Dead Space is Fun, But Not Scary
On October 14, Electronic Arts' Redwood Shores development house released the highly anticipated "Dead Space," now available for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. This sets off the pre-holiday videogame release season. It's the first real big title in the series of blockbusters that will be hitting shelves over the next few months.
"Dead Space" is a survival horror game that casts the player as Isaac Clarke, the engineer of a team sent to repair a damaged mining ship. As soon as you arrive, however, you find that there's more wrong on the Ishimura than a few blown fuses.
What follows is a straightforward structure. You proceed through twelve levels, each requiring you to complete some ship fixing related puzzle. On the way, you will regularly be surprised by several varieties of alien zombie parasite monster.
I say surprised, as opposed to frightened. Much of the game's horror reminds me of "Doom 3". It spends more time trying to surprise you than frighten you. Occasionally the game will give you a piece of truly unsettling imagery, and what is there is well done, but it never even approaches the psychological torment of "Silent Hill 2."
Isaac is a big part of the problem. Like many game protagonists, he remains mute throughout the title. This is done so that the player can project emotions onto the character. However, the result is that when the plot requires Isaac to experience heart wrenching loss, he remains a blank canvas.
Even if the horror aspect is a bit lacking, "Dead Space" is a very good action game. If you enjoyed the gameplay of "Resident Evil 4," then there's nothing not to love here. Most of the weapons are cutting tools designed to dismember your antagonists "Evil Dead" style. Even the most boring weapon in your arsenal is a futuristic flame thrower, a good sign. Add to that the zero gravity gameplay sections, and you've got a solid shooter.
The user interface is the most innovative thing in the game, and I except to see it pop up in other games. The GUI consists of enhanced reality visualization, as seen in "Shadowrun" or "Minority Report." Holographic windows appear next to your character displaying menus, videos, text messages, etc. The only exceptions are the pause screen, which exists out of necessity, as well as save points and shopping terminals.
The best part of this system is that it doesn't remove you from the experience. I can be watching a video recording and blasting monsters at the same time. The world never stops because the player needs to check his PDA.
It boasts an acceptable running time at bout 11 hours, but after the twelfth chapter and final credits there's not much to bring you back for more. It is an enjoyable rental and I recommend playing it, but there's no reason to purchase "Deep Space."