time ripping enemies apart piece by piece with the guns in the game and when they're crawling towards you on the ground you can lift Isaac's big, bad boot and brutally stomp the remaining life out of them. While stomping the head off of an enemy is quite satisfying, it is not suitable content for younger players.