Dead Space (Xbox 360), Lookback

With the third installment on the horizon, we take a quick look back at the game that started it all.

Dead Space poster

Looking Back: Dead Space

Dead Space takes us far into the future, to a galaxy where Earth has not only colonized other worlds, but actually has ships capable of mining entire planets (and destroying them in the process). Now, while some get Death Star warm and fuzzy feelings about the destruction of a planet, I thoroughly hope we don’t start breaking up other planets just for minerals. Somehow seems irresponsible. That being said, the universe of Dead Space gives us something else we all love: SPACE ZOMBIES!

With Zombies having a firm grasp in our post-apocalyptic world, it’s always refreshing when we find new ways to bring them about. While my favorite is the Husks of the Mass Effect series, the “Necromorphs” infection in Dead Space is no less awesome in its scale and morbidity. I should probably mention my one problem with Dead Space’s zombies: even without a head they can not only keep going, they know where you are! How do they see? How do they hear you running? These are all good questions and feel free to add comments to correct my ignorance. 

Story:

You are a security officer and engineer named Isaac Clark, member of a ship sent in to search and rescue for the ship that soon becomes the bane of your existence: the USG Ishimura. Upon arriving, you find that pretty much nothing works and you go from section to section, putting right what once went wrong and hoping each time that your next job will be the trip home. (That’s right, space zombies AND a Quantum Leap reference.)During the story, your crew guides you through the things you have to do even as you dodge and slice up and decapitate necromorphs, slowly learning the fate of the Ishimura’s crew and the reason behind it all. Unfortunately, the necromorphs aren’t just space zombies, they’re also huge monsters attached to the hull and absolutely gross looking squishy stuff that is slowly taking over the inside, changing the environment within the ship. The video logs keep you informed on your crew and going in the right direction, while the audio and text logs scattered around the ship help fill in the blanks as to what has transpired to leave the Ishimura stranded and dead in space.

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Graphics:

Released in 2008, the graphics were good then and they are still competitive now, even with the fast-paced action of it. The video logs are fairly crisp and the creatures you fight are gross as well as detailed, making them just that much more disturbing as you dissect them limb from limb, the only way to truly kill most of them. While the monsters, upon close inspection, are a bit on the polygon-heavy shapes; considering the fast-pace its barely noticeable even now. While in a few years we’ll all wonder “how we got by on graphics so low-tech” like some do now looking at 8-bit games, I know the truth: the gameplay and story are the big ticket items we all want; a game that keeps you wanting more is the true winner, regardless of the graphics.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is fairly standard for a shooter, though the perspective is 3rd person instead of interchangeable 3rd person and 1st person view. Usually for 3rd person I prefer being directly behind, to better aim and such, but Dead Space was fairly good with aim and maneuverability even though it was done from an over-the-right-shoulder view, something I usually find a bit annoying unless you can switch shoulder-views which makes for good protection when shooting from cover.

The upgrade system for items is not fantastic. Using power nodes to extend the ability of your equipment is all well and good, but there are so many empty node spaces that just don’t upgrade anything and nodes are both hard to come by and expensive.Fully upgrading equipment is a bigger challenge than I’d like and upgrading a single item can feel like it takes an eternity.

Music:

The music in Dead Space is so perfect, keeps you in the moment, both intrigued and focused on what’s going on so completely, that it’s actually difficult to notice it off-hand. It is simply part of the environment and it is excellent in its subtlety and sublime at its job.

Replayability:

Once you complete the game, certain things unlock including a bunch of nodes, fifty thousand dollars in cash, a new outfit and the “Impossible” difficulty setting. So, does it beckon? Heck yeah it does. And with cash in pocket and nodes to spare for once, the Impossible might become closer to Improbable with some quick reflexes, a good trigger finger and lots of stasis energy to put our enemies into slow-motion.

All in all, a great game for anyone who loves science fiction, zombies or gross things that go squish.

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Story: 8 / 10Graphics: 8 / 10Gameplay: 9 / 10Music: 9 / 10Replayability: 8 / 10

** If you like Dead Space, you might want to look into an old Playstation 2 / Xbox game called “Run Like Hell”. Not only is it a similar style, but the soundtrack for it is done by Breaking Benjamin back when they were just starting out. An awesome addition to any fan. **