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Dead Space
Score: 99%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror/ Action/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Prepare yourself for one of the most terrifying videogame experiences you'll ever encounter, if not the scariest ever. From the creative details scattered liberally around the levels, such as blood-scrawled notes and tossed-aside luggage, to the intense sound effects and sparse but effective music, Dead Space literally oozes style. I haven't been so impressed by a game's presentation in a very long time. Right from the beginning, I knew I was going to be in for an unforgettable experience.

Voiceovers are believable and the characters are realistic, which is a good thing because you'll hear plenty from your commanding officer as the two of you fight to stay alive. The sound effects are rich and intense and make owning a surround sound home theater system totally worth it. You can be walking down a hallway and you'll hear scuffling in the air vents above you. Or more disturbing yet, you'll hear a banging noise and spot someone off in the distance down a hall, only to grow closer and see that it's a person banging their head against the wall who then commits suicide. More disturbing yet is hearing the sounds of someone trapped, only to discover that it's some sick recording and you can't help at all. Or coming upon someone trapped in a lab, begging for your help, then watching as they are killed or kill themself. Wow, this game is a total mindf***.

It's been a really long time since a game has actually made me scream, but Deep Space does just that. When those blade-armed enemies attack and catch me completely off-guard, sometimes a verbal response occurs. A loud verbal response which frightens my dog and makes him wonder what is wrong with me.

You play Isaac Clarke, an engineer on the USG Kellion, a ship who sets out to investigate the strange happenings on the USG Ishimura, a mining ship that has fallen on scary times. Unfortunately for Isaac, his girlfriend Nicole is stationed on the Ishimura, so he has a vested interest in finding her and getting them out alive. When your ride gets blown to smithereens, it looks like you and fellow crew members, Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond, are stranded on the very dangerous Ishimura which is now crawling with Necromorphs, alien creatures that reanimate the dead passengers of the Ishimura. Confused? Rent or buy Dead Space: Downfall for some backstory, which I highly recommend.

The HUD is somewhat unique. You can access it at the touch of a button and it pulls up all manner of helpful goodies such as your inventory, a map with important data like save points and stasis recharge stations, mission logs and your current objectives. You'll need quick and handy access to all of these things because when you are attacked, it'll be fast and furious. As you are exploring the ship and trying to craft your escape, enemies can pop out of air vents or arrive unexpectedly. You can be walking down a hall and a corpse can suddenly jump up and attack. Pre-emptive strikes are well advised.

Since you are trapped on a mining ship, it would make sense that your weapons would be things available on the ship. You start with a plasma cutter (like a light saber, but bigger!), but you will gain access to a line gun, a pulse rifle, a ripper, a contact beam, a force gun and a flamethrower. As you manuever around the ship, you can pick up health, ammo, credits, (which can be used to buy new weapons, ammo and health at The Store), schematics for new weapons and ammo, and power nodes, which can be used at The Bench to upgrade your weapons and your suit. Power nodes aren't that plentiful, so you need to be careful how you apply them and what you upgrade.

Probably the most important aspect of Dead Space's combat is selective dismemberment. When the Necromorphs attack with their sharp-bladed arms, you can use one of your weapons to take off a leg to render them unable to walk, then take off an arm so they can't scoot along the floor and continue to attack. If you don't act quickly, they will be on you faster than you can imagine. Sometimes when they do get the jump on you, you'll be force to rapidly tap the (X) button like in Resident Evil 4 or God of War.

Sometimes you'll run low on ammo, but never fear. You can always use your Kinesis ability. Take aim at an object and throw it at an enemy, or move something to make a path more accessible, even place a battery into a receptacle on the wall - the possibilities are endless. If you come to a place where things are all too crazy - enemies attacking too quickly or a door slamming back and forth - simply use your Stasis ability and slow things down a bit. Its all quite genius and provides for lots of different gameplay options.

Dead Space is no walk in the park, that's for sure. You can opt to play on Easy, Normal or Hard, but the challenge is fairly brisk even on Normal. You are on a free-floating ship in deep space with limited ammo and allies, surrounded on all sides by vicious alien lifeforms bent on the destruction of the human race. Your enemies are crafty indeed, able to not only adapt to being shot at and even dismembered, but able to slip into an air vent, only to pop out in a completely different area, blindsiding you.

Basic Necromorphs are only the beginning. You will encounter numerous iterations of these horrible creatures, as scientific experiments were going on. My personal least favorite were the hideous little babies which sprouted numerous tentacles and chased me around the room. Oh the (in)humanity!

Game Mechanics:
Control is pretty good in Dead Space. (L1) will be one of your best friends. Combat has you aiming with the (L1) button and firing with (R1), or (R2) to access the alternate fire. Your gun will auto-reload, but very slowly, so it is always advisable to click (L1) and (X) often to always be fully loaded. Using Kinesis is as simple as (L1) and (O), then (R1) to send the item flying. Stasis requires (L1) and (Square) and the only time you can jump is when you find yourself in a Zero-G environment, which requires (L1) and (Triangle).

When you find yourself in a Zero-G area, be prepared for combat on an all new plane, literally. Your magnetic boots can be a life-saver, but when Necromorphs attack and you've very little control over yourself, it's pretty rough going. Your air will also be limited in certain areas, addinng an additional layer of complication to matters. I also personally found the Kinesis a little hard to control accurately, and using (L2) to run while controlling Isaac with the Left Stick, while also shooting on the run was not perfectly natural for me. But hey, I feel like a flailing moron when trying to escape the Necromorphs while also trying to dismember them, so maybe it's just me.

Overall, Dead Space is easily the most superb game I have played all year, and for quite some time, actually. The experience they deliver is top-notch and unforgettable. There are hours and hours of gameplay and exploring to be found here and its all amazing. I have only touched the tip of the iceberg of what this game has to offer here. Go buy it now!

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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