Going back to survival horror well, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. See, after playing DYING: Reborn, I felt like I had completely lost all hope in mankind. After doing a bit of self-reflection, it felt as though rediscovering my faith in humanity seemed nearly impossible. Then I remembered something… I remembered that Dead Space is backwards compatible on the Xbox One!
Released way back in 2008, I had always thought that Dead Space was always a great example of one of the better survival horror games to come out of the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation. With Visceral Games taking the framework of Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 and adding in their own touches, combining the elements of a very creepy sci-fi atmosphere with absolutely terrifying monsters. The end result was something that didn’t feel like just another run of the mill knockoff. In fact, I would even go as far to say that Dead Space was far superior to all of the Resident Evil’s that released after RE4 and even though Visceral Games is no longer with us, having been shut down by the EA beast back in 2017. At the very least, we still have the ability to go back and play Dead Space to appreciate everything they had achieved.
The game is played from through an over-the-shoulder view, much like Resident Evil 4. With combat being relatively similar, at least in terms of aiming, though Dead Space has a few of its own mechanics. Such as weapons having two separate modes of firing, coming from a standard and a secondary, each weapon having their own unique thing. There is also the stasis and kinesis modules, both of which are very useful. These modules allow you to perform different abilities, such as slowing down an enemy using stasis, or being able to pick up and throw things using kinesis. Both have limited uses however, as they use energy. Fortunately, this energy can be restored through various means, like using items or interacting with certain replenishing stations.
Another important game mechanic worth mentioning in Dead Space comes in the form of dismemberment. Damaging enemies body parts using the games various weapons can sever their limbs, this helps defeat enemies a lot quicker as it does more damage than just attacking normally. It also can give you an easier time defeating certain enemies, one annoying enemy in particular being the Pregnant, which if killed by means other than severing the limbs will burst open causing smaller enemies called Swarmers to attack. It’s something I’ve always found interesting at least, as it can makes defeating certain enemies feel a bit more strategic in a way.
Other notable things in Dead Space are the means to purchase items from stores throughout the game using credits. Credits can be obtained via smashing boxes, defeating enemies, or just finding them scattered about. Once obtained, you can use them to purchase different weapons, items, or power nodes. Power nodes are something else worth mentioning. These nodes can be obtained by either finding or purchasing them, and allow for upgrading your weapons or suit. Upgrades are extremely useful in providing an easier means of survival in Dead Space.
As for the the game itself, it follows the engineer Isaac Clarke, who is a part of the USG Kellion crew that had been sent out to investigate a distress signal transmitted from the USG Ishimura. Upon arrival, the USG Kellion then crash lands aboard the Ishimura, leaving the crew members to investigate the seemingly derelict ship. After which, the crew soon comes to find out that the Ishimura is overran with monsters known as Necromorphs, which are reanimated corpses infected with a virus caused by artifacts called Markers, and over the course of the game, Isaac learns that the source of the Necromorphs was caused by a Red Marker that had been excavated from the planet Aegis VII.
There is so much to praise in Dead Space in terms of its world design as well. Each chapter, going through different parts of the Ishimura accessed through a tram system. With every portion of the USG Ishimura having a very creepy atmosphere adding to moments in the game that can feel very tense. It’s all very gritty to say the least. Certain areas are full of corpses and blood with just the right amount of lighting, all adding to the games eerie tone. This is all just topped off by the games ambient sounds, music, and light whispers that you can hear throughout the game making everything feel relatively unsettling on top of the moments where you just get the feeling where something is going to pop out at you. It’s all very well done, and is something I feel was thought out methodically. Visceral nailed all of this down so perfectly.
So how exactly do I end with this one? Well for starters, I still feel that Dead Space is without a doubt the best survival horror game from the last generation. It feels like such a huge shame that EA hasn’t bothered remastering the trilogy. The game has aged relatively well, and has felt like an absolute breath of fresh air after exposing myself to a game like DYING: Reborn. It’s hard to deny the mark Dead Space left on someone like myself. Visceral created something nearly perfect, with the USG Ishimura having tight spaces of maneuvering, where battling Necromorphs could feel overwhelming at times when they would slink through vents and pop up at your back while at the same time attacking straight forward. Adding that on top of the dark nature and gore tone of the game, it all felt like it mixed so well for a game that feels vastly superior to titles released more recently. It’s really a tragedy, in a way. Visceral achieved something spectacular, when I reflect back on Dead Space. I hope one day we’ll see something that can match what was done with the Dead Space series. At the very least, we have the Resident Evil 2 remake to look to, in terms of the future. As for the Dead Space series… Well, it’d be a shame if EA lets the IP rot like the nasty Necromorphs on board the Ishimura.