So with Dead Space 2 just released, I figured that it was an appropriate time to review Dead Space 1 on the PC, which I recently completed. Apologies for the lack of 1080p screenshots, as I couldn’t be bothered to setup a screen capture program.
Dark, claustrophobic hallways covered in bloody scrawls of words written in an alien language. Constant whispers in your ear that you can’t quite make out the words of. Those very rare occasions where you meet a living person, only to have them cut their own throat in a painfully slow manner just as you arrive.
But most importantly of all, the constant nagging fear that at any moment a vent could open up and spill a load of necromorphs in your face.
While action games rarely achieve the scare levels seen in Frictional Games’ Penumbra and Amnesia, mainly due to the gun that you carry, Dead Space’s setting and atmosphere are truly terrifying.
Another nice touch are the various audio and text logs that add to the back story behind the infestation of the USG Ishimura, that paradoxically also provide a slight breather for players (since you will almost never be attacked straight after picking one up).
The acronym DS could stand for Dismemberment Simulator, because that is the focal point of the combat. The most effective method of disabling the hundreds of necromorphs on the USG Ishimura is to blow off their limbs, which apart from being immensely satisfying when you do it, also conveniently explains why mining equipment is much more effective than conventional weapons against necromorphs (this is shown in the Dead Space Ignition motion comic).
Of course, as a horror game there is a requisite element of tension in the combat. Apart from certain necromorphs which require more finesse in their execution (such as a species that carries an explosive sack connected to its arm which will hurt if shot at close range), ammunition can get low quite quickly, especially early in the game. With credits and stores from which you buy ammo being somewhat scarce, you have the added tension of making every shot count. Which is not easy when you have multiple species of necromorphs chasing you or firing projectiles at you.
The controls on the PC version are terrible. Mouse look is extremely slow, unless you turn off V-Sync, which then renders it slightly annoying. When you are being chased by a gigantic brute necromorph, being able to spin around in short time is key. I played it using a gamepad instead, which makes the game more bearable, though I expect the controls on the console versions are much more polished. I will say though that for one part, where you control a large turret, the gamepad was not as effective as the mouse.
Apparently the controls for Dead Space 2 have been improved, though you should check for yourself.
Dead Space was one heck of a scary yet thrilling ride. It certainly made me excited to see Dead Space 2, which looks to be an improvement on an already great game.