Dead Space

Game Review by Jessica Harris

Dead Space

Dead Space, under the genre – ‘Survival Horror’, is an ‘Over the Shoulder’ third-person shooter/adventure & strategic video game, but with a new and clever concept! – Instead of the main character being your stereotypical ‘Gung-Ho Lean-Green-Fighting-Machine’, straight-out-of-the-box and ready-for-action, the Electronic Arts development team at Redwood Shores decided to throw a little intelligence into the mix by creating a game centered around an Engineer & Ship Systems Specialist. Although, initially this may seem insane for some hardcore shooter enthusiasts, it is quite literally genius and the reason for this will become apparent as my review unfolds…

The year is 2508: Technological advancements have left planet Earth exhausted, and without the natural resources required to sustain life, mankind has been forced to search further afield; ultimately into another universe.

Huge mining vessels (Starships) called ‘Planet Crackers’ are sent by the Concordance Extraction Corporation to distant planets to crack open and mine for invaluable and precious resources such as Cobalt, Silicon and Osmium.

However, there seems to be a problem with the corporation’s biggest planet cracker in its class – the USG Ishimura, which seems to have experienced a communications blackout whilst mining a planet called Aegis 7. The closest starship, the USG Kellion, carrying an emergency maintenance crew, made up of the main character, Isaac Clarke; Kendra Daniels – a Computer Specialist; Zach Hammond – the Chief Security Officer and two other security members are sent to locate Ishimura and diagnose and repair the communications blackout. Visual contact is made, but there is still no response from the USG Ishimura. Suddenly, a garbled holographic message is received; it’s from Nicole, Isaac’s girlfriend, who is one of the crew members aboard the Ishimura. She seems scared and informs Isaac of impending danger, but from what – the message cuts out…

Zach Hammond instructs Corporal Daniels to dock the USG Kellion with the USG Ishimura, but there is a problem and the Kellion clashes and collides as it docks with Ishimura…

The USG Ishimura has gone dark. You are Isaac Clarke, engineer extraordinaire, and you’re in for the fright of your life. Players are immersed into a mystery riddled plot with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy. Playing the game reveals a mystery on a biblical scale as the religious ideals of our future are revealed in explicit detail, which is enough to make a surgeon queasy!!!

The developers, Visceral Game studios, have taken the horror genre to interstellar heights with Hollywood worthy scripting and storytelling techniques, which is very cleverly backed up by a prequel anime film!

The game play itself was a breath of fresh air, a completely new take on third person shooter action. The player is pitted against hordes of mutant alien freaks – Necromorphs, capable of slicing Isaac to pieces in gory detail. How can Isaac survive? Equip him with innovative ‘makeshift weapons’ so he can slice back. One of my favorites was the ‘Ripper’ – a long range chainsaw providing all the limb-chopping action anyone could ever desire. Not your style, use the ‘Contact Beam’ – a high energy launcher to blast your enemies to pieces. There are several improvised weapons to choose from as you work your way through the ship.

The clever thing is, you not only have to fight for your life, as an engineer you are set tasks to fix the ship as you make your way through the levels – brilliant idea!

From floating holographs to 3D Maps, all the information you require to work your way through the game is intelligently thought through, including the player’s health status, conveyed via a health meter, which runs down the back of his space suit, along with a stasis meter; stasis giving you the ability to slow down time when needed. As it is in the over the shoulder perspective, these meters are thoughtfully and conveniently placed.

Attention to detail is exceptional; Isaac has to wear a heavy suit making his run sluggish; in non oxygen (vacuum) areas the developers have come up with a novel idea – you can’t use the flame thrower! For there is nothing to combust! Also, when he dies in no gravity areas it shows his body floating out into space. These quirky features give this game the edge on its rivals.

The potential monotony of the game-play is broken up with new takes on old classics, i.e. in chapter four – the player controls a huge cannon, defending the ship from a barrage of asteroids – An old arcade classic!

By about a quarter of the way through the game you do find you have come across a variety of mutants. However, they all require the same murder tactic – removal of their limbs; I feel this could be improved upon by a variation of the mutant’s weakness, characterized by the mutant type. An example of this would be to make the ground level mutants have a weak point in the abdominal region, making it difficult to target. This would also make the game player think about where you have to aim, as well as concentrating on survival – increasing difficulty.

Another tiny issue is the weapons are schematics that can be used to purchase from the shop. Being an engineer, Isaac doesn’t carry weapons! A wider range of weaponry and customization of the weapon could be enhanced.

I also feel it would have suited the option of multiplayer and whether or not to have the choice to be a mutant or Isaac. Give a mutant better chance by involving super hybrids to vamp up the difficulty.

However, throughout the game I was filled with bursts of adrenalin: I was scared when chased, jumpy at random screams and felt tense during sudden silent, eerie moments. I also felt frustrated during the times when the Necromorphs were too quick for me to kill. The sinister music and dark atmosphere kept me on the edge of my seat and the power cuts added fuel to the tension. I would highly recommend this game to any adrenalin junkie!

Personal Statement

My burning ambition is to work in the CGI or games industry. I want nothing more than to become one of the best games designers the industry has to offer. I dream of the day my work is not only accepted, but raved about by the industry giants; Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. Obviously, before working for one of the big three publishers I would relish the opportunity to work as a team with an independent game developer, such as Smashmouth Games. I have spent a long time searching for the right course to advance my knowledge so I can achieve my goals and develop my skills in this competitive Industry.

I am looking to learn new techniques using programs like 3Ds Max and Zbrush, as well as improve my skill set in Photoshop, Maya, Unity, and Mudbox. A course in this particular field would help me further develop my understanding and skills techniques such as 2D and 3D Modelling, Animation, Digital Sculpting, Texturing, Rendering and Rigging, to name just a few, which will enable me to enter, what I consider to be the most exciting industry the modern world has to offer.

As well as learning the core techniques to industry standard and improving on my design skills, I realise understanding the industry itself and how it works is an integral part of the process. After reading your prospectus and attending your open day, I realise being amongst experienced professionals, still working in the industry, would put me in a very privileged position.

Being a late flourisher, due to a problematic birth, which left me slightly autistic and dyslexic, I struggled through my school years. Statemented throughout, I unfortunately did not get the support I needed at my Secondary School. Leaving with only one GCSE grade C in Art & Design, I decided if I was to improve my situation I would have to work hard. However, my choice of vocation was easy, as I am very interested with computer games, having played literally thousands of hours on numerous consoles, and had done so from as far back as I can recall.

Whilst studying for the BTEC Introductory Diploma course in Art, Design & Media, the course tutors noticed I had a distinct artistic flare, and although I did not need any encouragement to continue what I was doing, the encouragement was still much appreciated. After successfully passing the Introductory course with a Distinction, I went on to pass the BTEC First Diploma in Art & Design with a Distinction*. I am now more than half way through my BTEC National Diploma in Video Games and Animation; my predicted grade being a Distinction, Merit, Merit.

During my time at Tameside College I have studied a variety of valuable creative practices such as Ceramics, Clay Modelling, Sculpturing, 3D Design, Textile Design, Life Drawing, Printmaking, Painting and Drawing Techniques, Fine Art, Animation, Games Design and Computer Game Engines.

As projects set by my video games tutor are very time consuming, I spend a great deal of my spare time improving my work. Any spare time from that, I either spend playing the latest computer games, which at the moment include Dead Rising 2 and Castlevania Lords of Shadow, or going with my friends to the pictures.

If my application is successful I will bring a vivid imagination, strong technical skills and a determination to improve myself and my skills and to produce the best work that I possibly can.