Video Game Review: Dead Space (for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC)
So here is anythinghorror.com’s first video game review. I’m fucking excited and wanna thank regular reader Michael Neland for contributing this review. Mike was commenting on one of the various discussion threads and I mentioned I was looking for someone to review horror video games and comics. He jumped at the idea and here we are. A little about Michael Neland (I’ll let him introduce himself in his own words):
My name is Michael Neland and I’m a 23 yr old student/bartender/sarcastic asshole from Portland, OR. My interests include metal music, cooking, shooting pool, and pretty much anything horror. I first got into horror when I was about 10-11 and I watched the movie Trilogy Of Terror on the USA network. Scared the shit out of me but I fucking loved it. I’ve been a huge horror nerd ever since. Aside from horror movies I’ve also been following a few horror themed artists (Joshua Hoffine and Mark Powell), and religiously listening to a weekly horror podcast called Pseudopod. Definitely check Pseudopod out if you ever get bored. I cant really say I have a favorite horror movie… I guess maybe Re-Animator? Or The Thing? Or Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust? I Spit On Your Grave? Ebola Syndrome? Too many choices! Shit… Too much booze and not enough sleep last night.
A few things I can say about Mike: He watched USA network; he drinks too much; he likes the disturbing art work of Joshua Hoffine; and he’s a self-confessed “sarcastic asshole”. I think he’s gonna fit in just fine around here!!! Now onto Mike’s review!!
Dead Space was developed by EA Redwood (now Visceral Games) and released back in October 2008. I remember reading an article about Dead Space in Game Informer about 3-4 months before it was released and instantly falling in love with it. From the game’s awesome story, to its innovative and original game play features, it had “Fuck YES!” written all over it. I had to learn more. I ate up anything Dead Space I could find. It looked THAT good. There is a comic book series (illustrated by the amazing Ben Templesmith [Ben’s inked 4 30 Days of Night comics, Hellspawn, and Silent Hill to name a few -- ed.]) and an animated movie that gives you a good amount of back story that’s definitely worth checking out if you plan on playing the game. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Onto the game’s story: The CEC (Concordance Extraction Company) loses contact with its new toy, a “Planet Cracker” class ship called the USG Ishimura, and the mining colony it was sent to. As Isaac Clarke, space engineer and closet bad ass, you and your posse have been sent out to fix the communications problem. But you’re also on a little mission of your own. Your girlfriend Nicole, who is stationed on the Ishimura as a medical specialist, has recently sent you an obscure message asking for your help. Sounds simple enough, right? WRONG. You crash land on the deck of the Ishimura to find a sizable chunk of the ships inhabitants have been transformed into walking piles of murder called Necromorphs. The rest of the games story is delivered through various journals and audio/video logs left behind by the ship’s crew. Shit get’s real right off the bat when you’re separated from your team and are forced to fight for your survival with the help of the only two surviving members of your crew, senior security officer Zach Hammond, and the trash talking computer engineer Kendra Daniels.
The game play in Dead Space is something that really stands out from the crowd. Unlike most video game bad guys, shooting a Necromorph in the head or chest just pisses it off. Instead the game forces you to “strategically dismember” your enemies with, for the most part, mining tools turned improvised weapons that can be upgraded at the many tool benches you find along the way. You also gain access to two support abilities, Stasis and Kinesis. Stasis allows you to slow both enemies and objects down in the environment. Kinesis gives you the ability to pick up and throw things like gas canisters and severed limbs to a devastating effect. Enemy encounters are often fast paced and require you to use different tactics for each class of Necromorph. Like using stasis to slow a heavily charging, heavily armored Brute so you can attack it’s not so heavily armored back side, or ripping a mutant space baby of your back and punting it across the room. Learning your enemy’s weak points is key to survival here. But even when you do get taken down, the game rewards you with a gruesome death scene unique to each situation that is almost worth the trouble just to see.
At certain points in the game, you’ll run into zero gravity zones. These areas provide a whole new level of game play, by allowing Isaac to jump in pretty much any direction. It’s a little disorienting at first, but it’s really fun once you get used to it. Kind of like your own little Thunder dome, where you get to tell these alien scum just who runs Barter Town…
Instead of the usual Heads Up Display in the foreground, Dead Space up’s the ante by feeding you all that information through Isaacs RIG suit. For example: your remaining ammo is displayed above your weapon whenever you bring it into a ready position. To see how much health you have left, simply check the glowing spine tube on the back of your RIG. Your menu is projected in front of you; giving you 3D maps, an inventory screen, plus access to all your journals and audio/video logs. All this is done in real time, insuring you don’t miss a single second of the pants-shitting terror. [I love “pants-shitting terror -- ed.]
Another thing I loved about this game is how easily you get sucked into it. The atmosphere is dim and foreboding; filled with flickering lights and sinister shapes disappearing around the next corner. The game’s great sound design fills the halls with echoes of enemies moving through the ventilation shafts, and the screams of their victims, making you feel like there are no safe places for you to hide. The hushed voices whispering what sounds like “Hail Satan” in the background will have you hitting the mute button once in a while just to make sure it’s part of the game and that you’re not you losing your mind. Dark and terrible things are constantly jumping out of the shadows to try and drag you to your death. The journals and audio/video logs further enhance the experience by filling you in on just how shitty things got for these people during the infestation of the Ishimura.
The one down side to this game is that it has a severe lack of boss fights. Although the one you do get is pretty epic… It definitely leaves something to be desired. That aside, I’d say this game is damn near flawless. It’s got a great story, plenty of action and suspense (I first played this game in a dark room with a huge projector screen with surround sound. I suggest doing the same. The multiple heart attacks are well worth it.), and enough gore to leave you sated for quite some time. The games developers really did their homework here. Literally. I read that in order to make the corpses more realistic, they studied photos of car crash victims. How awesome is that?! Do yourself a favor, and play this game. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.
Fun Fact: Italian horror director Dario Argento lent his voice to Doctor Terrence Kyne character for the Italian release of the game.
Graphics: 8.5 out of 10
Sound: 9.5 out of 10
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
Story: 9 out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 out of 10