GC 2008: Dead Space Preview
Written Saturday, August 30, 2008 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Dead Space has carried a lot of buzz and excitement with it since its announcement back in September 2007. It’s a game that carries the “Aliens” film element with it and that truly excites us. There is nothing more immersive than being thrown in to a situation where you have to do what you can to survive. Dead Space, like Aliens and other horror-survival films and books out there, captures this beautifully. You’ve never felt isolation until you’ve played or seen Dead Space alone in a dark room. Like our Mirror’s Edge preview, it consisted of two parts; the hands on and the exclusive unveiling of a previously unseen section from mid way through the game, Chapter 7 we are informed.
Having sat impatiently through the games’ opening cutscene, unable to skip it, anticipation set in. How’s it going to control? Will it be plagued by a dodgy camera like so many third person titles this year? So many hundred questions like that flew through my mind. After the cutscene had ended after a good 5 minutes, it was me and Isaac versus the world and it felt like staying alive was a distinct possibility.
The feel of the game is as you would expect from a competent third person action adventure title, although tended to feel a little sluggish at times but that’s why the title is a third person horror-survival title as opposed to a third person shooter.
One of the goals of the development team throughout, has been to keep the player immersed in the story at all cost and one way of doing this is by removing the HUD altogether and using Isaac’s helmet to bring up menus, computers and everything else in the world. Be warned though, what this means is that you are vulnerable all the time, whether you log in somewhere or check your inventory, you’re not safe. Picture Alone in the Dark’s inventory system but not so fiddly. The player’s health is indicated by a strip on his back, his stasis meter is on his shoulder and his ammo count is on his weapon. If you look somewhere, expect Isaac’s head to track wherever you’re looking. By removing the HUD totally, all you can focus on then is the world you are thrust in to.
Early on ammo seems to be really scarce so my strategic dismemberment session that I had planned was not on the cards, although I did get to do it a few times and it really is truly satisfying. I spent most of my time using the stasis function which slows down whatever you aim it at and then running around and meleeing their heads off ... literally. Seeing it in action during the run down of Chapter 7 was a true delight though. When they said that you need to tear it down limb by limb, they weren’t kidding! Take off the aliens head and they will run around aimlessly going berserk, a headless chicken with sharp claws is the picture I still get in my head now. Take off their legs and they will drag themselves towards you. Take off their arms and they will still charge at you to try and eat every last bit of you. Hell, sometimes, they’ll even play dead to try and trick you, so when they go down, stomp that body just to make sure.
Throughout Dead Space you will encounter little mini puzzles, we came across a few in the opening 20 minutes of the game where we had to use stasis on one occasion to slow down a fast closing door and then on another occasion we had to use it to slow down a moving circuit point. Whilst not the most complex task, we can foresee that they get a little more tricky as you advance. The one we saw in Chapter 7 required a little more thinking although I’m not sure that their inclusion is to really puzzle people, but more to break up the gameplay.
The mood of Dead Space seems to be right on the nail. It’s the type of game where you’ll always be checking your rear to stop things creeping up on you and that is exactly what you want in this type of title. Nothing says horror-survival like that fear that of you never being alone.
When we took a looked at Chapter 7, we saw Dead Space become a lot more frantic and we were introduced to some gravity section parts (or should I say, lack of) which takes the gameplay to the walls and ceilings. When you get this far, the aliens seem to travel in packs so using the stasis and strategic dismemberment was vital. But strategy takes a new pace as well as you start to learn where to and where not to hit certain enemy types; take the pregnant alien for example, whatever you do, do NOT shoot them square in the stomach or you’ll have more than one or two of its offspring to contend with.
Dead Space is shaping up to be one scary ass ride through a space ship with no one else to watch your back but your instincts. The intro scene seemed really epic and the mood of the game seems to present so early on in to the game. Throw in a good story, plenty of weapons and variety and we’re surely on to a winner. If the gaming industry continues to churn out truly immersive titles like this, we’re going to be very poor people come the end of the year.
Dead Space will be available on October 21st and 24th in North America and Europe respectively.