Aged Like Fine Wine
Dead Space is now more than 13 years old, but don’t let its age and dated graphics fool you. Some may say that I’m too late to the party, but I dare say that this game was truly ahead of its time, and there isn't anything like this nowadays. If you, like me, are new to the franchise or just looking for a good horror title, this review is for you - with no spoilers.
Curiosity in Storytelling
You play as the silent engineer, Isaac Clarke, on his mission to repair the mining spacecraft USG Ishimura. Throughout the campaign, you will find leftover data like text and video logs explaining a fraction of events before your arrival. The variety of information given to you is like a piece of fabric, so you can sew the story back together just enough to understand what had and is happening. From data research regarding the “creatures” you encounter, to the sheer panic and the slow downward spiral into insanity that the crew had experienced due to the influence of “the artifact”. While the game's progress is linear, as you move from one section of the ship to another, everything still feels interconnected. There are some chapters where you return to the previous areas, the environment has been renewed, you can now enter previously-locked rooms, whereas some of the old segments are now blocked because of the advancement of the “creatures”.
Everything is Designed to Scare You
The “creatures”, called Necromorphs, that you fight from the beginning to the end are heavily disfigured and mutated monstrosities you have never seen before! Each type of Necromorph you encounter is properly introduced and has build-up tension, whether through their faraway distinct screams, crawling in the vent to stalk you, or a few pieces belonging to a bigger, whole Necromorph, harassing you before its actual full appearance. Don’t let these grotesque creatures close their gap on you, as they will tear you asunder in the horrifying death scenes!
Slashers are one of the most common Necromorphs you encounter throughout Dead Space. No matter how familiar or how many of them I have easily dismembered, they will always terrify and creep me out because of their appearances and violent scream!
The Necromorph isn’t the only thing that terrifies you though. There are numerous instances where just the lightning and ambiance are enough to spook you to the point of being paranoid that something will attack you. Regardless if this is just the game design choice or a way of storytelling where “the artifact” causes you to hallucinate like the crew beforehand, it certainly does a great job messing with you.
The morgue is never a good place to be at, where corpses can be mutated into extremely aggressive abominations!
For a game this old, the lightning and meshes of the environment aged very well. The textures are surely dated, but everything else synergizes so perfectly that walking alone in the ship without any enemies still sends a chill up my spine.
That being said, there are a few cheap jumpscares with no tension at all. There’s no build-up indicating that the creatures are coming to you, everything is quiet, then suddenly they appear out of nowhere, and the music just screeches loudly like in a typical horror movie.
Strategic Dismemberment - Simple but Unique
In most shooters, you need to aim for the head for maximum damage or even a one-shot kill. If you do that in Dead Space, however, you’re gonna have a bad time or even hinder your progress due to ammo scarcity in higher difficulties. Necromorphs will attack in the most violent ways without any regard to their body like their former victims. The only way to kill them for good is to tear them apart by cutting off their limbs, appendages, or glowing weak points. Lore wise, they don’t need their head anymore, flesh and bones have been repurposed to become deadly blades. Gameplay-wise, it’s one of the most unique features in any shooter, now you have to re-learn how to aim for the limbs, and it’s also a nice break from the typical “headshot does the most damage” in video games.
Guns? More like Overpowered Mining Tools!
Nearly all of the weapons you collect are tools used in mining for cutting and obliterating rocks, which are perfect for dismembering the limbs of your foes. If you have trouble aiming, use Stasis - an assistant tool used to work with fast-moving machinery - to slow them down for an easier aim. You can also briefly stun them by throwing objects with your Kinesis module - a tool used to pull objects towards you. There are a decent variety of weapons to keep multiple playthroughs enjoyable and nonrepetitive, like the Contact Beam, or a “shotgun” called Force Gun that forcibly blows almost everything away at point-blank range. They all have (dis)advantages in every situation: your trusty Plasma Cutter can put you through the entire game with ease, provided that you have another backup weapon for crowd-control.
As these tools can be upgraded to be perhaps too powerful, the game will be less challenging the further you progress. Even though the monsters are stronger and appear more often in packs, they still can’t stop Isaac because of his arsenals. The tension, the need for ammo management wear down fast as you progress with more abundant credits - Dead Space’s currency - to buy ammunition so much that you won’t have to worry about running out of it like in the first few chapters. Once you have fully upgraded the Pulse Rifle - the only military-grade weapon, this game is just a walk in the park.
No-pause menu? It’s called RIG
This is probably the best feature that no other game can top off. Dead Space introduces a new kind of no-pause menu that was ahead of its time, and it’s called Resource Integration Gear, or RIG for short. It’s essentially an unstopping menu built into your upgradeable suit that’s compact and easy to navigate. The best thing is that it still lets you freely move your camera and walk around. Any incoming dialogue or video calls from other characters will be played in the background in real-time instead of quitting the menu.
Resource Integration Gear
Resource Integration Gear (RIG) is a built-in health monitor and management, along with features like Stasis, Kinesis, etc that assist wearers in combat or working in dangerous and hazardous environments. This is how you make a seamless no-pause menu that runs in real time and doesn't obstruct your view or restrict your movement.
Performance, Encountered Bugs and Solutions
Specs: i5-10400F at 55°C, 16GB RAM DDR4, GTX 1650S 4GB at 68°C, Win 11
Dead Space runs smoothly as expected at the highest settings with consistent 60FPS. For an old game like this, I expected bugs, and here’s how I fix them:
Horrendous mouse control. That’s the first thing you notice when walking and aiming, it’s sluggish, inconsistent, and hard to use where precision is needed. Fixed with this: https://community.pcgamingwiki.com/files/file/840-dead-space-mouse-fix/
Stuttering frame rates. Just simply disable in-game V-Sync, and enable V-Sync externally through the NVIDIA Control Panel.
Unplayable in Windowed Mode. While it uncaps the limited 60FPS in fullscreen, the actual gameplay is horrible. Isaac moves slowly with lagging like I’m having latency, with melee also suffering from the same issue. Pressing B to find an objective path spins the screen like crazy. I even got stuck and couldn't progress once, because a character disappeared when they’re supposed to be there, and the game didn’t spawn any enemies to fight. Just play in full screen instead.
Saved games’ difficulty changed when pressing “Continue Game”. My first playthrough's save slots have been lowered from Hard to Medium, and I didn’t realize it until it was too late. Always use “Load Game” to avoid this risk.
Final rating: 8.5/10, a must-have for any horror lovers out there
If you are completely new to the horror genre and looking for one to get to know, Dead Space is the perfect entry for you. This title is worth its cheap full price thanks to the experience, but just wait for a sale, you will love it!
Thank you for reading my review!
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