EA have clearly been shamefully stealing furtive glances over the shoulders of their peers before furiously scribbling borrowed ideas into their code for Dead Space, but the end result is clever, engaging and wonderfully scary. So, are you ready for a hands-on report based entirely on increasingly wavering comparisons? You are? Then let’s go!
Dead Space is a bit like Event Horizon, placing you on a ship, the USG Ishimura, that’s currently floating dead in space, its crew apparently deceased and its engines offline. As for how it plays, well the initial touchstone here is Resident Evil 4, with its over-the-shoulder camera, that same inexorably slow turning circle as you bring a foe into your sights and some brilliantly unexpected scripted sequences when something grabs hold of your leg/neck/face and refuses to let go.
It’s the sort of game that has you clunking through darkened corridors searching for ammo in lockers before entering a decontamination chamber in which everything proceeds smoothly until the noises of pipes banging, steam hissing and strobe-lighting begins to warn of something awry. Then, all of a sudden, you’re surrounded by red, jagged, fleshy creations - half of which you can’t make out as they scuttle over the opposite wall, and the other half are lurking behind a grill two feet behind you. We’ve been here before, but my how we love it.
Dead Space is also a bit like Red Dwarf. Its ship isn’t a million miles away from the Jupiter Mining Corporation’s finest; a ‘planetcracker’ vessel that carves out city-sized lumps of rock from the surfaces of barren worlds and rips out the more profitable bits. Also, as in Red Dwarf, the protagonist isn’t an Ace Rimmer space hero - he’s an engineer (although presumably one ranked higher than third class and rarely called out to unblock chicken soup nozzles). Named Isaac Clarke, decked out in a clunky metal suit and armed only with engineering tools (that thankfully are generally of the ‘slice and dice’ mentality) he’s very much alone - apart from, of course, the alien host and a mining crew thought dead but actually warped beyond all recognition. You see, much like in Pitch Black, the planet the Ishimura chose to munch upon wasn’t as barren as it first appeared. Tired of the comparisons yet? Well sit tight, as we’ve barely begun.