Dead Space

A necromorph lurks behind Isaac in Dead Space.

Dead Space, the 2008, third-person, sci-fi shooter, is a solid contribution its genre, but it continually reminds me of other games.

Hey, wasn’t Dead Space 2 released just a few days ago? When I finally got a hold of an XBOX over the summer, I had to get a couple of games. Those were Burnout Paradise and Dead Space. In hindsight, I’m not really sure why I chose them. I think a large part of it was that I wanted to experience what the PS3/360 generation had brought to the gaming world.

So, I started Dead Space and I couldn’t read a goddamn thing on the screen.

That sucked. Eventually, I caved and bought a larger TV, introducing me to the world of hi-def and out of the world of CRTs. Seriously.

So, Dead Space part 2: I restarted the game, ran around for a bit, then got distracted with Rock Band and stopped.

Ok, Dead Space part 3: This was my weekend game. Monday through Friday, I’d go to work and live life, then on the weekends, I’d break out Dead Space, usually later in the night when it was dark. Yes, I went it all out. I set the gamma to very low levels as suggested, cranked the volume up too loud, and actually jumped at a couple of crashes and explosions pouring through the speakers.

This is a game where it pays off do to that stuff. You’ve got to soak up the atmosphere. Playing it in bright lights with the sound muted does not have the same impact.

So, the story starts as Isaac, an engineer in the crew of a space vessel, happens upon the much-larger Ishimura that’s been inhabited by a set of multi-limbed baddies called Necromorphs. Players take the roll of Isaac, as he dreams about his girlfriend and sets out to get off the ship alive.

Deja vu

The entire time that I played Dead Space, it felt like an amalgamation of other games. Take the setting from System Shock 2, mix it with the third-person shooting of Resident Evil, throw in some written notes from Deus Ex and some audio narratives from Bioshock and you’ll have this thing. I’m not trying to knock Dead Space. Like hearing the White Stripes knock out a Zeppelin-esque riff, it’s alright to take inspiration from good sources. If the game had been inspired by Rise of the Robots, then there’d be trouble.

Isaac blasts away in Dead Space

A stark difference between Dead Space and games like Deus Ex and System Shock is that here, I never wanted to stop and explore. I always needed to chase the next goal. Running through corridor after corridor creates a linear game, but I really wanted to run to the next section. Could this be excellent level design pushing me to play the game in its intended fashion? I think so, and it works well.

Weapons and items are managed via a limited inventory screen, forcing players to choose whether they’ll want to keep more health packs, more weapons, or just stop sucking. I chose none of the above, and eventually ran into the tension-inducing trouble that some gamers describe as fear, although I suspect for most it’s merely frustration. Yes, you can run out of ammo and have to go into survival mode, running from any monster in sight. I managed to get myself into those tense situations, wondering if and when I’d find a safe spot. Fortunately, ammo, weapons, and general upgrades are found liberally, allowing Isaac to grow in skills and strength.

It all coalesces pretty well, coercing me into immediately running through the game for a second time, and making Dead Space another solid third-person shooter.

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