by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
A Familiar Frontier
It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery but there is a fine line between imitation and outright theft. Electronic Arts new third person survival horror / action hybrid, Dead Space, does a fine job of straddling that line. Sometimes Dead Space feels like it is trying too hard but most of the time it is a perfect blend of sci-fi films Alien, Aliens, Event Horizon and Sunshine as well as video games Bioshock and Resident Evil.
Players take on the role of engineer Isaac Clarke, a member of a repair crew sent out to work on the USG Ishimura. As is usual in sci-fi stories of this kind, the Ishimura has lost communication with the rest of the universe meaning the repair crew is going in blind. As would also be expected the repair shuttle gets damaged, stranding Isaac and the rest of the crew on the Ishimura where bad stuff will happen. The story is pretty much a hodge-podge of ideas blended together and all somewhat predictable. Fortunately EA has crafted an atmospheric environment that will keep you on the edge of your seat for almost all of your playtime, even if you can probably guess what is coming next in the story.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream
Much like the game itself, the environment is not entirely original. The ship is fittingly dark and it looks exactly how you would perceive a derelict space craft to look. But when you match it up with the superb audio work the ship takes on a life of its own. One you don’t particularly want to be walking around in, especially in the dark. All this is accented by the impressive HUD the game utilizes.
Something that horror games strive for is a constant feeling of unease. This can be rather hard to pull off because you are constantly taken out of the moment by entering menus to do various game related functions. EA has found the perfect work around for this very problem. Regardless of if you need to check the map, manage your inventory or watch or read logs that you collect it is all done through a holographic projector that emanates from Isaac’s suit in real time. The effect is a sense that you are never really safe and that constant feeling of unease is that the developers reached for. The immersion is further accentuated with the innovative placement of Isaac’s health and power bar which are actually a part of his suit. When all this is matched up with the dark audio and visual tone of the game it creates a truly creepy experience.
Little Shop of Horrors
Of course it doesn’t matter how creepy of an environment you create if your monsters aren’t scary. Dead Space falters a bit here as the enemies are a mixed bag. Some necromorphs, as they are called, are outright terrifying, they are dark colored, move fast and have an uncanny ability to sneak up on you. Some are totally disgusting spitting forth little monsters until you kill their parent off. And then there are some that look like walking plants. Just about anyone will tell you that a walking plant isn’t scary in the slightest.
No Pros and Cons at this time