By ANDREW HOFFMAN
You activate the panel and observe the damage readout, but before you can rejoin your comrades, the quarantine system comes down like a hammer. Unable to do anything but watch through a window, you see something emerge from the vents in the ceiling. Effortlessly, it eviscerates one of your crewmates.
Panicked gunfire fills the adjacent room as your superiors urge you to escape to the nearby elevator. You turn to run and suddenly another one of the creatures is right behind you, growling and swiping angrily. You reach the elevator and it starts to power up when suddenly the creature begins to pull the doors open.
All you can do is watch and back away as its horrific form begins to pull itself through the doorway. Suddenly, the elevator kicks in and the doors snap shut, killing the monster. It’s been less than five minutes and Dead Space has already established itself as the scariest game of 2008.
In Dead Space you play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent as part of a repair team aboard a damaged mining spacecraft, the USG Ishimura. The team is met by a ship filled with Necromorphs, vicious, murderous creatures created by an alien virus which mutates dead cells.
Throw in a doomsday cult and government conspiracies and you’re getting a sense of the story in Dead Space. It may sound cliché but the story is very well done due to how unobtrusive it is. The story is told mostly through the events happening around you and in audio and text logs you find, rather than burdensome exposition.
This streamlined approach, matched with some sharp dialogue and great characters, makes the story more than the sum of its parts.
The game plays as a third-person shooter, arming you with various weapons and using an over-the-shoulder perspective throughout. The gunplay is well done as all the weapons are well designed and have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. However, that isn’t to say the game is easy.
Your guns may pack a punch, but the Necromorphs you’ll face are more than prepared to take it. The key to combat is to dismember your enemies, requiring precise aiming to deal with foes effectively. Otherwise you’ll waste scarce ammo just unloading into foes and not doing much damage. The tension between eliminating enemies quickly and aiming precisely makes combat intense and the action in Dead Space very enjoyable.
But this isn’t just an action game. The game is expertly designed to get into your head. Enemies sneak up behind you and burst out of nowhere, the sound will have you on edge constantly, and the atmosphere is oppressive and terrifying, making for a genuinely scary experience. Even when you think you’ve figured out the game’s tricks, it’ll still find new ways to scare you. This is a genuinely terrifying game.
Dead Space is not perfect, however. Issues include a reliance on backtracking, environments that get repetitive as the game goes on and disappointingly easy boss fights, but in the big scheme of things those are rather minor issues. The only major issue is value.
Dead Space is an amazing game but it can be beat easily in less than 10 hours and has limited replay value. That’s not much for a $60 game. But if that doesn’t deter you, then pick this game up. This is the best survival-horror game of 2008.