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Dead Space

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Release Date: Oct. 24, 2008

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PS3/X360/PC Preview - 'Dead Space'

by Matt Olsen on Sept. 13, 2008 @ 4:55 a.m. PDT

Set in the cold blackness of deep space, the atmosphere is soaked with a feeling of tension, dread and sheer terror. In Dead Space, players step into the role of engineer Isaac Clarke -- an ordinary man on a seemingly routine mission to fix the communications systems aboard a deep space mining ship. It is not long before Isaac awakes to a living nightmare when he learns that the ship's crew has been ravaged by a vicious alien infestation. He must fight through the dead silence and darkness of deep space to stay alive.

Genre: Survival Horror
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: October 20, 2008

One of EA's more original offerings from PAX was the demo of the space-based survival horror action hybrid, Dead Space. Fans may have kept up with the events leading up to the story within the game by either reading the six-issue mini-series of comic books published by Image Comics, or by watching the animated comic series on GameTrailers. In any case, Dead Space's story is quite intriguing, and I was able to spend some hands-on time with the game.

Dead Space revolves around an engineer named Isaac, who is sent to go repair a mining colony in space that hasn't had any communications with the command center in over a week. When he gets there, he finds the whole place is malfunctioning and strange monsters have been wreaking havoc throughout the vessel. It's up to Isaac to vanquish these fiends and get the ship back into working condition.

Since Isaac is an engineer and not a soldier, he doesn't have any real weapons with which to fight. Instead, he utilizes repurposed mining tools such as a cutter, saw and wielder. He also has two other weapons that come as part of his suit: a stasis gun for slowing enemies, and a telekinesis gun for moving enemies and objects. The PAX demo took place in the middle of the game on the mining deck of the ship. In this area, an emergency mechanism turned off the gravity in the refinery, so the player must dispose of the floating rocks before turning the gravity back on. Players will have to use telekinesis to redirect floating ore into a tractor beam device that'll drag the materials into the refinery.

A unique gameplay mechanic is how Isaac's suit allows him to manipulate his own gravity; he can run on the ground normally, but he can also fly from wall to wall to reach faraway platforms. One issue I noticed was how the "fly" button also brings up your inventory; the differentiation is you have to be aiming and press Y to fly. I also noticed how the inventory is brought up in real-time, so you have to stay on your toes to use a recovery item and avoid getting hit.

With the element of a real-time inventory in play, you can see that the combat in Dead Space is going to be pretty intense. The game controls like Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War, with the over-the-shoulder camera view. Another visible feature is the lack of a head's-up display. Your health and stasis power are displayed on the back of Isaac's suit in the form of glowing blue bars, and your remaining ammunition is displayed on the back of the gun.

One of Dead Space's key features is the use of dismemberment. Generally, you don't want to go for body shots, which take forever to defeat an enemy. You'll want to kill your foes with targeted shots, but even doing that has a catch; shooting off the legs will cause them to drag their body toward you, and shooting off the head will cause them to go berserk. Some enemies have explosive sacks attached to their arms that you can shoot to blow up, or you can cut them off and use on other enemies. In short, dismemberment is the theme of the game. Even when you die, you don't simply collapse — you get cut in half or into multiple pieces. Yummy!

After seeing the glorious (or "gore-ious") death scene, I considered my time with the game was well-spent. Dead Space is going to be awesome. The graphics are impressive, and the glowing forges showcased the game's shadow effects, which gave me the creeps when I could see several enemy shadows from above. Dead Space should feed the survival horror needs of players until Resident Evil 5 comes out next year. Look for it when it streets this October for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.


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