Space, the Final Frightener
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.
November 30, 2007 – The survival horror genre is one of the more popular types of games because of its ability to thrill gamers. Whether the scares are cheap, sudden scares or deeper, psychological terrors, survival horror games keep the player enthralled by the constant sense of dread and danger, the feeling that harm lurks around every corner. While this feeling exists in most games, survival horror games accentuate that feeling, amplifying it with horrific foes, sinister locations, and, most often, a suffocating feeling of helplessness. These are some of the elements that the developers over at EA evidently took into account when they began crafting their upcoming IP, Dead Space, which is a survival horror game set, in the tradition of movies like Alien, aboard a deserted spacecraft.
Dead Space puts you in the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer that specializes in repairing mining ships. The company that he works for, the Concordance Extraction Corporation, one day receives a distress call from a ship. Isaac and a couple of crewmates decide to investigate, and, in the manner of horror movies and games, here is where the terror starts. The crew of the distressed vehicle has apparently been ravaged by an alien race known as the Necromorphs. The aliens all look terrifying, resembling a mangled mash up of humans. In short order, you’re separated from your companions, and you must discover what happened to the crew, all while trying to survive the onslaught of murderous Necromorphs.
One twist that the game provides is the role of Isaac. As stated earlier, Isaac is an engineer, not a soldier. He doesn’t have any combat training and isn’t particularly skilled in the weapons that he is presented. He has access to mining tools that are jury-rigged to be effective combat tools, and often he’ll be forced to use objects to batter the aliens with the game’s melee system. However, to more efficiently utilize his weaponry, Isaac has to become familiar with the alien’s weaknesses, which comes to play in the game’s dismemberment system. Each of the different Necromorph species has a specific weak point, which Isaac can obviously exploit. On some creatures, certain appendages are expendable, while on others, the loss of that particular extremity may be crippling or fatal. Some of the Necromorphs can survive without their head, but may be severely handicapped if Isaac can remove the arm. Isaac can use his Plasma Cutter, which will be his main weapon, to sever the different body parts in an attempt to defeat the Necromorphs, but it is in his best interest to find their weak point, as some Necromorphs will continue their assault in a shape that appears all but limbless.
In addition to the Plasma Cutter, Isaac will have a number of other high tech tools to help his survival. Kinesis allows Isaac to pick up and throw different objects for offensive purposes, making it sound similar to the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. The Stasis gun can slow time around a targeted area or object, taking the concept of games like Max Payne and Timeshift and focusing it further, since the untargeted areas and enemies will all proceed at normal speeds.
One of Dead Space’s most unique features is its zero-gravity segments. During certain parts of the game, Isaac will have to apparently step outside of the ship, anchored to the hull only by his gravity boots. These areas increase the tension incredibly, since Isaac not only has to worry about the Necromorphs, he now has to be careful of his every step or he might find himself floating off into space.
The visuals in Dead Space are looking incredible so far. Isaac resembles a cross between Master Chief and a Big Daddy, wearing a space suit that looks a little like segmented armor. We have yet to see Isaac’s face too, as all the released screenshots have him wearing a visored helmet. The Necromorphs are all terrifying, with mutated bodies comprised of human body parts and organs, and their skins seeming to have a pinkish, exposed look. We can definitely expect this game to be bloody, so the faint of heart need not apply.
Dead Space is looking like a game that we might want to keep our eyes open for. The survival horror genre has been relatively quiet of late, with most gamers waiting for the next iterations of Silent Hill and Resident Evil. Dead Space definitely looks like an interesting premise, and early screenshots show environs and enemies that are more than suitably scary. If all goes according to plan, we should be getting our Necromorph scares out around the end of 2008.