I admit, I’m not usually one for sitting stoically through horror; some people cover their eyes, I cover my ears, which has earned me much prodding from my so-called friends and family. Apparently someone that’s six foot two shouldn’t feel the need to protect his ears from murderous monsters.
The multi-platform third person shooter/horror game Dead Space definitely had one of the strongest initial impacts on me; the moment I got on board the planet-cracking ship Ishimura, I became painfully aware that there was something out there. Something that wanted me dead and probably had way more limbs than it actually needed.
The character you play is an Engineer ordered to head on over to this ship after it drops out of contact. You’re not a space marine or some genetically-enhanced super-doom-soldier. You’re not even a scientist with a crowbar.
What you do have, however, is this game’s own special version of the hazard suit, which serves both as your protection and your HUD. Actually, the integration of regular game mechanics into a slightly more appropriate setting was far more enjoyable, for me at least, then Alone in the Dark’s trench coat. The health bar is found on the spine of your suit, easy enough to see, and when you bring up the inventory, map or menu screen, it’s actually projected directly in front of your character’s perception from a holographic emitter on his chest. His head even follows your cursor through the inventory.
Right! The monsters.
I enjoyed the creatures quite a bit, mainly because a lot more effort was taken into giving them smooth, fluid movements than trying to make them look pretty. It actually makes sense, since these monsters will generally end up charging right at you, limbs flailing, so you don’t have the time to pause and admire the way the lighting hits their claws. There are a wide variety of creatures to fight, from the classic ‘mutated humans with giant limbs and ripping claws’ to ‘mutated babies with tentacles’ to a giant tentacle that will occasionally grab you and try to haul you off when you’re minding your own business. One of the most unsettling, for me anyway, was one of the central enemies, a mutated creature that just would not die; anything you did to it, it would regenerate, and once this sinks in (after wasting a lot of ammo, I might add,) you go from bad-ass monster slayer to a panicked little greasemonkey, slamming into walls as you try to run the (censored) away.
Did I mention that only mass dismemberment can kill most of the enemies?
There are some other elements to the game that make it all the more enjoyable. Zero-gravity areas that require you to mostly get around via giant leaps from one point to another, a healthy arsenal of weaponry to collect, a module that allows you to effectively freeze a moving object or enemy and one that can act as a kinetic manipulator… also, you can upgrade your suit to higher levels, which in itself means stepping into this form-fitting chamber and literally having your suit replaced with a new one.
This is a game I recommend strongly, especially if you’re the sort that enjoys the survival horror genre.