Dead Space Reviewed - Great Adult Entertainment

Author: Fabian Siegismund
Date: 2008-11-06 14:57:00
"Atmosphere to cut" takes on a whole new meaning when you keep chopping up monsters.

In the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale, "From someone who set out to learn to be afraid," a young lad goes on a journey to learn what fear means. He lets himself be frightened in a dark church - without result. He sleeps under a gallows hung with seven corpses - boring. He even spends the night in a haunted castle and meets ghosts and yet he keeps moaning: "Oh, if only I was scared! Oh, if only it scared me! «The young boys of today no longer have this problem: The action game Dead Space from Electronic Arts is so exciting, if you don't get scared, you can't help.

»Watch or download the Dead Space test video
»Read the test of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 version (GamePro)
»Read the technical check on Dead Space

Scrap ripe

Isaac Clarke did not set out to learn fear, he set out to straighten the antenna. Isaac is a technician and is supposed to repair the communications system of the USG Ishimura mine spaceship with his team, because the giant spaceship has not sent any messages home for a long time. After work, Issac wants to meet his girlfriend Nicole, who works on the Ishimura. Before the radio connection was lost, she sent him a garbled message that worries our hero - something seems to be wrong on board.

Anything? How about: everything ?! Starting with the docking control system - Isaac and his colleagues' ship suddenly crashes into the hangar on approach. Peace and quiet from the short opening sequence have left the game with the crash landing and will not be seen for the next 15 hours until the credits of Dead Space .

Film ready

The characterization "cinematically staged" may have been overused a little in the course of the game test story, but it certainly applies to Dead Space . From the first scene on, we have the feeling that we are not sitting at our desk, but in a cinema chair. And that's not just due to the opening credits, which unobtrusively accompany the first few seconds of the game. It is the interplay of images, dialogues and soundscape that impresses us already in the shuttle reading sequence, for example when the Ishimura appears for the first time behind a large asteroid on cue, while the background music reaches a brief climax. The perspective contributes a significant part to the film feel. Right from the start, the camera hovers behind Isaac's right shoulder, constantly keeping an eye on the main character of this playable space shocker without blocking the view of important events. The result: So impressed by the look of the game, we keep pounding on the screenshot button until our hard drive threatens to overflow with images. And that even though nothing has actually happened yet.

Poorly off

Even without striking horror, the first steps on board the Ishimura are scary enough. Why is it so dark here? And where are all the people? This is the largest mining spaceship of mankind, with a crew of a few thousand, and nobody welcomes us? Creepy. A few seconds later, Eerie climbs to Horror (who still has his mate Horrible with him) when suddenly a bulkhead closes behind us and separates us from our four companions. We have to watch helplessly through a pane of glass as horrific monsters break out of the ventilation shafts and tear two of Isaac's buddies into bloody chunks in a snap. Only technician Keindra and security officer Hammond can save themselves, but from now on we have to struggle alone. However, they both have something ahead of us: They carry assault rifles, so far we only have a space suit.

Leg off

Fortunately, we can find a plasma cutter, a kind of laser cutting device, in the next room. His former owner left us a tip: "Cut off your limbs". Smeared on the wall with blood. Said ex-owner spread plenty of it around the room before succumbing to his cruel injuries. You can understand the saying as the motto of Dead Space : The monsters called Necromorph, who mauled our friends, can only be destroyed by cutting them into pieces, because even without a head the beasts keep trying what they do best: kill. Each character in Dead Space therefore consists of separable body regions. With the right weapon, you can break them apart. The plasma cutter, for example, creates a cut about eight inches wide that you can use to split your opponents. In addition, the game offers six other weapons, each with two fire modes. Several laser beams serve as a target aid. They look chic and are extremely practical.


The controls themselves are less practical. You can clearly see Dead Space that it was first developed on consoles and then not carefully adapted for the PC: The mouse reacts extremely spongy, so that precise aiming can be tricky. If we are then attacked from a blind camera angle, panic quickly spreads. Panic may well be intentional in Dead Space , but actually the limited field of vision that one always has to struggle with in computer games would be scary enough in this game. The fact that EA Redwood Shores has simply worked sloppily can be seen at the latest with the storage system: Sure, free storage does not have to be in a survival shooter (then it would no longer be really exciting), but more than a ridiculous 20 storage spaces are mandatory. At least Dead Space automatically saves your progress on a regular basis, so you don't have to repeat entire sections if you suddenly lose your head - Isaac is sometimes just as vulnerable as the Necromorphs.


Apart from the technical flaws, the operating principle of Dead Space is award-worthy: The game works completely without classic screen displays. Whenever Isaac goes to the map, rummages through his inventory, or watches video messages, holographic overlays appear in front of him. So we are never torn out of the game world by unadorned menus. A light bar on Isaac's back serves as a health indicator, next to it a semicircle shows how much stasis energy is still available to him. As a space technician, Isaac has two special tools: a gravity manipulator and a so-called stasis emitter. The gravity manipulator works like the Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2. We use it to lift objects and solve small physics puzzles. For example, we plug large batteries into the appropriate sockets to unlock electric doors. Theoretically, Isaac can also throw objects at monsters, but in practice this takes too long because of the spongy controls. The stasis emitter, on the other hand, is a useful weapon: We use it to slow down moving objects for a short time, including the Necromorph. Such a frozen enemy can be easily dismantled into individual parts - a cool device!


Isaac's suit can do even more: Time and again, the technician comes across space ship sections where there is no gravity or where all oxygen has been used up. Then he trudges along the walls and ceiling with his magnetic shoes, while a fade-in on his neck reveals how long he can breathe. Because nothing is too difficult for the engineer, Isaac is allowed to upgrade his suit and weapons again and again at the workbenches distributed on the Ishimura, for example to get more health points or breathing air or to make his plasma cutter more powerful. The problem with this: All upgrades and all weapons in the game cost money. So you constantly have to decide whether you'd rather improve your existing arsenal or get a new one. One would think that everything in a mine spaceship hangs full of tools, but on board the Ishimura it seems that every member of the crew has to buy their equipment dearly in automated shops. Dead Space kindly hides exactly the ammunition in lockers and boxes for which you have weapons with you. However, you will not get enough money to try out all the shooting clubs during the game. A small consolation: laser, energy and beam cannons are just a waste of money, and you can't pack more than the other four guns into your limited inventory anyway.

Again, go!

Once you have played through Dead Space , you will be rewarded with a new super suit, lots of money and even keep your equipment to really crank it up in the second run. But only on the same level of difficulty as before, and that's pretty pointless. After all, you are now armed to the teeth and immensely rich. "But wait," you might say, "we're at the end of the game and the article, and no more words on the plot?" No, because it's really excellent, and you should find out what is aboard the Ishimura for yourself happened - because that's the charm of the game. But one thing can be revealed: Dead Space is so well told and exciting that it can easily rank alongside System Shock 2 and Aliens vs. Predator 2. The game generates many of the horror effects through its outstanding sound: Everyone knows that female voices singing children's songs from ventilation shafts are scary, but we would not have believed that we could be so frightened by a metal pipe that falls over somewhere in the corridors of a spaceship . If you still don't find Dead Space scary, try what ultimately helps the young man from Grimm's fairy tale: At night his wife pours him a tub of cold water with fish on it.

»Watch or download the Dead Space test video
»Read the test of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 version (GamePro)
»Read the technical check on Dead Space