In Space No One Can Hear You Scream
It has thus far been an excellent, excellent experience.
Let’s take, oh, Half-Life 1 and mash it with System Shock 2. I would say that it’s more SS2 than HL except that System Shock 2 was very much a complex “rpg” type of game, and Dead Space is not. It is by no means “stupid”; in fact, there appears to be a rather complex resource management game going on here – but it is not intricate on the level that System Shock 2 was.
Which is fine!
I remember once, many many moons ago, when I first played through the single player Half-Life game. I was dating a woman at the time (Zev/Reverie, to those who know) and she enjoyed simply watching me play the game. For her, it was a horror movie; for me, it was a horror experience. At one point I found myself crawling through a warehouse with exactly 1 (one) bullet in my gun and exactly 5 (five) hit points, and I could hear the. . . “purring” sound from one of the game’s vampire chickens. It was a terrifying experience, and when the chicken finally attacked, both she and I literally jumped out of our chairs.
Dead Space is kind of like that. You do not walk through the corridors; you creep through them, knowing that any ventilation shaft may disgorge some mutated . . . thing. . . to eat your face.
And these creatures that come at you? Shooting them isn’t going to cut the mustard. Sorry, my friend: you have to frickin’ dismember them. Aim for the knees or the arms with your plasma torch and cut them to ribbons – you have to slow them down before you can curb stomp them. There are even nerd skittles for chopping off limbs.
One of the best and most brilliant things about the game is that there is no heads up display. Well. There is, but there isn’t. You’ll have a HUD, but it is always generated by your dude’s suit, and in a neat 3D way. There isn’t a health meter: you watch a little “suit integrity” dial on the back of your character. Your guns have a HUD showing you how many rounds are left, but it is obvious that is generated by your computers. It is difficult to explain.
The lack of HUD aids in immersion something severe. This is important in a horror game: you feel more that you are directly involved in the scenario, rather than being an omnipotent, third-party observer.
Like in Half-Life, you are not a “space marine” or a “soldier.” You are an engineer, which means that you aren’t carrying around a bunch of weaponry. You have improvised tools as weapons: plasma cutters, welding devices, band saws. This encourages a mental position of “scrabbling” as well, which aids in the fear and the horror.
Unlike Half-Life 1 and System Shock 2, there are actual puzzles. In addition to your standard point-shoot-kill weaponry, you have two special tools: a “stasis” gun that slows things (and enemies) down (removing kinetic energy) and a “kinesis” gun (which is kind of a telekinesis weapon, ala’ Half-Life 2‘s gravity gun). These help to enrich the overall experience.
In addition to that, we have other things (such as zero-gravity movement, which is awesome) and vacuum related puzzles (you have an air supply, and have to monitor it). The more intricate puzzles involve combinations of all four. There may yet be new axises to work with; I haven’t yet encountered them.
I’m 4 hours or so into the game and only in the middle of chapter four. There are, apparently, 12 or 13 chapters. At about an hour each, that looks to be better than 12 hours of gameplay on an initial run through, which makes it well worth 60 clams (I paid 20 due to the employee discount). It should easily outrank Halo 3 in playability time.
Play it in the dark with the lights off. You’ll thank me later.