Dead Space is a survival horror game. You are slow moving with jump out and scare you moments. The character Issac controls slow and clunky. Plus your character Issac Clark takes up a lot of the screen, which I guess happens in a lot of over the shoulder shooters. You want to see what’s behind you. Since this is an over the shoulder shooter, things can easily sneak up on your left side, even more so than behind you.
The game drips with atmosphere, horror and gore, but it doesn’t feel scary. Maybe I’m just used to horror games, or maybe its the fact when you run through a dead enemy, you kick it like a soccer ball and it flops like a rag doll fish. That’s probably why Doom 3 had its dead enemies burn into nothing. With Dead Space, the idea is that enemies can still be alive… when they look dead. The game looks awesome and makes great use of lighting and shadow. You won’t be in dark areas so much as dim areas with lights shining through vents. It has a great look to it.
Dead Space boasts strategic dismemberment, such as first cutting off a leg of an enemy, before you cut off its head. If you cut off its head, it will blindly swing at you. If you cut off its leg, it will crawl and lunge at you. Most enemies are like this. Other enemies might explode with smaller, more annoying enemies if you’re inaccurate. There are also reanimating enemies that take priority, because they’ll monsterfy every dead body in the room. So if you’re the type of gamer that likes aim over put more bullets into it, this game is for you! The enemies will even work their way through vents if you’ve gone to another room and they’ll pop out. The vents are pretty easy to spot, but a lot of vents are on the ceiling.
There are four major weapons in the game, the line cutter, flame thrower, plasma rifle and some sort of saw gun. It is unfortunate that you’ll end up primarily using the weapon you start with for the entire game. That feels like a wasted opportunity. The flame thrower feels extremely weak if not completely useless.
You’re able to collect items, like health, ammo, air canisters for when you’re walking in space and its all contained in your limited inventory. When you upgrade your ‘rig’ (suit), you can carry more stuff, but for the most part, since everything is sellable, you’ll rarely run out of room. As the game starts, there is plenty of ammo, but at around six hours in, ammo gets scarce, but you can still buy more. Lack of ammo comes from missing vulnerable points of enemies and having them explode into smaller points.
You’ll also pick up node modules to upgrade things and if you start upgrading your line cutter, then why would you ever switch to a different weapon? Plus, any ammo that you get for other weapons, you can just sell at one of the game’s stores for credits that you can use to buy more line cutter ammo. There are locked rooms that you can use a node to get into, but since nodes are one of the most valuable and costly items in the game, it might not be worth the risk to see what’s in the mystery room. You’ll also be able to explore and find items in cabinets, lockers and smashable boxes, but you really can’t wander too far off the beaten path.
Traversing the USG Ishimura feels like there is plenty of back tracking, with some getting lost. Luckily there is a 3D slightly difficult to use map. For the most part, each level is contained into branching segments, you’ll start at the root of the map tree, clear out one branch and all of its limbs, end up at the root / hub of the level, then go for the next branch area. Sadly some of the ‘chapters’ reuse levels. The USS Ishimura is a big space ship, and I would call it similar to Metroid-Vania-ish since you’ll revisit areas of a ship, but its all broken into ‘chapters’ that you can’t return to unless its in the storyline to return to that section.
There are some puzzles, but nothing major. You’ll get powers like telekinesis to move objects and a slow down stasis to solve puzzles and get through areas. Without the puzzles, the game seems easy even on normal difficulty.
The game has a very painful key binding system, especially for lefties. While you can rebind keys, you can’t rebind all keys, so I recommend just using a controller. The controller works great and has simple controls for a complex system. You’ve got buttons for run, inventory, aim, stomp (to downed enemies and boxes), melee attack (which seems useless), use button and the D-pad will call your 4 weapons to switch. When you’re aimed at something, you can reload, fire your weapon. alt-fire, use telekinesis or stasis to slow anything down.
Thankfully save points and checkpoints are everywhere. It keeps the game progressing, but another negative of the game is when you run out of ammo or health and just can’t pass a section, you’re locked into that section. When you’re stuck, you’ve got two choices, run all the way back to a store at the start of a level, or sometimes you might just have to restart from a save point. This is why I can understand EA’s desire to throw micro transactions into the game. If you get stuck with no ammo, no credits and only have 1 save file, you might literally have to restart the game. When you get 10+ hours in, that will kill your desire to play.
In all, the game feels good to play, despite how slow it is. If you enjoy typical space horror with the plot of Aliens, this game is for you! The game has been $5 on Steam and free on Origin. Chances are if you wait, there will be a sale, a bundle or a free download.