Video Game Review: Dead Space

Bloody and bold, EA's new space-horror game is full of great chills.

Nov. 28, 2008— -- Turn down the lights, turn up the volume and get ready to have the living heck scared out of you. Electronic Arts' new creepy space-horror game "Dead Space" is exactly the kind of thing that fans of survival-horror games drool over.

All of the action of a first-person-shooter with a dash of character customization,combined with the methodical pacing of a perfectly executed Hollywood thriller, make this dark and bloody journey the start of what could be a new and very profitable franchise for EA.

Despite a compelling story line, an immersive environment and sound effects that will make your skin crawl, players of genre favorites like "Doom 3" may experience a little deja vu when confronted by the game's enemies. A relatively linear gameplay experience may also impede replayability, but the lack of innovation is dwarfed by the atmospheric journey "Dead Space" delivers.

Turn Off the Lights and Pump Up the Volume

In "Dead Space," players step into the role of Issac Clark, an engineer for a deep-space mining company sometime in the distant future. Clark and his fellow crew mates are sent by their employer to investigate a distress call from the massive "planet-cracker" class spaceship, the USG Ishimura. In what seems a strange coincidence, Clarke receives a strange message from his former girfriend who's aboard the Ishumura, before arriving at the strangely silent ship.

Under the assumption that the crew can fix whatever mechanical failure has caused the Ishimura to send out the distress signal, they attempt to board the giant ship. It doesn't take long for Clarke to be seperated from his cohorts and to realize that something terrible is happening aboard the craft.

Hideous monsters great and small stalk the ships corridors and hide in its shadows, some with the ability to reanimate the dead. The only weapons available to fight off the ghoulish hordes are the modified mining and engineering equipment Clarke can find laying around the ship. His only protection, the heavy deep space gear he boarded with.

With electronic stores spread out through the ship, Clarke can upgrade his deep space gear, buy new weapons and armor, and improve existing equipment to devastate his enemies, the evil, and extremely unattractive Necromorphs.

Players find almost immediately though that regardless of the weapon, the creatures are extremely resilient, and that shooting them, even in the head, is not as effective as blowing away limbs from the body. Taking out a charging monster's legs for example, and then attacking the writhing torso produces better and bloodier results, while using less ammunition than body or head shots alone.

Battling through the carnage, Clarke is forced to make his way through all kinds of creepy-crawlies to fix various parts of the ship and free him and his crew mates from the nightmare they've found themselves in.

Look Ma, No Hands!

Played in third-person perspective, "Dead Space" never breaks stride, maintaining an atmospheric and intense tone from beginning to end. The "dismemberment" technology incorporated into the game's engine makes taking out enemies, particularly in large groups, more strategic -- and gory -- than in any other game in the genre.

Though the game runs pretty much on a rail, pushing players forward and allowing for little deviation from the established path, it hardly gets stale, with too many real scares to count and gameplay that remains fun and challenging from beginning to end.

In a market cluttered with sequels, spinoffs of sequels, and sequels to spinoffs of sequels, "Dead Space" represents a frighteningly dark and creepy new world for gamers to get lost in.

"Dead Space" is rated "M" for "Mature" and is available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 video game consoles and Windows PCs.