by Adam Brown
July 17, 2008 - EA is ready to take its first steps into the incredibly popular survival horror genre of video games with its upcoming title Dead Space. Set to come out this holiday season, this game will be going toe to toe with veteran survival horror franchises such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil. Usually when a company ships a completely new intellectual property they don't often pit it directly against longtime genre favorites, but EA is pretty sure that they have something very special in Dead Space. Based on everything that has been shown from it so far, I would have to say that I completely agree.
Dead Space helps to set itself apart from its competitors with its unique setting, storyline, and look. The game takes place aboard the mining ship Ishimura, a seemingly lifeless mining vessel floating in space. After receiving a distress call, the game's main character Isaac Clarke is sent to investigate. You will quickly realize that, while there may be no humans left alive on board, the ship is far from deserted.
It appears as though while unearthing an alien artifact, the Ishimura is attacked by an infestation called the Corruption. This Corruption has taken control of the ship and essentially converted all its human inhabitants into some pretty horrific looking monsters called Necromorphs. There is a wide variety of these previously human mutants, each requiring a different strategy to dispatch. All the enemies in the game are extremely difficult to kill, with wounds and missing limbs having virtually no effect. Instead, players will need to learn each foe's weak point and how to exploit it to survive.
An example of this is the brute, a massive gorilla like enemy who will charge and smash Isaac at every opportunity. Taking off legs and arms will merely slow them down but using your suits stasis power will allow you to maneuver behind them to attack their unprotected backside. Finding each enemy's weak point may be somewhat difficult but is absolutely necessary for survival, as Necromorphs will frequently come at you in large numbers and from just about everywhere. You will need to pay close attention to your surroundings, as foes will jump from around corners, attack from the ceiling, and even pop out of floor vents to catch you off guard.
Aside from your more traditional enemies, Dead Space will also include some interesting boss battles and a few other surprises. The only boss that has been seen so far is the Leviathan. It is a massive, tentacle-swinging boss that is located in a zero gravity environment at the bottom of a corridor. To survive this battle, players will need to leap back and forth between walls while constantly inflicting damage any way they can. As far as surprises go, at one point Isaac walks through a door and is quickly grabbed by a tentacle. As it pulls him towards a dark hole that almost certainly spells death, players must attempt to shoot the tentacle to earn their freedom and save their lives. We still haven't seen all this game has to offer, but I'm sure we can expect quite a few more bosses and unexpected segments like these throughout.
As a miner on a futuristic mining ship, Isaac's training is limited and his weapons are far from conventional. This results in players needing to make good use of his suit and mining equipment to survive. There seem to be a good variety of makeshift weapons that can be used to down foes, but it is Isaac's suit that appears to add real diversity to the game. This suit will give the player the ability to walk on walls and the ceiling while in zero gravity, create a stasis field that drastically slows everything within its range, and to move various objects with a limited form of telekinesis. Throughout the game, you will need to rely on these abilities to give you the advantage over the endless hordes of Necromorphs.
Dead Space is an incredibly beautiful title. Everything including its characters, enemies, backgrounds, and lighting effects are simply gorgeous. The game is made even more immersive and visually appealing because there is no HUD to get in your way. Isaac's life and powers will instead be displayed as blue lights located on his back and ammo reserves can be seen as holograms when aiming your weapon. Even your inventory is holographic and appears in front of your character when opened, meaning Isaac can see it too. These may seem like small things, but not having any visual clutter really makes this game feel unique and greatly adds to the realism.
With its science fiction approach to the survival horror genre, Dead Space should raise quite a few eyebrows when it is released this October. Since the game feels more like a mix of BioShock and the movie Aliens, it should also provide longtime fans with an interesting experience that strays away from the genre's standard fare. If you like dismembering ghastly creatures, beautiful graphics, and constantly being on the edge of your seat, Dead Space is definitely a game you should keep your eyes on.
CCC Freelance Writer