Dead Space has been around a long time, since its release, two games have followed (Dead Space 2 and 3) after its huge international success as being one of the best horror games of the last decade. Im new to the series, in fact so new that I only began playing Dead Space a few weeks ago; I caught it at a good time and for a good price in a Steam sale and decided it was time to see if the terrifying stories I had been told by my friends were true. Let me put it bluntly. They were. Now let me just clarify my voice isnt a very high one but I can say without fail during my play through of Dead Space my voice climbed octaves, high enough to give Mariah Carey a run for her money. You see Dead Space is scary, very scary and whats amazing about it is that its scary even when you know whats going to happen, let me set the scene- Im walking down a corridor, the lights are flickering, the music is suspiciously quiet and wait theres a body on the floor. Of course, every horror fan knows whats going to happen when you try and walk past the body, its going to come to life and try to kill you. Well you guessed correctly this is exactly what happened and I knew it was going to happen but that didn’tt stop me from falling off my chair and scaring off all of the neighbourhood cats after screaming so loud; and thats the thing about Dead Space I found its elements of horror to be rather repetitive but for once it wasn’tt a bad thing. I feel like the game wants you to know whats coming and wants you to dread it, you see the developers did a great job exposing me to the horror early on the game and that sets a sort of standard for the rest of your play through and it wants you to fear whats coming all of the time.
So how did the protagonist (Isaac Clarke) get into such a horrifying situation? The game begins in space in the year 2508, with Earths resources been used up humans have resorted to travelling through space to other planets scavenging what they can find to survive. Isaac Clarke is part of the Concordance Extraction Corporation and has been sent to a mining vessel (USG Ishimura) that has mysteriously transmitted a distress signal after uncovering an alien artifact whilst mining on the planet Aegis VII; it is presumed they are having communication troubles- which is true but not with the hardware, you see the crew are pretty much all unable to come to the phone right now if you know what I mean. So Isaac is on a little ship heading to investigate alongside Kendra Daniels (technologist), Zach Hammond (Chief Security officer) and two security personnel. As your ship closes in on the Ishimura and attempts to dock; a malfunction occurs and ship crashes into the docking bay. The damage sustained to the ship means they have no way of leaving so continue into the Ishimura. Immediately the atmosphere hits you, the game has an incredible soundtrack that puts just out of your comfort zone and this is only maximised with the lighting effects; this game was released in October 2008 and I must say the graphics are impressive (game played on PC).
The first room the group enters is the flight lounge and as you head off to investigate the damage reports a quarantine mode is put into effect, you are separated by a see through door from the rest of the group and it begins. These creatures (Necromorphs) come out of nowhere and attack the group- sealed off from the action the game makes you feel helpless (a crucial mechanic to put into a horror game) and makes you watch as your friends fight for their lives against the Necromorphs. The two security officers are killed but Zach and Kendra manage to escape and they tell you to run. You head down a corridor to an elevator and after using it you find your first weapon- a pistol like contraption that will become your lifeline. From here on you have to follow mission objectives and are given large areas of the ship to explore, I would not call this game open world by any means but I enjoyed that it gave me more options than most linear story driven games I have played. What really adds a depth of mystery and allows the player to really connect with Isaac is that his wife is on board the Ishimura and sent an urgent message shortly before disappearing, this all makes for a great story and set alongside the other features it makes for a fantastic experience.
Now lets talk about the gameplay- after playing various horror games such as Outlast, Resident Evil, Silent hill etc, it is clear that what makes the gameplay so tense and difficult is that general lack of character maneuverability and Im not talking about those really badly designed movement systems you find in a flash game so dont worry; Dead Spaces character movement is great for a horror experience; Isaac has a sluggish feel to him and lets not forget he is an engineer way out of his depth with no firearm experience in the middle of space, on a ship thats inhabited by ravenous creatures- I honestly dont blame him. Jokes aside the movement really is great for the style of game Dead Space is. As I mentioned previously, Isaac is not trained in using weaponry but he is a engineer so the way you get new weapons is by finding schematics around the ship and actually building them using materials you can salvage from dead bodies, rooms etc It all makes the experience feel a little less linear and is a great design mechanic; to add to this I often found myself having to backtrack to explore rooms I had passed before is desperation for an item that is required for crafting, this led to a longer and more fulfilling gaming experience but I could imagine some gamers would be annoyed by this as finally making it to the next area of the game only to find out you need to go all the way back to another part of the ship to find just one item would be devastating.
The shooting in Dead Space is one of the reasons I kept going back to play, its just so satisfying. As you fire at the enemies various body parts blood flies out, the music intensifies, the lighting sometimes goes a bit crazy and occasionally a limb will fly off; times like these really are horror games at their best especially when using the flamethrower Looking back at previous horror games, I came to the conclusion that what makes them either great or not so great is the soundtrack- and Dead Space nails it. The atmosphere Dead Space creates for the player is just so astoundingly haunting that you will find it difficult not to walk down that dark corridor; you see the soundtrack has been crafted to work in sync with the environment for example as I got closer to a door at the end of a long corridor with nothing but a hanging flashing lights to guide my way the music seemed to put me on edge, with the dynamics changing spontaneously and then quickly settling back down before I really knew what hit me, I fully recommend turning your sound up high when playing this game, if you can handle it.
My Dead Space experience took around 10 hours, but this was just completing the main story without attempting to find all of the collectibles hidden around the ship and I am tempted to run through the game again, you see you cannot unlock all weapons and items on the first play through and I feel if you want the full experience you should give it a second try as battling the various bosses and endless hordes of Necromorphs could keep me occupied for a long while but for now I will leave you with this Dead Space is a timeless, well-crafted and extremely atmospheric experience; its more than just your average Horror game that with a gripping story, great mechanics and an intense soundtrack all fans of the genre should play.