Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For the Love of Dead Space

Although I had briefly admired some of the preview coverage for "Dead Space" - EA Games' descent into horror based survival games - I expected little from the final product. Maybe these low expectations seem harsh, but the reality is there hasn't been a new IP from EA that excited me in years (Army of Two = epic fail). Granted, "Mirror's Edge" holds some of my interest this year, I'm still not convinced its a game I really want to play - at least not lieu of the swarm of high quality games due this fall like "Gears of War 2", "Fallout 3", and "Left 4 Dead".

So how'd Dead Space managed to slip under my radar? Honestly, I don't know. But in light of everything (now that I'm nine chapters into it), it's the best game to kick off this holiday season, and the swarm of games coming into retailers.

By now you must've seen all the positive reviews filing into the internet. But the biggest question on anyone's mind is: How scary is Dead Space, really? But the answer depends on your experience with this sort of material. The beginning of the game isn't very scary at all, or it might be for a brief moment. But the overall tension doesn't rise until about mid-way through the game, where the ammo and health packs start to become real scarce. It's at these points that the suspense level truly rises, because no ammo means you're pretty much screwed. And judging from the sound of things, only God knows what's coming around the next corner.

The overall ambiance also contributes to why, in the end, Dead Space is pretty amazing. As you wander the ship, the empty halls will not only feel dead and devoid of any living thing, but occasionally you'll hear whispers and heavy things being knocked over in the distance. The incredible sound design really put me on the edge of my seat, even though the average enemies at the start of the game do very little to freak you out of your seat. Instead the designers find clever ways to mess with your head - One particular case of this happened after a quick trip to the Work Bench - a part of the game's weapon upgrade system. Right after I finished the transaction, the camera pulled back to reveal a snarling necromorph standing right over my right shoulder.

If that doesn't freak you out, I really don't know what will.

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