Sunday, 6 February 2011

Dead Space Review!

That's right, here's a review of Dead Space...1!

Oh yes, we're with the times here, totally up to date...okay, okay I'm about 2 years late with this but since Dead Space 2 got released a few days ago I decided to crack open my copy of the original and actually play the thing.

And this was my initial reaction.

It's....It's SYSTEM SHOCK 2! Okay it's definitely not SS2 but lets count the similarities on my "How much is this game like system shock 2" chart: Deserted human space hulk *check*, remote assistance from questionable sources *check*, evil alien hybrid creatures *check* and finally upgradable weapons/suit/etc *check*! Being an absolutely huge fan of the Warren Spector classic (I'm sorry I "dissed" you the other day sir) I was immediately hooked on this after about 10 minutes.

So for those looking for an overview of the plot, you play the part of Issaac Clarke (and although I've read this in a million reviews already, it's an amalgamation of two famous Sci-fi authors Issaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke), an engineer chap who is part of a small repair crew sent to help the distressed USG Ishimura. Shortly after arriving however your team is set upon by a couple of gangly alien monstrosities where you loose the two disposable characters from your crew. The attack also serves as a way of separating you from your other companions and starting you off on your journey to learn the fate of the crew and attempt to end the chaos. Awesome.

Lets sift out some of the bad stuff next, specifically the actual moving around and shooting game play. I really felt like I was dragging Issaac around rather than him following my movement, especially when aiming. Adjusting the mouse sensitivity helped, but then he'd spin round too fast when not aiming, I'd hate to blame console-isation here but it did feel like it had been designed for analogue pads rather than mouse control.

The next negative point is that I have next to no recollection of the music in the game aside from a few generic horror bits that had high pitched string sections. There wasn't much else, but whatever themed music there was didn't stick and I reckon they missed a trick here. Isaac looks quite iconic and deserves his own theme at least. Something that could have played when he does something clever or heroic that reminds the player just how awesome he obviously is.

And despite his freeman-esque silence throughout the game he comes across as a tough bugger who always gets back up if he's knocked down and isn't afraid to rip the tentacles off aliens if they get too close. In fact it's worth letting aliens get a little too close sometimes because nothing else seems to attack you while you're grappling with something else and, despite it being a "press this button as fast as you can" event it's always awesome watching him rip aliens to shreds with his bare hands.

The fighting isn't too bad and it's worth a specific mention because of the tactics you need to use to kill the necromorphs (the alien's official name) effectively and quickly. Rather than head shots or torso shots these nasties need their limbs removed before they slow down. And most of the time you'll need to remove both legs before they pause in their tracks and then you'll need to take off at least one arm before they completely give up!

However despite the panic that fighting brings, the overall pace is feels quite leisurely thanks to Isaac's pondering stomp through the decks of the Ishimura. The developers have used it to good effect by littering the place with audio logs from the lost crew and video messages from your two surviving companions to fill in the gaps between fighting. But don't let the pace fool you becaure there'll be times, many times where the pace quickens and you're suddenly running for your life and you'll have to think on your feet to survive.

While my favourite parts of the game are nearer the end (me being a story-geek and all) the journey is well worth it. There are several really memorable locations and puzzles that are cleverly mixed into the plot. But the ending is strangely satisfying, especially knowing that Issaac returns for the sequel. The last few minutes reminded me of another popular horror game ending, but I'll forgive it because of the few surreal but great moments before hand where the game really makes you think about what Isaac has just been through. Very well done!

So in a nutshell this is probably the best rpg/horror game I've played for years. For comparison, I enjoyed it more than Bioshock but not quite as much as Mass Effect 2. So if you're looking for a good value buy, and since it's currently a fiver on the EA store I can't recommend it enough. Of course I'm probably preaching to the choir now, it having been out for almost 3 years! However the sequel came out a few days ago and I'm already itching to press that "buy" button...

[Score 82 out of 100]

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