Dead Space Reader Review
Dead Space, I played it for the first time over the weekend and I have to admit, I rather enjoyed it.
Graphically the game is pretty enough to look convincing most of the time, although Isaac's shadow can occasionally look oddly pixelated, and this certainly helps a lot in building up the most important part of the game, which is it's atmosphere.
Aboard the Ishimura, the lights flicker and dim, shadows loom in the distance occasionally moving, the music is subtle but well orchestrated to induce a feeling that some new horror is always just around the corner, and it is often possible to hear enemies chatter and screech from somewhere in the room.
The enemies are suitably horrid also, all trailing tentacles, flailing limbs, and, of course, liberally splashed viscera, their frequently semi-human appearance lends them an extra-grotesque feeling straight out of H.P. Lovecraft's wet dreams. The way they'll often continue to charge at you after you've cut a few limbs off makes large encounters frantic experiences as you try to blow off legs and buy yourself more time and of course, you can never be sure when their dead.
A host of little things make the atmosphere that bit special as well. A moment I particularly enjoyed, early on in the game but people afraid of spoilers should probably skip the rest of the paragraph, as I stalked slowly down a corridor, lights flickering around me, I began to hear a rhythmic thumping sound. Approaching a nearby doorway I saw what looked like a horribly scarred but otherwise normal human, naked and covered in blood, thumping his face into the wall repeatedly. As I approached closer to determine if this was the sort of friendly crazy inexplicably spared (As is common in horror) or some new type of enemy, he groaned and died.
Being a paranoid sumbitch used to the genre I immediately stomped the corpse into goo, but afterwards I did stop to admire how the incident had raised my hackles and engaged my curiosity simultaneously, and the fact that dead space is able to engage that sort of horrified fascination fairly regularly makes it a mostly compelling experience.
I say mostly because Dead space isn't perfect. The occasional space cannon shooting sections, obviously included to "mix things up a bit", are both frustrating and pretty pointless. The game also occasionally tries too hard to be disturbing and scary and so occasionally the events ring a little untrue, and some of the enemies are just ridiculous looking (Specifically, the turtle baby things... Although I do admire a game willing to give you the option of stomping on babies, and it is undoubtedly slightly disturbing the first time)
It's also quite familiar in it's gameplay, stasis and kinesis powers feeling like stripped down bioshock plasmids. The over the shoulder viewpoint is by now familiar, and although the shooting off of limbs is a nice touch, it does more to add to the atmosphere than revolutionise gameplay.
The plot also is unfortunately predictable, owing much to sci-fi/horror movies such as event horizon, the sphere and the thing. This is a shame as unlike many other games the plot does make a fair bit of sense. Your an engineer on a wrecked spaceship, of course it makes sense that you are the one traipsing around the infested hallways fixing stuff, it's your job.
I do think however that most of the problems with dead space can be overlooked while playing, because the most important question about games like this, by which I mean horror games, is the one many of them don't get right, or forget about halfway through. Is the game scary? Yes, yes it is.
8 / 10