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Xbox 360






Electronic Arts



EA Redwood Shores



M (Mature)



October 14, 2008



- A feeling of dread and despair permeate the game
- Fantastic economy that really makes players consider their upgrades and purchases
- Audio design that gave me the creeps
HUD is worked right into the game



- Unrelenting gore
- Sometimes feels like one long fetch quest
- The gravity manipulator is underutilized



Review: BioShock (360)

Review: Gears of War (360)

Review: Resident Evil 4 (GC)

Review: The Thing (XB)



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Dead Space

Score: 8.5 / 10



dead space           dead space


I've been describing Dead Space to people as, all the action/shooter games you've ever played set in a hellish, deep space nightmare. There are obvious movie "inspirations" like Event Horizon, Alien, and John Carpenter's The Thing, but hardcore gamers will easily recognize influences like Resident Evil 4, Gears of War, System Shock 2, Dark Sector, BioShock, Half-Life 2, BloodRayne, and possibly three or four other games whose influence is debatable. The essential thing here is that




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Dead Space is really easy to get into because you've probably played a game in recent memory that feels a little similar either in tone or gameplay.

Crash landing on the deep space mining ship Ishimura is bad enough but as Isaac Clarke -- another sci-fi nod, this one to Isacc Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke -- soon discovers, that's actually the least of his worries. The ship has been taken


over by so-called Necromorphs, which require flesh to reproduce themselves. There's some confusion initially about what brought the Ishimura to its current state but as Isaac finds audio, video and text logs from the crew and is treated to the occasional monologue from surviving Ishimura crew members, it's revealed that some bad things happened when a "Marker" was discovered on the planet below just prior to the planet being "cracked". Things really went bad when the Marker was brought up to the ship. It's obvious from the outset that this will not be a happy game with a bittersweet ending after putting things right. No, this a game with nameless things scuttling around, many of them only heard and not seen, giant tentacles, sharp pointy things slicing limbs, quite a bit of screaming, little squidgy things glooping along the floor, and wall-to-wall-to-ceiling viscera as Isaac moves about the ship on his seemingly neverending errands.

One of Dead Space's sharpest attributes is the in-game economy that really matters. Throughout the ship, there are kiosks where Isaac can purchase new weapons, ammo, med kits, and armor and weapon upgrades. The catch is that there isn't a whole lot of money (or nodes, that upgrade the weapons and armor, and can be used to open some doors) to be found on the ship. Items can be sold for some quick cash or stored in the "bank" for retrieval later, but as the game progressed these choices took me longer and longer to make because choices made with inventory and equipment actually matter.

Proper management of Isaac's inventory is key to staying alive. I should know; there were plenty of times where I didn't have any ammo and had to rely on slowing down enemies with a blast of stasis, which essentially freezes them in place, so they could be wailed on the old fashioned way. It's especially easy in the early part of the game to continually run out of ammo because players don't fully understand the limited availability of resources or that taking a moment to shoot accurately enough to sever a couple of limbs is enough to take down many enemies. This pressure to remain steady under fire, is what makes the enemy encounters feel so rewarding.


dead space          dead space

The developers made some great choices when it came to incorporating critical information like remaining ammo, life and stasis gauges, and in-game communications. Even figuring out where Isaac is supposed to be going is completely kept in-game. Both the map and guideline (which points you in the right direction if you're lost) are consulted without pausing any of the action. The result is that you're never taken out of the experience unless you pause the game. (I'm excluding the "Mission Complete" that fills the screen whenever Isaac finishes a section of the game.)

The feeling of despair and desperation is also a side effect of never really leaving the game; there's no release from the dreadful atmosphere. Unless, of course, Isaac is running and jumping around in zero-g with an oxygen gauge that seems to drain way too fast, then there's just no atmosphere.

As much as Dead Space should be a big mess for mixing genres and borrowing so many ideas and gameplay mechanics from other games, it manages to stand on its own as an extremely good game, especially for a new IP. Just be prepared for some gore.

- Aaron Simmer

(October 27, 2008)


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