For: Windows PC
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-fi, Shooter
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)
While sci-fi survival horror shooter theater is not a new concept in videogames, EA's Dead Space at least has the decency to do the hybrid genre proud. And while its "story" isn't about to win any Hugo awards, it nonetheless offers a weighty take on a classic tale of space faring mega-corporate greed, techno-zealotry, environmental pillaging, industrial hubris, hidden agendas, one-man-army, cyber-suited heroics, and a conveniently inconvenient need to reroute power to some door to some control room way over on the other side of some derelict spaceship.
Oh, and a run in with an alien race with a nasty habit of "necromorphing" the freshly minted corpses of the crew of a hapless interplanetary mining operation into hideous, woeful, anatomically ludicrous creatures out to remake you in their likeness. Nice.
Cliché it might be, but it's presented flawlessly; a good yarn of Aliens, Outland and Total Recall vintage, a tale that doesn't get in the way of the action in hand, action that compliments the plot with superb attention to detail, near-blinding polish and all that other graphical pizzazz you'd expect of this, the new generation of videogames.
Okay, there're perhaps a few too many quests to find that computer module to turn on that device to activate that contraption to allow access to the next level of computer module hunting, but with such dire need to find scant ammo and health packs along the way, you'll hardly notice the banality of the task de jour.
That said, Dead Space was clearly designed for consoles, for though you have a few more graphical adjustment options in the PC version, it severely limits your ability to customize controls and remap keys to your liking. It doesn't even recognize a scroll wheel or middle mouse button, for example. The default layout suffices, though a hot swap weapons scroll would have been nice. Oh well, 1 2 3 4 no 3-arrrg! it is then. But get down with that and it's all rock n roll.
You see, Dead Space innovates where most games of this ilk wouldn't think to. First off, it's played from an in-close, 3rd-person perspective, an over-the-shoulder view of yourself that permits a greater field of vision on the action than the traditional first-person perspective, but also an up-close and personal view of all the mauling and gunning and tramping, so not the disconcert of typically panned-back 3rd-person perspective.
Speaking of tramping, the standard jump/hop/bunny-hop convention is gone (though a few segments of gravity-booted weightlessness allow you to leap across a room), replaced by an entirely necessary stomp, because them there slimy necro-mutants and minions do tend to get under foot a lot, and even the dead ones need a satisfying and-stay-down clomp now and then.
The slo-mo "bullet time" ability typical of such games has been re-imagined to work only on targeted enemies or machinery, putting select things into temporary, almost-frozen "stasis" while you and all else in the environment carry on in real time.
Best of all is the weaponry of Dead Space. Guns and rocket launchers are passé; it's all about the wide-beam lasers and projectile windrowers, because wouldn't you know it, those baddies don't die easily, blowing their heads off does little, but rending them limb by limb into handy little stomp-ready torsos sure does the trick -- torsos which might get stuck in your boots and tag along with you for a while. Squish, squish, glorp, glorp. Too funny.
As you might surmise, Dead Space is not for the squeamish -- and it's absolutely not for kids. It's so blatantly gory it'll make you giddy with appreciation for the macabre. And when it's not doing that, Dead Space will certainly make you appreciate a well-told and vividly displayed sci-fi horror story with you as the protagonist and too many boogiemen lurking in the in the air vents.
TIP: In Dead Space, consider sticking with the first weapon you find, the Plasma Cutter, and maybe purchase just one other -- the Line Gun is handy. Then use your scant few power nodes to upgrade those to the hilt, rather than buying several weapons and upgrading each just a little bit.