Released in 2008 and developed by Visceral Games (at the time known as EA Redwood Shores), Dead Space is an incredible horror game that was successful with critics and audiences alike. In it, players take control of an engineer named Isaac Clarke, who has taken a job to repair the USG Ishimura since his girlfriend Nicole is working there.
Unfortunately, the entire ship has become infested with Necromorphs, monsters created from the corpses of the crew. Using a selection of engineering weaponized engineering equipment (and one actual gun) Isaac has to try and repair the ship while containing the Necromorph menace. Isaac also has access to some nifty telekinetic and stasis-inducing powers.
Which is a good thing, because you’ll need every bit of help fighting the Necromorphs that you can get. They’re tough, fast, do incredible damage and come in multiple varieties. By contrast, Isaac is pretty slow and clunky, with the weight of his armored suit translating well into the controls. The game’s pacing doesn’t help, constantly introducing new types just as you’ve begun to adapt, so you always have to be on your guard.
Dead Space is unique in how the HUD is designed with a sense of immersion for the player. You track Isaac’s health through the RIG lighting on his back, ammunition counters are displayed on the various weapons and all the menus are either ship displays or projections from Isaac’s suit. At no point are any elements out of place or intrusive, which adds to the sense of isolation.
One of the key elements of making a work of horror stand out and making the audience remember it is the mood. From beginning to end, Dead Space sets the mood properly and makes incredible use of an excellent atmosphere. The dark, winding paths through the USG Ishimura leave the player cramped, vulnerable to the necromorphs that stalk their way through the vents and corridors.
The USG Ishimura is a large ship however, it’s still limited in space, so the game’s level design is cleverly used to make the player retread their paths across different levels. As a result, the second time you visit of the decks, something else might have gone wrong and you never truly clear an area of enemies. In doing so, the game makes sure that you are never truly safe except on the trams you use to travel between levels. At any moment, Necromorphs could smash their way and drop on top of you.
It’s also worth mentioning the incredible audio design. Scattered noises and a (usually)minimalistic soundtrack play with your head, greatly ramping up the impending sense of terror.
While the graphics are obviously no longer cutting edge, Dead Space is still one of my favorite horror games and something you should absolutely play. If you have a modern gaming computer you can easily run it and it’s also available on Xbox One via Xbox backward compatibility. Of course, if you have a PS3 or Xbox 360 lying around then you can naturally play it there.
Whether you’ve played it before or not, Dead Space is a horror game that has aged incredibly well and it is the perfect time to jump into Isaac Clarke’s armored boots.