Dead Space is the next great survival horror game.

There, I said it. As a fan of the genre you really can’t do any better. Right from the first announcement the game looked like something special, mixing together sci-fi and horror in a way that quite a few classic movies have done so well but no games have as of yet. Screenshots and videos of twisted creatures, awesome violence, and innovations such as zero-gravity environments showed a ton of promise.

This week Chud was invited to check out the game at their Community Day over at EA’s Redwood Studios (check my blogs for more info on the trip and event) and was incredibly cool to us in allowing extensive playtime and interviews with people from practically every area of development.

Dead Space tells the story of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who is sent to a ship called the Ishimura, a “Planetcracker” class vessel that’s gone dark. As you might have figured from its class, the ship’s purpose is to literally rip apart worlds to find out what’s inside them. It’s rumored that the Ishimura found something strange during its most recent crack (read or watch the Dead Space comic for more on this) and as you can tell by the fact that this is a survival horror game, they certainly did.

The place is filled to the brim with creatures that are intent on ripping you apart, and these differ from most games in that they can only be taken down with the game’s much-touted “strategic dismemberment” system. Don’t even think about just going for a head shot- most things will keep coming at you no matter what. It’s much better to figure out what each type of being’s about and know where to shoot it, whether it be the legs, arms, or a weak section of the body.

You’ve probably already heard about the big features in this game . For one thing, there’s absolutely no HUD in the game. Everything you need (such as the ammo count in your weapon) is right there on the screen at all times, and easily explained with the story. For example, the character’s life bar is displayed prominently on his back. As he’s an engineer, it’s revealed that the engineering team needs to be able to make sure their co-workers are doing ok, and thus the lights on the back of their suits which instantly determine if anyone needs help.

Another big example is the inventory screen, which actually floats in front of your character in real time.  You can walk around with the screen open, which will thankfully disappear right away if you aim your weapon with the left trigger. There’s rarely a reason to check out the inventory screen anyway, unless you need a quick look at the map. It’s an interesting way to keep you in the game at all times, without a menu to jump into for a breather. There’s no loading screens, never a moment to take a break. Things can happen to you when you least expect it and frequently do.

The X button is your health button, allowing you to bypass the inventory screen and instantly use
whatever first aid kids you might be holding, and the directional pad
is used to quickly cycle through all 4 weapons (you can only carry 4
weapons at a time). The weapons themselves are all mostly engineering tools, used in ways the designers didn’t intend, of course. But you’ve got lasers, sawblades, contact guns- all sorts of tools that can easily dismember all the creatures in the game. Each one has a secondary fire, and one of the most useful is located on the laser cutter you start off the game with. The cutter fires a small laser line that is perfect for cutting off a limb, and the secondary fire will change it from aiming horizontally to vertically. Great way to get the perfect line on your enemy… although later weapons (like the line cutter below that fires off a laser beam a meter long) will soon take precedence in your armory.

The creature designs are absolutely beautiful… if you’re a sick fuck like me, at least. Clearly influenced more by the body-horror of films like John Carpenter’s The Thing, they’re grotesque reconfigurations of human body parts. Everything on them all twisted and broken, and when you take the time to look at their incredibly detailed models you’ll see just how disgusting (and, well, dead) they are.

The enemy you’ll face most is one that’s more human-shaped, the Slasher. With bones that have been sharpened to blades, twisted feet and flesh falling of their limbs, they’re not a pretty sight. Some of them even have hands reaching from their open stomach cavities…. who or what the hands belong to, I do not know. Besides those there’s tons of other creatures, such as little baby-like creatures that look normal, until tentacles sprout from their backs that shoot spikes at you. Those things crawl on the wall and are a big pain in the ass.

Possibly the most disgusting is dubbed The Pregnant by the team, and you can guess what this thing does. Shoot it in the wrong place (ie, the belly) and it will burst apart, spilling dozens of little creatures onto the floor. These little things will attempt to climb on you and burrow themselves into your body with their sharp beaks. Truly disturbing. Be prepared to mash that A button furiously to slap the things off before they kill you.

Head to the second page for gameplay impressions!