I had originally picked up Dead Space two years ago. I enjoyed it just fine, but apparently it didn’t hold my interest well enough because I got to Chapter 9 and then moved on to a different game and never looked back…until now.
I will admit, it took Dead Space 2 coming out to make me revisit this game but I’m really glad I did. Something about it clicked more with me this time around and a game I thought was simply good was a lot better to me the second time around. The best thing about Dead Space is the setting and ambience that the game sets up for you. Not only do you genuinely feel like you are on different levels of a space ship, but you also have this sense of dread that something is going to kill you around every corner.
In my opinion Dead Space did a lot of things right that were completely lost on Resident Evil 5. It’s as if RE5 didn’t want to completely shed its roots so it had the same control scheme from Resident Evil 4. The explanation given for this was that you couldn’t fully create tense situations without the player having to think about the controls. Dead Space not only proved this wrong, but also showed Resident Evil 5 that putting emphasis on action doesn’t necessarily have to strip away the feeling of isolation, survival, or fear.
The story in Dead Space is fairly minimalistic with the option for it to be expanded upon by the numerous tie ins that are involved with the franchise. You can get the gist of the story simply by playing the game and if you really want a deeper experience with the universe, you have a choice of novels, comics, and movies to choose from. I kind of liked this approach because it gave me the choice to get as involved as I wanted with the story. The game does a good job of giving you a basic premise of the high points of the universe by including text, video, and audio logs. This minimilast approach even creeped its way into the ending as well which was actually to the game’s benefit. You can tell that everything that Isaac had gone through deeply affected him. He looked completely broken by the end of the game and all of that was conveyed by a single cutscene.
The gameplay doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it simply creates a damn good wheel for you to play with. Dismemberment is the name of the game, and all of the weapons are built for the task. Speaking of the weapons, I like how a lot of the game’s contriances are explained away by story. For example, each of the weapons in the game are actually mining tools. Even the reason why the game is nothing more than someone giving you a laundry list of shit to do is explained away by making you an engineer with the sole responsibility to get the ship up and running again. That explanation is good enough for me. The fact that the game is really good helps in that regard.
You can upgrade your weapons, health, armor etc via in game stores. It’s a bit of an obvious approach but I think it worked rather well for this game. The node system really made you explore every corner of the Ishimura in order to find extra power nodes to upgrade your character.
So what does Dead Space do wrong? Well for starters, I think the game had a lack of set pieces to keep the pace going. I think to a degree, you are supposed to be slow and methodical with your approach but it seemed like the pacing was a bit too slow at times. Not only that, but there were a few areas that got really annoying, the main one being the asteroid cannon bit. Luckily I was able to hang on just long enough to get through that part after a few tries but it left a cheap taste in my mouth.
Not only that, but the new game+ in this game is a bit misguided. Although it does give you extra credits, power nodes, and a new suit of armor for completing the game and then replaying it, it shoots itself in the foot by only letting you take advantage of the extras on the same difficulty level. This really makes having New Game+ in this game sort of pointless.
Overall I had a great time with Dead Space. The game’s graphics, sound, and overall ambience are all aces even two years later. I wouldn’t say the game is a classic example of survival-horror, but considering what’s been posing as Survival Horror since the days that Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and Resident Evil were prominent games in the genre, I will gladly take it. There’s enough jumps and scares to still creep you the hell out with the lights off and the sound turned up loud.