Dead Space: High Caliber Horror

By Fred Bloss

It is a rare thing to find a high caliber horror game.  Most horror games end up becoming action titles with no sense of atmosphere.  “Dead Space” is the latest exception to this fact.  In “Dead Space,” you play as an engineer named Issac Clark charged with the repair of a mining space ship called The Ishimura.  You arrive at the gargantuan ship only to find out that almost all of the crew are dead and the ship is infested with gruesome creatures called necromorphs.  Necromorphs were once the bodies of the crew and have now twisted and transformed into grotesqueries whose only purpose is to find anything breathing and kill it.

While there are not a wide variety of enemies, the designs are superb and add to the atmosphere of dread and terror.  The story in the game itself is very bare at first, but you gain a deeper understanding as you view various text files, audio logs and videos; all adding exposition and a sense of depth to the story.  The game truly shines however, when a person actually picks up a controller and plays it.  The elements of the game do the best they can of pulling you into the situation of being isolated in a dark place where danger lurks at every corner.  In normal games, you have a heads up display, or HUD on the screen which keeps track of various statistics, such as health and ammunition.  This is absent in “Dead Space” and all statistics are directly on Isaac’s suit, adding to the immersion.  Resource management is essential and accessing your inventory does not pause the game.  This makes a situation like trying to use an oxygen tank to refill your air gauge while being chased down by hellish creatures a truly gut-wrenching and pulse-pounding experience.

As I have said before this game has atmosphere like no other, one can tell that every shadow and eerily flickering light was lovingly sculpted for the sole purpose of terrifying the player.  Walking down a corridor, one may see a quick flash of a monster’s shadow and  walk up with weapon drawn to investigate, only to be mauled from behind by a different beast who used that opportunity to take a bite out of you.

The little things in this game are what make it great, such as what happens when a player enters the vacuum of space.  There is a creepy silence as you watch your oxygen slowly but surely run out. Don’t get any ideas about roasting an enemy with that flame thrower; no oxygen means no combustion reaction.

The combat is this game’s most innovative feature.  While the monsters are undead, the classic “shoot them in the head” method will not work here.  In order to dispatch these monsters, you must strategically dismember them.  This adds a sense of complexity to the game as the player must figure out witch limbs to remove in order to kill a particular creature.  The weapons are unique in the fact that only one is an actual gun, the rest are futuristic power tools, ranging from a tool that shoots out concussive blasts of air to a buzz-saw that is extended four feet in front of you, hanging by an invisible tether.  Since Halloween is coming up, this is definitely a game to buy and play at night with no lights on and the volume cranked up.

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