I will obviously keep spoilers to a minimum; we know how much we don’t like them.
Recently, I had been thinking about getting a first-person shooter for my PlayStation 3 as a means of verging away from just playing driving and racing games. I bought this up with Kat and she recommended that it could be a good idea, as long as I stayed away from any Call of Duty game. I thought this was understandable as I think I’d only get a Call of Duty game if I really had to and if it was insanely cheap. Going through lists of potential contenders, she mentioned that she watched someone else play Dead Space a few years ago. Although it is a third-person shooter rather than a first person shooter, it does have guns, explosions and action and so it ticks all the right boxes to be an enjoyable game. Seeing as Dead Space 3 has recently been released, I decided to look into it a little bit on Wikipedia before venturing out and what I read sounded alright. Browsing through the High Street chains that weren’t closing down, Kat and I looked to see if we could find anything that resembled a good shoot-em-up, but we weren’t initially looking for Dead Space. I browsed over the original Borderlands, Far Cry II and even F.E.A.R as they all seemed to be high on action but they seemed a bit out of my budget in the case of the first two or weren’t favoured well in reviews in F.E.A.R’s case. We carried on searching through the second hand shops until I came across, lo and behold, Dead Space for a bargain £5.99 in Chatham’s branch of Cash Converters. I asked more about it from Kat and she said it was terrifying. Not knowing whether this is because my girlfriend has a low tolerance for anything remotely scary, or that it was genuinely pants-wettingly horrific I was hesitant. So what was I to do? Go with what Kat says and miss out on potential bargain. Or spend the night awake reliving the terrors that she foretold me about?
We got back and rather than sliding the disc into the PS3 as soon as I possibly could, I thought I would look up a review or two. Gaming news and review website GameSpot gave it a rather high 9 out of 10 in 2008 and Metacritic has the PS3 version marked in the realms of 88 out of 100, which shows it must be a very good game. Reading over the GameSpot review, I started to feel the surge of fear and regret even more as I glanced through their article. Here are some quotes that stuck with me:
“something terrible has happened”
“preserving the horror experience”
“grunts of pain”
“feign death among the corpses of their peers to rise up and attack when you least expect it”
“Even more alarming than their ghastly appearances and uncouth manners is the fact that they are quite intelligent”
And, even more terrifyingly;
“it can continue trying to eat your face”
Oh dear. Never the less, I decided to see why it was rated so highly but was still adamant on playing a nice game like Flower or Eufloria. But no, Kat wasn’t having any of it. She wanted me to play this £6 blood-orgy to see what it was like and to see if it lived up to what she could remember. Or she wanted to see me soil myself and poke fun of me. Of course, it wasn’t until after we got it back from Chatham that she told me things tend to ‘jump out’ and that you have to ‘watch your back’ which made me feel a lot better about returning it and getting my money back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cheap scares. They are and can be genuinely funny. But the way she was describing it to me wasn’t coming across as funny. It coming across as terrifying. I had unwittingly bought a survival horror game…
So, I started the game and made a new profile for the save data. The first cut scene started and immediately the living daylights were pulled out of me by the vibration of the Dualshock resting on the case… Yeah, this wasn’t going to be my thing, I thought. To cut a long story relatively short, you play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer on-board a mining ship called the USG Kellion. It receives a distress call from Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC) and naturally, the crew of the go to see what all the fuss is about on-board the recently crashed and seemingly abandoned USG Ishimura that was dispatched by the CEC. As the Kellion approaches, it malfunctions as it came into dock on the Ishimura. Isaac space-suits up and he and the crew begin searching the wreck. This serves the tutorial level to get used to the controls, which are actually for a game of this calibre, very simple and there is a lot of help to get you started. For example, pressing R3 shows a navigational line to follow to the next objective which is very handy as there is no traditional head up display or map to follow. The map, inventory and useful tidbits of information are bought up as a hologram in front of Isaac. This also includes video and audio logs, computer screens and various interactive parts that you come across as you venture through the horror. This first bit was fine. It didn’t look like a survival horror game at all. It looked like a cross between Red Dwarf set in the same distant future of WipeOut. However, I was thinking why did we, of all people, have to go towards the distress call? Why didn’t we just fly past the world and go to a nice beachy moon that has two suns and many alien bartenders serving alien martinis? In fact, I would have rather bought Alien Bartenders, had it been a real game but Dead Space was the game I bought so I duly had to carry on.
After getting to grips with the controls, you eventually get onto looking at a computer screen in a small room to find out the status of the ship you have just boarded. When everything seems fine, a lock-down of the area happens. Orange lights begin to flash and you, as Isaac, cannot escape this room as the crew outside begin to panic. You can only look on in horror out of the windows as something drops out of the ceiling. Between the slow strobe of the warning beacon and the darkness, we see one of the crew being horribly eaten by a mutated, clawed thing as blood splatters onto the window whilst the rest of the crew start to open fire and run away. The only way out is through another door in the room, thus separating Isaac from the crew. This shook me up quite badly as I had no idea what was to come next. The flashing lights and the discordant music only added to the drama. As you run down the corridor, things only get worse. You were being followed by one of these things, that we have all come to know and love as Necromorphs which are the mutated remnants of the Kellion’s crew. Isaac takes a beating and manages to get into the safe haven of a lift. The doors shut out the Necromorph and all is calm until it tries to break in again and eat the soft squishy stuff in Isaacs head. This was really ‘new pants’ territory! I just knew it was going to happen… The Necromorph however is no match to the heavy lift doors and so as they slam shut, limbs fly all over the encloses space as blood rains all around. The lift opens up onto a new floor and even more disturbingly, a dead body. Learning that the Necromorphs can feign death and that things can pop out, the corpse made getting the first weapon, the Plasma Cutter, a whole lot more distressing. I unwittingly used all the ammo and Isaac’s right boot to make sure the corpse was as dead as it could be. I’ll admit I was a bit confused as to what to do and at this point and I really wanted to stop playing this and put on a different game that wasn’t going to scare the bejesus out of me. The blood-curdling screams overheard in this room were not nice; to say the least and I had no idea how to get out. Luckily – after about six minutes of franticly looking around and panicking like a headless chicken, whilst have a small meltdown thinking that the guy in the corner was going to rear up and attempt to ingest me – the clue was right under my nose. The doors opened and, say it wasn’t so; another Necromorph was outside the door eating another dude’s face. And yes, he wanted seconds! Having no ammunition, I had to resort to using the R1 function to beat the living snot (or Necromorph equivalent to snot) out of the mutated-face eater with the Plasma Cutter. It eventually went down dropping ammo and credits, because, y’know, these were people once upon a time. And now they resemble something between a zombie and very hungry praying mantis.
It was horrible. But, you know what? It was very satisfying. It was gross. But it was brilliant. It is a bit of a gore-fest and if you don’t mind that then this game can be very addictive. The mechanic is actually pretty cool too. For example, the Necromorphs will not back down under a shot to the head or torso, as you would expect a zombie or a Nazi to. It requires you to dismember their limbs with the array of tools and weapons at your disposal. They’re a bit unorthodox as guns when you think about it; however they do the job very well. As you progress, you can upgrade your weapons, armour – or RIG (Resource Integration Gear) – and inventory just as upgrades work in other video games. Credits can be used to buy more weapons, health packs, statis packs, oxygen refills and lots more items found in the in-game store that will help you fight through the hoards and waves of undead space zombies. You can also keep your items in the stores safe, leaving it for later when you may need it rather than clogging up your inventory, which after the amount of different pickups you find, you will have to make room for. If you want to get rid of them altogether, you can sell them for credits to spend on better weapons or something that will come to be more useful later on.
There are a lot of handy abilities that build up some interesting puzzles too. The statis packs you encounter give you the chance to slow down time to either attack a Necromorph or get through jamming doors or past quick enemies; kinesis lets you pick up objects to clear a path and gives you the capability of throwing them at the undead; and zero-G lets you stick to surfaces and leap from one wall to another when gravity is taken out of the equation. And these can all be put together to create conundrums that leave you standing around thinking what to do but having to remember that you could be eaten at any moment. It makes you think quickly but cleverly. All the guns and weapons have a primary and secondary fire mode too. The Plasma Cutter can be fired either horizontally or vertically, depending on which Necromorph limb you want to slice off. The Line Gun fires a larger area burst of energy than the Plasma Cutter but can also deploy a mine that goes off after a few seconds. I found this out the hard way as the shiny blue object it fired out of the front of it looked too enticing not to check out. Yep, cue an explosion and Isaac flying onto his back. Oxygen and statis can also be replenished at various stations dotted around the ship. Save points can come thick and fast so you can always save your progress as you carry on or on some levels they can become scarce so you have to battle your way through, just to save the game but chances are, if you’re looking for one, there will be one around the corner and hopefully not being guarded by a Necromorph.
It does make for a very interesting game. It is terrifying because you don’t know what is around next corner and the visual and sound add to a fantastic bone-chilling atmosphere which is stunning. Lights flicker on and off and walking around can trigger a quarantine lock down, which normally means something is going to happen. You normally see Necromorphs moving in the darkness but aren’t necessarily sure as to whether it is actually what you think it is or whether it is some poor chaps mutilated remains still twitching. Either way, they’re going to be either stomped on or de-limbed. Level two, however did not favour well with me. After going through the labyrinth of corridors, part of the mission required me to remove a blockade from the medical unit of the ship. Seeing as I don’t particularly like medical things, I thought this was right up my alley. Walking around, seeing remains of the people who looked like they were half way through surgery is very unnerving. There’s one section where you watch the Necromorph tear into someone and actually turn into one and another where you hear the heavy dull thud of something banging on metal only to discover it’s one of the demented crewmembers banging his noggin on a wall, only to watch him collapse in a pool of his own fluids as you get closer to him. It is a scary game without a doubt. But you can take it with a pinch of salt. It is actually rather funny if you allow it be, in much the same way a ghost train at a fair is funny. Quite a few times I would burst through doors, aiming in anticipation shouting ‘c’mon you mother-flipper! Let’s be avvin’ yer!’ and shrieking ‘ahhhhh, kill it with fire!’ as I blast a horrible scorpion like beast with the Pulse Rifle or Flame Thrower. The ragdoll physics are sometimes laughable too. As you walk over or continue to dismember the dead, the bodies normally leap around uncontrollably. It can be hilarious watching the dead Necromorph bouncing down the corridor but also discomforting because when you do it unintentionally you do think it’s still alive. And so you unleash your weapons full force on what is essentially nothing “wasting” valuable ammunition (I use the quotation marks because making sure the thing is dead is not wasting in my book). And when they do attack you when you let your guard down, boy do they go for it. The cinematic is gruesome but hammering ‘X’ can make you fight off the snarling creatures and drop kick them in a shower of blood and gore. I have only played about two hours through the story and I have gone from being tempted to take it back because I didn’t want the pleasure of knowing what happens next (I even went as far to say to Kat that I won’t be buying a game on her recommendation again) to changing my opinion entirely (and also retracting my statement). I have come to accept my fate. I am going to work my way through fighting these horrible things and hopefully I should emerge the other side a better person. Or white as sheet unable to close my eyes at night. And herein lies the problem; I see it getting much worse in the process. Well, Necromorphs… Let’s be avvin’ yer!
Oh, and another thing. If at all you do buy Dead Space, I can assure that it will be worth it especially if you can find it for £5.99 or less because it is a lot of game for not a lot of money. Amazon has it for about twelve quid currently, but I would recommend you look around Cash Converters, CeX or even the pre-owned deals in GAME. GAME currently have it for about £8 pre-owned online and you can even download it off Steam currently for £9.99 if console gaming isn’t your thing. I urge you to play it because it is a quite a different gaming experience which, if you’re like me and seem to be only tied down to one genre, you will come to know it and even love it. It is no wonder then why it was rated so high and received countless awards and the atmosphere it creates is very immersive which makes it very reminiscent of sci-fi horror films like Alien or The Thing. The original has created some sort of a legacy and as a result Dead Space 3 has rocketed into the UK Gaming Charts at number one! However, if you do get scared by the sound and visuals (the sound was highly praised by critics) then follow this simple tip. Just turn the music volume down, turn on the subtitles and (even if you own it then try it anyway) play some cool Jazz in the background. I can tell you the experience I had it will be a lot better and more relaxing if you’re a bit faint hearted; it changes the situation of waiting for something to jump out at you into something almost bearable. Everything is a lot better when done to Jazz. Including killing space zombies! I might have to try that whilst playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I’m petrified that even Jazz won’t do the Redead justice. Man, are they screwed up!
Posted by Jimmi
You can read the GameSpot PS3 review by clicking this handy link.