Quite a few of you guys asked me for more Dead Space footage, and you know me, I love it when people enjoy my videos. So there you have it, more Dead Space! Also, as promised, you can read Driftwood's detailed first impressions inside. Enjoy! Update: The third and last part is online. Update 2: Driftwood was at my place yesterday with his hard drive and the French version of Dead Space, so we recorded two more videos showing the end of the third level in hard difficulty level. Some mild spoilers, but most of you guys are not going to understand them anyway!
Driftwood's first impressions:
A few years back, not a lot of games from EA were AAA titles and to be honest, most of them were actually dull adaptations of big movie blockbusters or uninspired sequels. Players always had that suspicious look on their face when it came to EA and I’m sure many of you guys considered their games were rarely worth playing anyway. Things have changed over the past few years though: EA is now giving a shot to new interesting franchises that might as well become big time classics in the very near future.
Dead Space is one of those games. Some will say it doesn’t really add anything new to the genre and it takes most of its inspiration from previous games or movies. That’s something that can’t be denied obviously but you have to consider the game as some kind of best of menu of everything that is great in survival horrors.
And that’s what Dead Space is all about: surviving. If you like a thrill from the comfort of your living room once in a while, you’re in for a real treat as the game will remind you of all those movies or games that have scared the bejesus out of you for the last 30 years, no less. Alien, Carpenter’s The Thing, Event Horizon are clear inspirations for Dead Space but let’s not forget Resident Evil, Doom or even Bioshock in the video game industry. Claustrophobia, loneliness, helplessness, three words you’ll need to learn to cope with when playing the game. The storyline might sound a bit déjà vu - you’re part of a rescue team that gets in real trouble when they get on location - but it still is very effective. You obviously get all the stereotyped situations you’d expect in such a case but the game’s atmosphere is so great that you simply get sucked into it.
The sound design is just perfect and it has a big part in the immersion process. Monsters sound horrible, the main character’s heavy breath can he heard, the explosions or gun fires are great too… Everything sounds so right it is easy to understand that half the work is done with the sound design only. One thing is worth mentioning though because I’m sure some of you will regret it: Isaac - the hero - never says a word, which, to me, can only be explained by the fact that he must be somehow related to Gordon Freeman. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t really mind but some may disagree.
Not only is Dead Space a feast for the ears, it is also eye candy thanks to great realistic lighting effects, very convincing smoke effetcs and last but not least, a lot of gory details. Some might not like wandering through the dark corridors of the USG Ishimura but there is no denying that the game is visually solid. You’ll probably find a few more impressive games on the market for sure but overall the game looks pretty stunning and it gets the job done. If I had one minor complain to make, it would be that the well-lit areas look less sharp than the darker ones but that’s really not an issue - I'm just being picky.
Gameplay-wise, Dead Space plays in close-up third person view - something similar to Resident Evil 4 - but it is possible to move the camera all around the main character - except when in aim mode obviously. Thanks to that, it makes it easier to observe your environment and pay attention to every little detail. Another good thing to me is the fact that you can aim and move whilst doing it and, contrary to what some hardcore Resident Evil fans may think, it doesn’t make the game any less nerve-racking. No quick turnaround command though: the developers thought it would add up to the feeling of urgency and fear in combat situations and they were right. What’s more, it also helps to feel Isaac’s clumsiness a bit more. After all the guy is wearing a heavy helmet, a space suit and he’s going through confined environments so no wonder he is not jumping around everywhere like a prince of Persia.
The controls are great too and they all feel pretty natural. Again, you can’t really say there is anything original in that area but hey, it works so why should we complain? The menu system brings a bit of a fresh air though: it all appears in 3D and in real time - which means the game doesn’t pause when you open it, so beware. It is really easy to use and navigate through but more than that, it simply looks really cool. You can also use some kind of GPS system when pressing the right analogue stick so you don’t get lost too much. One more thing, there is no HUD whatsoever, which makes the game even more immersive.
When watching the videos, you might get the idea that Dead Space is a mindless game that requires no finesse at all but you couldn’t be more wrong I’m afraid. Indeed, you can’t just unload your gun hoping it will be enough to get rid of the creatures that are after you. You need to remain as calm as possible and use strategic dismemberment - yes I know how that sounds - if you want to survive the attack and have enough ammo to live through the next one. You might think it sounds pretty easy to handle but believe me, when four of five of those bad boys are on to you, you tend to panic a wee bit.
Hopefully it is possible to find new tools or weapons provided you have the proper amount of cash. Hats off to the cool upgrading system that forces you to make choices as you won’t be able to max out every weapon in one playthrough - but you can start a new game + once you’ve completed the game. Isaac can also use special abilities such as stasis or kinesis modules that respectively allow him to slow down time or to move objects that are in the way or solve simple puzzles. I won’t say more so you still have a lot to see for yourself but I can tell you that the zero gravity sequences or those where there is no air are just awesome.
I started the game in hard mode - whereas BlimBlim is playing in normal mode in the videos - and I must confess that survival is no piece of cake. One reason is that, contrary to what you find in the other games of the genre, surviving a room full of dangerous monsters doesn’t mean you will be able to find any ammo of health kits before the second wave of enemies hits you. In Resident Evil 4, you had plenty of time of opportunities to patch up and reload your weapons. In Dead Space, you’d better learn to shoot to kill if you don’t want to run out of ammo big time and die in horrible circumstances. So don’t forget to search your environment for goodies because they are scarce but really necessary.
Don’t get scared though, the game still is fun to play and not that hard when you understand which weapon to use and where to aim depending on the enemy. Also, I have to say that I’ve never found the difficulty to be frustrating - and I tend to get frustrated a lot when I have to start the same sequence over and over again in other games. When you die, you know you haven’t handled the situation right and you just want to go back there and make it. The key is to stay mobile and to aim correctly but it is what survival horror games are all about, isn’t it? And you can still try the easy and normal modes if you feel you’re not up to the task in hard mode.
So is Dead Space worth buying then? It’s a definite yes if you like the genre even though the game doesn’t offer anything particularly new. The game is a serious challenger to the upcoming Resident Evil 5 and I think Konami was pretty wise when they decided to delay the release of Silent Hill: Homecoming in Europe. Dead Space is a very good surprise and you can really tell that the team behind it is composed of a bunch of videogame fans as well as movie fanatics. And that’s usually how great games are born.