Monday, July 7, 2014

VGR Dead Space 1

Basically speaking, this is "Resident Evil 4 in spaaaaace"!

VGR: Dead Space
From EA Redwood Shores Studio/Electronic Arts 
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PS3 & PC

Type 3rd Person Sci-Fi Survival horror
Year 2008

Developed by EA Redwood Shores (now known as Visceral Games) the original Dead Space was released in October 2008 for the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360.

The game was actually Electronic Arts's first real attempt at an horror title.

EA Redwood Shores Studio was the immensely talented team also responsible for The Simpsons Game I already reviewed here. Yeah. Not what you want to have in mind while playing a survival horror game, but that game did really surprise me much back then, so there's no reason they wouldn't do it again here - even though it was in a completely different genre.

Funny enough, the plot was written by a trio of comic book writers: Warren Ellis (Hellblazer: Constantine), Rick Remender and Antony Johnston no less!

The game can be at best summed like this. Simply put, it's RE4 in spaaaace! Not like there's anything wrong with that.

In fact it mostly plays the same way. You're basically on this big epic "bug hunt" aboard the creepiest spaceship ever built. The game's basic concept and setting seem quite inspired a lot from the cult classic film Event Horizon, while all the gore and the creature design themselves draw a lot from John Carpenter's The Thing - with a dash from Nightmare on Elm Street series for.the creepy children chant used here and there.

The game even opens on a direct quote from Event Horizon!

In Dead Space you play as this space-engineer (no pun intended!) called Isaac Clarke.

It's the year 2508. By then most resources on Earth have been used up and humanity was forced to turn to the stars to survive!

A method to gather resources from other planets was developed, called "planetcracking".

Our story begins as communication was lost with the USG Ishimura which was conducting a mining operation on the nearby planet of Aegis VII. But a distress signal was finally caught and a rescue operation was sent to check on it.

Isaac used to work as a specialist aboard the Ishimura but he has since left it. He's now a engineer aboard this rescue shuttle sent to investigate, help and repair the ship they lost contact with. Oh, and also, his fiancée Nicole was aboard the Ishimura working as a medial officer aboard the mining ship. He hasn't been able to contact her anymore (obviously) and the only thing he has left from her is a recording message he keeps replaying again and again..

As our crew get aboard the Ishimura (not without a rough landing..) they find the place completely deserted - and worse, completely destroying. What happened there? Well, Isaac and co sound find out as they encounter some strange organisms on a rampage attacking them. All systems appear malfunctioning. They team gets picked out one by one.

Most of the game revolves around trying to get every system back online.

Every one is killed by there monsters who actually are undead revived humans turned into awful grotesque creatures, The Thing-style.

In the end only 3 people survive as you try getting everything back working to at least escape the place and contain this plague.

Isaac, a scientist that was part of the rescue team, Kendra Daniels, and finally their senior officer Zach Hammond

Isaac uncovers a conspiracy about this "Church of Unitology" who might have unleashed this curse aboard the ship.

Isaac will try to repair the ship to get it back online for Hammond. You're not alone, you'll also encounter a couple of other human survivors and some traumatized remaining staff.. But who can you really trust in?

While investigating this abandoned colony and trying to get communication back, Isaac is also looking for Nicole who will appear here and there... Or did she?

This strange plague takes the form of these undead monsters known as the "Necromorphs", taking over over the bodies of the people killed along the long corridors and areas of this deserted spacecraft.

They basically look like The Thing! There's all sorts of Necromorphs. They're usually made from distorted body parts, repurposed by the Necromorphs to spread they contagion. There's slashers with those huge blades for hands, leapers made with parts from legs and intestines, lurkers with tentacles sprouting from their face etc. And some bigger threats such as infectors made from skin and remaining heads which are able to revive bodies to create more Nercros or brutes with amazing strength and speed... One thing is sure, you never feel safe and should never trust a dead body on the ground! If anything, be sure to always dismember and dispatch those so they're not revived and turned into more creatures!

That's right you can only defeat those not by headshots like any usual classic zombie game. But by dismemberment! Cut monsters down to pieces to put them to rest once and for all! (which is strange considering some of the smaller Necromorphs are actually a bunch of body parts tied together by nightmares).

It's a very gory game! For a mature audience only!

The question is... what is behind all this and are there bigger entities controlling all these monsters? And what exactly is... the Marker!?!

The game is played like a typical modern-day survival horror title. In third person view.

I really liked the great 3rd person perspective used in Dead Space, this sort of close off-center camera wasn't that common at the time. It's not entirely centered around Isaac, and gives the player only a mere look/point of view over his shoulder. It forces you over his right side and doesn't expose you to what might caught you off guard on the left, forcing you to quickly scan your panorama whenever you enter a new place.

Keep an eye on your left side to avoid surprise attacks from the creatures.

Isaac has several ways to defend, other than simply running away!

He can melee attack to either stomp smaller foes or push down larger creatures with his gun.

Dead Space doesn't feature any traditional classic HUD display instead it's an interactive in-game hologram menu system. The game doesn't pause for you to check out your items and ammo. It's the same way other NPC will contact you. You can also find all the usual documents from these kind of survival horror games to add some more background elements and motivations behind the scenes.

Finally from time to time either from boxes or corpses (and also brought with in-game money) you can get some "power nodes" which might be used to upgrade Isaac's basic engineer suit and his weapons via a branching system to either focus on capacity, defense, strength, etc.

In the game there's about 5 main weapons, all-non traditional by comparison with the usual video game standards. You'll start the adventure with your trusty ol' "Plasma Cutter", engineers' de fact go to power tool.

There's some great weapons in Dead Space, but they will never be all entirely as effective as you main first default gun. You can later find some schematics to buy the flamethrower, a plasma rifles, and Dead Space's most original weapon, the saw blades! While the last one is pretty darn' creative and original for this kind of game, they never feel as fun and effect as your very first gun which allows you to cut monsters either horizontally or vertically. Every gun having two different fire shots/abilities. Most of these weapons are simply mining tools.

It's not that an heavy action-oriented game, as such it's sometimes better to think or plan ahead instead of rushing into firefights with dangerous creatures. Forcing you to find clever ways to defeat your foes pieces by pieces.

It's not only your weapons that have two attacks, but Isaac also has access to The Force telekinesis powers. It's apparently the norm in the future. Isaac can use his stasis ability or a kinesis power. The first one allows you to slow down creatures and objects such as broken doors in your way, while the later is used to move objects, for example when an area lacks gravity.

Those zero gravity segments are simply breathtaking and probably the most clever gorgeous original gameplay segments in the entire game. Those stunning zero-G segments will have you running for oxygen supplies in fear!

It all just goes to show how great the game can simply look sometimes, you want to take in these amazing settings and might get distracted from the incoming horror right behind your back.

The game does feature some stunning gorgeous graphics and art direction. A great use of the darkness and the shadows. Let it be said, it's a gorgeous-looking game.

The sound design is also fantastic, the game making use of an equally absolutely brilliant and stunning sound design, from Isaac's boots on the floor to the surrounding atmosphere and the monsters lurking in the dark. Jason Graves composed such an impressive musical score, equal-parts atmospheric cues and part-mechanical sounds and FXs. It's such a crucial part of the experience! A fantastic creepy score!

But the game is not without flaws.

For such a pretty intriguing and interesting plot, making you visit such great locations and stunning art direction/creature design, all of it does seem to come short around its main "character".

Isaac is more of an excuse of a blank avatar than a proper character (even if he would get more fleshd out later on in future episodes). He's yet another Gordon Freeman...

Some elements do seem a bit off and a bit detracting from the overall immersive game. Picking stuff from a still working-store feels kinda off and a bit ridiculous in the situation, out of context. (wouldn't our hero simply try to get access from broken stores or at least break into those without spending money when everything's gone to hell?

Also it's very much more linear game through and through than any past old Silent Hill or Resident Evil games. But that's probably due to developers focusing on easy access to their games and plot nowadays.

Every new chapter (or level), Isaac arrives aboard this big train, explore the new location from top to bottom, get back on the train, and onto the next area! Rinse and repeat! You'll get back to some earlier places in the last chapters. You never get much to actually explore anything on your own (despite what the holo-map would make you think). And if you're lost on these very easy corridors to follow, you can always press a button and get an holographic line pointing you towards the next direction.

There's also some very questionable "distractions" that seem to add to the overall gameplay length for no reason. Like the very annoying turret segment. How I hate those more so than any escort mission or forced combat inside invisible walls...

Dead Space is simply a stunning badass game.

It's great and original the way you take out monsters apart bit by bit instead of the usual aiming for the head, even if doesn't entirely make sense in my eyes. (you do see all kinds of mutated limbs running on their own...) Those reanimated corpse look terrific, stuff from nightmares!

The game seems to take a lot of inspiration from several scifi/horror classics, from Even Horizon to the original Alien, a lot of cues and most of its atmosphere and presentation from Doom 3 and the overall alien race/creature design from John Carpenter's The Thing. Sure, it's nothing new but the sum of all those pieces work pretty well in the end.

It's a survival horror played like a 3rd person shooter. And to much surprise it works perfectly and in my eyes to much better results than Capcom's own recent attempt at Resident Evil games.

Sure there's some minor problems. The in-game 3-D map is ridiculous, impossible to read and proves useless since it's not a real open world-game or you won't ever really backtrack. Plus you can always find where to go next with the super helpful line to follow-feature. And there's not even a quick turn-button to look 180° back in an instant.

It's a fairly long game, although not that challenging, going for about 12 chapters (the last two are way shorter and mostly comprised of boss battles). There's some light puzzle areas which are always a fun change.

The game's best moments are probably those zero-G section, where you will have to work it without the sound of the creatures to alert you.

Some moments can be really scary, which is great! I even wonder why no one ever tried making a Silent Hill game (or something) where you couldn't hear the creatures!

Before entering new places be sure to always locate the next shop to stock on enough ammunitions and health kits to survive! In pure survival horror fashion, there's never enough ammo around, ammunitions are scarce, you will have to make every bullet count and manage your ammunitions, cash and weapons efficiently!

Careful whenever you update your armor or your guns, don't waste your ammo for example, which the game will grant you automatically with that gun's update. You can also save up on health packs to get a full life back that way. That's my little tip for you there!

So many humans-turned-monsters appear to possess ninja-like abilities...

To expand its universe as early as this game's original release, EA released several tie-ins to accompy the game. Including an anime movie and a web-series of flash-animated episodes.

Overall, Dead Space is a fun innovative original horror game, well worth Recommended!

It's a great stunning looking modern survival horror game! 

The game is basically Resident Evil 4 in space... but done well! It also sort of reminded me of a better thought take on the whole concept of the old game Carrier. Like I said above, kind of Event Horizon meets The Thing, with a dash of Alien for good measure.

No wonder it has since already joined EA's cult flagship original licenses! Isaac has been already making cameo appearances left and right, even going as far as skating and having a chibi SD avatar in a couple of other games.

Dead Space was an impressive quick success, already able to compete with the best survival horrors out there, thanks to a very resourceful clever creative team that was able to make use of the best gameplay elements out there and create something new. 

The series has already spawned all sorts of multi-media and expanded universe. Including a successful adventure game-"alternate reality game", several sequels, a line of comic books and even all kinds of unannounced projects on several more mediums, such a long-in development live-action movie. 

While the actual sequel Dead Space 2 would only be released in January 2011, before that we received in September 2009 an unexpected first spinoff/prequel in the form of a rail-shooter for the Nintendo Wii.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Quacks!


  1. Good review. Not my type of game. And your illustrations are killer as usual.

    1. thanks mate!
      yeah, I imagine this might not be everyone's taste, but at least it was miles better than Capcom's last few recent Resident Evil games~