Dead Space Review – Great Atmosphere and Game Variety Provide the Model For Other Games to Follow

March 13th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

Dead Space

Score: 9.0

Systems: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Genre: 3rd person survival horror
Length: 15 hours
Difficulty: 7
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Publisher: EA Games
Release Date: 10/14/08


- Combat is very fun and good amount of gameplay variety
- Lots of upgrades, gadgets
- Great atmosphere, sound, graphics


- Environment not as interesting as utopian underwater world of Bioshock
- Difficulty goes from super easy to darn hard at points

The games released in 2008 have been pretty weak thus far. The “big release” games, such as GTA4, MGS4, Mario Kart and Spore have done nothing for me. It seems we got spoiled with the great crop of games that were released in 2007, such as Bioshock, Portal, COD4, Half Life 2 Episode 2, Metroid Prime 3, and Super Mario Galaxy. Well, it seems the industry is following its usual trend of releasing all the great games in the last 2 months of the year. Clearly this is the only time people have disposable cash for great games, right?

Bioshock was one of the best games released last year. The incredibly detailed and creative underwater world and the great variety of gadgets, powers and the ominous Big Daddies combined to create a truly amazing gaming achievement. Like they say, imitation is the ultimate form of flattery. Dead Space emulates many of the Bioshock gaming mechanics in a new environment. It should not be surprising that Dead Space is a great game as well. Both games feature a self contained smallish, but interesting environment where some crazy genius is pulling the strings and making disgusting mutant enemies.

The game is set in a huge space ship. You are tasked to restart the ship’s tram, fix its navigation computers and a variety of other believable tasks. While it would nice to just walk around the ship performing your duties to get things running again, it wouldn’t make a very entertaining game. That’s where the crazy antagonist sets things up to make your life a living hell as he besets countless hordes of disgusting atrocities your way. Your job is to stop him from creating a master race of aliens.

One of the game’s innovations is its strategic dismemberment system. While the enemies are really cool, you can’t just gawk at them all day or you’ll get your ass handed to you. Enemies are virtually impossible to deal with by simply blasting away at them aimlessly. You also have a very limited ammo supply so you need to choose your shots wisely. By aiming at specific body parts rather than simply blasting away at them, you can take enemies down faster and conserve ammo. Some enemies also have inherent weaknesses that can be exposed by targeting them from behind or shooting bombs on them. The limited ability to slow time also makes it easier to target body parts. This system helps to distinguish the game from Bioshock. The game also remembers that you are an engineer and gives you tools of the trade rather than the typical space marine huge grunt weapons of mass destruction. It’s nice to see the game separate itself from other shooters.

The game provides a lot of powerups, but none really distinsguish themselves from the pack. You can make better guns to deal with hardier enemies. There are armor upgrades, but they serve to only increase the damage you can absorb. Your main power is the ability to slow down time and move some objects.

Missions provide a good deal of variety. All stages revolve around realistic tasks, such fixing various parts of the ship, rather than the typical shoot everything in sight, grab the blue key to open the blue door and progress to the next level. Some stages revolve around going into zero G environments as you float around searching for an exit and fighting the ever present monsters. These sections change up the action by forcing you to search for enemies that can come at you from all directions. There are also sections where you go into a vacuum and have a limited air supply, which results in a limited time frame to make it through to the next section. Other games with timed sequences can get frustrating if you die in the last 30 seconds of a 10 minute section, but Dead Space gets around these problems by keeping these timed sections limited to just 1-2 minutes.

At the end of major sections of the game you are encountered with some fun boss fights. These fights set themselves apart from the other sections with the creature’s unique abilities. As with most games, you just need to learn their weaknesses to defeat them. Several of these fights require you to use your powers in unique ways to defeat them.

There are a number of minor puzzles strewn throughout the game. None of it is very complicated, but the puzzles help to break up the pace of the game and keep it from devolving into a standard run and gun shooter. You can use the power to slow down time to effect your environment. The telekinetic powers also let you move objects to forge your path through the game.

The enemies that jump at from the dark recesses of space have variety as well. Some monsters will cling to walls and jump at you while rebounding to other walls. Other huge creatures are virtually unstoppable and can only be killed from behind. Some enemies are plants that spit smaller aliens at you while others explode into smaller creatures.

The dark and dank atmosphere emulates the Gears of War and Resident Evil games that really set the mood for the horror experience so well. Apparently they just don’t pay the light bills in these games. The game takes full advantage of the dark environments by having creatures jump out at you from every nook and cranny. The desperate mood is amplified with scarce ammo supplies. The developers went to great lengths to create a convincing environment, and they don’t let the game’s HUD ruin it. You will never venture into complicated menu systems to change powers or abilities because everything you need is displayed holographically on your 3D HUD, your suit or your gun.

Some problems I experienced were that there is no clear direction regarding what should be upgraded and would effective later in the game. While the environments and enemies are great, they do get a bit repetitive in the last third of the game. It’s always hard to keep the new experiences coming throughout an adventure. The difficulty level isn’t a smooth transition as you progress through the adventure. I had no challenge through the first 4 levels then I started getting my butt kicked pretty quickly as ammo and health pickups starting dwindling fast. Gamers should make sure to act like they are stocking up for the winter by holding back on using your equipment unless it is absolutely necessary.

Dead Space drips and oozes with atmosphere and has outstanding graphical effects. The sound quality is also superb. In the vacuum environments, the oxygen tank breathing becomes magnified and the screams of terror become muted. It’s these types of attention to detail that make the game continue to stand out.

Overall, Dead Space creates that rare feeling that I just didn’t want to put the game down and couldn’t wait to get home to play the game. It’s quite shocking that Electronic Arts, otherwise know as the former evil empire, developed this game. Over the past decade, EA has created sequel after sequel apparently so detracted from gamers to realize that we want something new and fun to play. Well, its recently lagging financial performance must have woken up the sleeping giant to create this new high quality IP with its innovative gameplay mechanics. Are you listening Activsion and Nintendo? It is still possible for large mass market companies to innovate and satisfy the hardcore gamers. You are on notice that we expect more from you. Heck, even EA can create something new, so I know you guys can do it.

Make sure to visit our site to also view the game’s video review, gameplay videos and images along with editorial articles and arcade games.

Roger Riley (aka Rabid Rabbit) []