In the age of dragons, and upcoming creeds of assassins, I’m jumping back a bit once more to try out a game that has piqued my interest since last year. The trailers for it were rad, the concept was interesting, and I was definitely in the mood for a shooter. At the time, however, I had moved to North Carolina and was living on my friend‘s couch. Money made at a deli was not about to afford any kind of new game, and anyway the money I was making was being put to the apartment I am not posting this from! So, obviously no hard feelings, Life. Anyway, I forgot about this game until it showed up on the GameFly queue, and next thing I knew, I was playing it. This terrifying nugget of a game that had me on the edge of my seat, occasionally screaming things like “Mother fuckerrrr!” at the screen as I rattled the right trigger to de-limb my horrible opponents, is none other than EA’s Dead Space.
And it’s time to turn the lights off.
When Dead Space came out, the adventures of protagonist Isaac Clarke swept the score boards, and pocketed some handsome rewards for atmosphere, sound, and sound editing. The game even enjoyed a spot as Game Informer’s “Game of the Month”. And why shouldn’t it? The game really is incredible, and my anticipation has been generously rewarded.
The game starts with you, Isaac Clarke, en route to the USG Ishimura, a “Planet Cracker” (guess what that can do) that has sent out a distress signal. Your ship malfunctions, crashing you into the Ishimura’s landing dock. You venture out with your crew, and are separated after a surprise attack from creatures you will come know as Necromorphs. Two of your crew survive, Zach Hammond and Kendra Daniels, and make it to safety where they lend their vocal support and direction throughout the rest of the game. And, hey, if you don’t like their advice, there’s a device in-game that projects a light filament in the direction you need to go.
This navigational device is extremely helpful, especially in a ship like the Ishimura. Every detail in this ship is considered, from the dust particles circulating in the stale air, to the large deck with the translucent dome lending you a view to the drifting asteroids outside. Another touch given to the horror of this ship is that occasionally you will encounter survivors. You wouldn’t know, considering most of them kill themselves in (slitting) terrible (their own) stomach-churning (throat) ways. One particular death was actually all my fault! I lived by the “double tap” rule in this game, and one corpse double tap resulted not in a squishy sound, but more like an agonized screaming sound…
The ship is so remarkably grotesque and delightfully deteriorated that any chance of leaving it is “remorseful sigh” inducing. The game does not suffer design exhaustion when not centered on its infected, morbid ship. I mean, check this shit out.
This is the introduction, and it’s just jaw-dropping.
Gameplay is pretty sweet, though it takes some getting used to. The camera also requires some adjustment. Once over these minor hurdles – and I do emphasize minor – the game has a smooth run, and the controls become intuitive, extremely automatic. Supplying you on this death march through Ishimura are crates and stores, these hubs that are located through the level where you can change your armor, making it the second coolest service booth costume change since Superman. You will also find “Power Nodes” throughout the game that grant you access into some pretty juicy caches, as well as level your weapons, RIG (suit), and other devices at “benches”, which are cool, digital workshops.
The gadgets in this game are pretty sweet. I did not get a chance to use all of them, mainly because I tried to run through half of the game with just my initial gun. What? It was sweet. I was happy just relying on that. Okay, some people have mastered the art of only utilizing their plasma cutter – as it’s called – but my main weapons of choice in the game went on to also include the line gun (a wide beam of concentrated energy), a pulse rifle, and a force gun (much like a shotgun). You also have at your disposal a stasis engine, which can slow down your enemies or other obstructions such as a quickly-shutting malfunctioning door, or a spinning ventilation fan that can slice you in half. Also in this nest of technological pr0n is a kinesis module, which is basically like the gravity gun from Half Life 2. You pick shit up, you throw shit around, and it’s especially great when sensitive explosives (aka ammo-savers) are around.
You need every round you can get, because once you’re out you have only your stompin’ foot and pistol whippin’ (making Isaac ‘OG of the Month’ in my opinion). Where there is a primal satisfaction to bringing down a Necromorph with your bare fucking hands – see? – it’s definitely not easy, and opens you up to getting assaulted by any other given strain of Necromorph. The Necromorphs are creepy, and assault you with long limbs, and in some case razor-tipped tentacles, and in other instances a powerful, pointed tail. It’s easy to draw the zombie comparison to these creatures, but the game will violently and swiftly punish you for headshots. They are gruesome, disturbing, and in this respect they are perfectly designed foes. My favorite creatures were the Necromorph babies, which crawled around on all fours, sprouted tentacles, and could take you down with some acid spit, or by suffocating you.
By the way, if you pick this game up, let yourself get killed once and a while. The developers put a lot of time into these grizzly ends, mainly to elicit the kind of giggles you tittered when you first played Mortal Kombat.
Send this to your local Joe Lieberman to induce brick shitting!
While we’re on the topic of allusions, I have to admit I think the Half Life fans would really dig this game. There is total player immersion, as in Isaac does not react vocally save for gasping for air in the vacuum of space and grunting with effort as he dispatches Necromorphs. This really lets you relate to the character. I always saw Gordon Freeman as a Rorschach test of video games, where his actions, performance, and mere existence are interpretted and lived by the players themselves in an altogether semi-conscious, semi-unconscious way. In this respect, Isaac is no different. The kinesis module is – whether intentional or not – a sophisticated nod to the famous Gravity Gun, much the same way I felt the wrench in BioShock was a nod to the crowbar. The cut scenes are all in game, the atmosphere is so tangible, and survival is your bread and butter.
Gameplay & Mechanics 2
Score: 8 out of 10
Sure the controls take a minute, so does the camera, and the story is nominal, but in no time the gameplay is intuitive, and the story entertaining. The replay value is there, especially if you stay tuned after the credits. What can I say? “Impossible” mode is pretty tempting, considering all the goodies you get. For fans of shooters, sci-fi horror, and… aw hell, games, I recommend this without a second doubt.
Coming up! The dish inspired by the game – Fried Chicken!