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EA Dead Space review

Verdict:

Review Date: 19 Dec 2008

Price when reviewed: £27

Supplier: http://www.ea.com

Reviewed By: Seth Barton

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

ExpertReviews Award

Sent to investigate a stricken deep-space mining ship, you're quickly thrown into a battle to survive.

You have to tour the derelict ship making repairs, while trying to avoid the fate of its crew. They have been transformed into terrifying creatures - Necromorphs - who come in a variety of forms.

Your character is no soldier, but rather an engineer, so industrial tools replace the usual military weapons. This is fortunate, as your opponents shrug off damage to their bodies and heads. Instead, you must slice off their often numerous limbs to stop them devouring you. Your trusty Plasma Cutter fires a narrow beam, which can be flipped both horizontally and vertically - handy for removing legs and arms respectively. Other weapons include the Ripper, a vicious circular saw, and a hydrogen cutting torch.

Further ingenuity, and more opportunities for the macabre, are to be found in the zero gravity sections. Body parts float past and spin away when bumped into. It soon becomes confusing exactly what is up and down as you can walk, or leap, from floor to ceiling. You'll also need to keep an eye on your air supply, while watching out for Necromorphs, who take advantage of the near-silence in a vacuum.

It's the audio effects, rather than the excellent graphics, that generate Dead Space's nerve-jangling tension. The claustrophobic ship echoes with growls, moans, grinding and creaking. The sounds of a nearby Necromorph are enough to get your heart beating fast, and jump-out-of-your seat moments are in plentiful supply. Turn up your 5.1 surround system and play alone in the dark for the full experience.

Most of the action consists of fighting the various Necromorph creatures, with later battles becoming hectic bouts of crowd control.

Puzzle sections make good use of your suit's special abilities. You can place objects and enemies in stasis, which temporarily slows them down. This is particularly handy for dodginghuge malfunctioning machinery. You alsohave a telekinetic ability, so you can grab and manipulate objects at a distance. None of the puzzles is exactly brain-taxing, but they do help break up the slaughter.

Your suit's inventory adds a little extra depth, as you have limited space to carry ammo, air canisters and medical kits. Automated stores let you sell supplies you don't need and buy those you do. You can also upgrade your suit and weapons to make them more effective.

The plot is rather threadbare, and many of the ideas are pilfered from other games, most notably Resident Evil 4. However, Dead Space has excellent pacing, high production values and finely balanced gameplay. There's no open-world to explore, no optional missions and no multiple choice endings. It's a simple gore-filled rollercoaster ride, and all the better for it.

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