EA Games Dead Space

Dead Space is a riveting survival horror game, unflinchingly violent from start to finish.

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EA Games Dead Space
  • EA Games Dead Space
  • EA Games Dead Space
  • EA Games Dead Space

Pros

  • Great graphics and sound, huge enemy variety, solid controls, awesome weapons

Cons

  • I wish there were additional modes outside of the single-player campaign...

Bottom Line

Dead Space is a showcase piece of dark-side entertainment that rivals the marvellous designs of such games as BioShock, Gears of War, and Resident Evil 4. But be advised that it is definitely not for the queasy or the faint of heart. Still, if you can stomach its horrors, you will be rewarded with one of the best survival horror experiences ever created.

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Dead Space is a riveting survival horror game, unflinchingly violent from start to finish. Blindly unpredictable and incredibly intense, Dead Space keeps your heart pumping the entire game. It's got aliens, zero-g shootouts, blood, guts, and broken bones. It's unnervingly tense one moment and piss-your-pants terrifying the next. It's an exhilarating tale of aliens, claustrophobia, and isolation in a dark corner of outer space where no one can hear you scream.

Crash Landing

Dead Space draws inspiration from a variety of sources but its most obvious reference point is the movie Aliens. The simple yet effective story centers on a three-man crew of space engineers who are sent to investigate a distress signal aboard the USG Ishimura, an enormous mining vessel capable of harvesting entire planets for resources. The mission is routine: repair the communications blackout and return home. Of course, things won't stay that simple for long.

You are cast in the role of Isaac Clarke, a space engineer equipped with a protective armour piece called "the Rig". After Clarke and the other engineers crash land on the USG Ishimura, you quickly discover that the mining vessel has been overrun by an infection of mysterious origin called the Necromorph. The creatures in Dead Space hide inside their human hosts and mutate into disgusting creatures, much like the baddie from the film The Thing.

To survive the xeno-onslaught, you must shoot the crap out of everything that moves. But the aliens in Dead Space don't die if you shoot them in the head. An effective kill requires that you first dismember the appendages-arms, legs, tentacles-of an alien before you can be sure it won't get up again. It's a unique twist on the familiar "headshot" equation and the strategy and creative aiming required adds an interesting twist.

Desperate Times, Brutal Weapons

To help you kill off your foes, you'll gain access to a wide range of mining tools that prove adept at slicing and dicing the grotesque abominations; these unique armaments range from plasma cutters to industrial lasers. The weapons convey a satisfying sense of destruction when fired, and they can be upgraded to deal more damage, reload faster, and increase ammo capacity. Each weapon also has an alternate attack that proves equally useful as the primary fire. The firefights are in your face and frantic, thanks in large part to the brutal and resilient adversaries you'll face.

In addition to the laser guns, flamethrowers, and buzz saw launchers, you also have an arsenal of telekinetic abilities. Stasis is a slow-motion projectile that's used to stop enemies and slow down fast-moving platforms or doors. Telekinesis allows you to manipulate objects from afar, pull distant items closer, move broken spaceship pistons, and hurl explosive canisters. Telekinesis is essentially the equivalent to having Force Push and Grip powers from Star Wars. Why your character has psychokinetic powers is never addressed by the narrative but they definitely add a nice flair to the gameplay.

If You Build It...

Throughout the game, you will also come across blueprints for new weapons that can be redeemed at the in-game store. The same goes for ammo, items, and suit upgrades. They're expensive, but upgrading your Rig suit to level five is crucial to your survival (and it looks really cool to boot). As the suit levels up, more and more armour plating is applied to The Rig's outer frame; it's one of many nice graphical touches throughout the game.

The same goes for the level design in Dead Space. You're confined to a single spaceship and the game takes you through the different compartments, from the crew's quarter to the hydroponics lab and the awe-inspiring command bridge that looks out into deep space. Every section of the ship has a different look and feel, and even though you revisit a few of the same locations later in the game, it never feels repetitive or tired. Besides which, the environments doesn't exactly stay static, but I won't say anything beyond that.

Firm Footing

The developer also implemented zero-gravity environments which add a nice dimension to the gameplay. When you enter a zero-G environment, a hologram on Isaac's back displays how much oxygen you have remaining. In zero-G you can walk on walls, leap across entire rooms, and shoot enemies floating around in the air. The zero-G areas of the game are mostly puzzle based, with occasional bouts of shooting, and requires you to traverse large areas while keeping a careful watch on your oxygen levels. One memorable scenario in Dead Space that I encountered positioned me on the outside of the ship in the middle of an asteroid storm. It's one of the more difficult challenges in the game, but at the same time it was breathtaking, both literally and figuratively.

That the USG Ishimura itself feels like a character in the game is a testament to the inspired level design. Its architecture is clearly influenced by Gothic cathedrals with flying buttresses, ribbed motifs, and external reinforcements all around. Crash landing on the Ishimura immediately sets the eerie tone for the real horrors that await you.

Spaced Out

There are so many other things about Dead Space that I want to tell you about-the shooting gallery, telekinesis basketball mini-games, the photon laser cannon, the epic boss battles-but ultimately it's a game you have to experience first hand. The only thing I could have asked for from the phenomenal single-player campaign was more modes to play through. On the plus side, there is ample replay value in the single-player campaign thanks to the large number of equipment upgrades but I would have killed for a co-op option or a battle mode where you earn big points for dismembering endless swarms of Necromorphs.

But that's just me wishing for more excuses to play Dead Space. It's easily the best survival horror game since the masterful Resident Evil 4 and it sets the bar high for graphics, sound, and scares in its respective genre. Dead Space is an artistic nightmare clearly designed for survival horror fans by a passionate and dedicated team of like-minded gamers. Just be sure to play it with the lights on...

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