2008 Reviews

Dead Space

  • Review Date: 2013-07
  • Release Date: 2008-10
  • Developer: EA Redwood Shores
  • Rating: 8.5

I was eagerly looking forward to playing Dead Space, expecting it to be one of my favourites for 2008. The only game rating above it was Mass Effect, but RPG gameplay is not my preferred kind, and Left 4 Dead with it's arena re-spawning horde combat. So Dead Space is more my style. With that said, usually anticipated games never live up to my expectations. Dead Space was a mixed one, it has it's weaknesses, but it is a great game.

The main weakness, and what really damages Dead Space is the PC port controllers. After having to use a keyboard remap program just to allow me to play with something other than WASD... After turning off the video cards vsync both in the control panel and game options (with it turned on the game is just about unplayable)... Still, the movement is extremely poor. While moving forwards or sidestepping, especially while running, you can barely turn. You literally have to come to a complete stop, turn the mouse, then start moving again. I have mouse speed at maximum, but even to do a complete 180 I still have to move the mouse across the pad, pickup the entire mouse, return it to the other side, then repeat. Trying to do this in the middle of tight combat is hopeless. The movement is just so unresponsive and poor, perhaps the worst I've ever had in a video game. The funny thing is while watching youtube gameplay videos, other people didn't seem to have the same issue, so I assume this might be on the PC only and movement is fine on consoles.

Anyway, it didn't wreck the game. It just meant I had to play a bit slower than I'm comfortable with. But this is a survival horror game, and they are supposed to be a slower style of gameplay. The horrendously slow walking speed makes sure of that.

I'm happy to report the gameplay and combat is fun. Of the limited array of weapons you get, the ones that are actually effective are good fun. The idea is to kill enemies before they get close to you, by blowing off their limbs. So you can't just shoot into the fat bodies, you need to dismember them. Great combat technique, and watching your projectiles slice off a monsters legs then have it drag itself towards, only to blow it's head off when it gets close enough, is a satisfying feeling.

But when enemies do get close, they tend to throw you around a bit and totally disorientate the character. Which makes the shorter range weapons pretty useless. There's a Ripper that shoots out razor blades which, somehow, levitate in front of you and slice through everything. You get tonnes of ammo, but in many instances it was hopeless as enemies get inside or outside it's range. Same with the Flamethrower. Contact Beam was hopelessly slow at firing (perhaps it might be effective if upgraded), the Force Gun I never purchased as it sounded like another close range pile of crap. So I play just about the entire game with first three weapons you received - a couple projectiles and the machine-gun style Pulse Rifle. You can upgrade weapons as you play, so the Plasma Cutter, the first weapon you get by default, is very effective when upgraded and actually the weapon I used for the final boss battle.

Enemies are fun, but could have had a bit more variety as it's the same throughout the entire game.

Story was a bit all over the place. I'm sure there is a story, told through video screens throughout the game. But it was a bit hard to follow. A little bit of backstory on some of the characters would have helped, as well as proper cutscenes.

The highlight of Dead Space is the design and atmosphere. This is Doom 3 all over again, taking place entirely on board a spaceship. The design is foreboding, dark, packed with gruesome details. It is a little linear, and a few times you end up revisiting areas. It also, like the combat, gets slightly repetitive by the end, and you start to crave something different in the design. About 3/4s through the game I was starting to feel a little underwhelmed and wondering when it'll end. The final level picked up with some interesting design, capped by a long and boring puzzle.

The few complaints the game did get from critics is it uses the same scare tactics from other games such as Doom 3 - monsters closets, attacks from behind, corpses that come to life. Sure it does, but what else is there to use? These things are the most effective. Probably the games scariest moments are expecting something to happen, but it doesn't. The anticipation of a monster about to pounce. That, and the music. The game score is fantastically creepy and well done.

Overall, a pretty great game, just let down by it's massively horrendous PC movement. This game would be much better on console. I gave it an 8.5, but it probably deserves less than that because of the controls, so I'm struggling to have it that high. But I'll leave it for now.