Dead Space was one of those titles that sort of snuck up on me, very appropriate for a survival horror game.
Before taking up a controller for any length of time, I was sort of impressed with its look, but I hadn't yet been introduced to some of the game's interesting gameplay designs. Things like strategic dismemberment and the lack of a HUD and the true zero gravity sections of the game. All three combine to make Dead Space both more immersive and otherworldly.
In Dead Space you will play as Issac Clarke, a space engineer responding to a distress call from a "Planet Cracker." In the game's reality, these giant spaceships tear apart dead planets to extract ore. In the case of this particular ship, the planet they were raping wasn't so dead. Soon after boarding the ship, and realizing that most everyone onboard is dead, Clarke is separated from the rest of his team.
From the get go the game nails the look it needs to pull off a space thriller. Things are sterile, dark and otherworldly. Event the design of Clarke's outfit, a blend of deep sea diving suite and steam punk welder's mask, is fantastic. The lack of a HUD helps put you more into the game, making you pay more attention to the little noises and signs of what's going on around you.
The weapons, the weapons are fantastical as the multi-limbed, mutli-headed creatures your face. Dead Space leans heavily on the limited ammo feature found in almost all horror survival games, but than adds a twist. To kill the monstrosities you face you can go ahead and empty a clip into one, and maybe kill it, or you can carefully, and systematically blow off it's head and limbs. You do this by selecting the correct weapon, often one that fires multiple lasers or shots, and lining up the laser sights with the weaving limbs.
My first deep look at the game had me playing through a level of the ship's hydroponics lab. Creatures scuttled and ambled toward me from around corners and out of plants. Some burst from the bellies of dead humans. I lased, shot and burned them all. Other creatures produced toxic gases, slowly killing me until I could find and destroy them. All of the things I took on were wholly unique creations to this game. The creature design, I found, is just amazing.
After making my way through the hydroponics lab, a developer skipped me to a boss battle. In it I had to deal with some patches of zero gravity. My boots, automatically magnetized, allowed me to stick to the floor. To move I would just look at an area that had metal and jump to it, floating crazily to my goal and than latching on.
The boss itself was nested in a giant circular room, its tendrils hidden in ooze. To defeat it I had to run around the walls of the moving room and deal out damage, methodically, taking down the creature one tendril at a time.
I think Dead Space's blend of deep space horror and tactical combat is going to resonate both with hardcore fans of the thriller genre and those more reluctant in the past to dip into it.