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Dead Space has rightfully gained Sound Design of the Year and Audio of the Year awards from the Game Audio Network Guild. As in any good horror title, be it film or game, the careful use of audio can mean the difference between the mediocre and the sublime.
In Dead Space there is always something happening to keep you on the edge of your seat. Be it the barely audible murmurings and screams, creaking ship noises or the occasional ‘did I just hear something behind me?' moments, the audio design is spot on for creating an atmosphere of dread and tension.
In a fairly generic introduction sequence you learn that something has gone wrong on the mining vessel Ishimura, currently sat in orbit around a resource rich planet. Predictably, attempts to contact the ship fail and soon after docking you are witness to the gruesome reasons behind the Ishimura's fate. You play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent to sort out any problems and you are soon separated from your two colleagues; the rest of the game is spent travelling around the ship to get systems back online and find out exactly what happened, and eventually just to try to get the hell off the doomed ship.
Reminiscent of Ripley creeping around the gloomy corridors of the Nostromo.
In scenes reminiscent of Ripley creeping around the gloomy corridors of the Nostromo, Isaac must travel from one end of the ship to the other, avoiding the horrors and gradually unearthing the story behind the failed mining mission through dropped audio and text logs somewhat reminiscent of Bioshock. These journeys can sometimes feel a little routine – ‘Isaac, go fetch this', ‘Isaac go fix the comms' and so on. But I never felt bored by any of the missions. They are around about the right sort of duration, around an hour or so per level and while the task itself may be routing, there's plenty of fun to be had along the way!
The ship is riddled with the corpses of the miners and there is one particularly nasty enemy that will apparently feed on them, only for the corpse to suddenly spring into ‘life' as one of the tougher alien types. This introduces yet another of the more gruesome aspects of gameplay available to you. In order to prevent this transformation occurring you can, well, dismember the dead beforehand. It's a rather grim task as you use telekinesis to drag a corpse towards you, followed by a quick stomp on the body to remove the limbs (you could of course use your weapons but that would be a waste of ammo!). If a ‘vampire' enemy does appear it flits from corpse to corpse, looking most annoyed that it can't use the bodies.
Your weapons against the alien hordes comprise primarily of modified mining tools and you soon learn that they can be used to best advantage in a rather gruesome surgical process of removing the limbs from your foes, before finishing them off with the most brutal boot-stomp I've ever seen. My favourite weapon is the line-gun which has a wide killing spread & can quickly take both legs & then both arms off even the meanest of foes.
So-called ‘scary' games have generally relied on shock tactics to provide their thrills, but in my opinion Dead Space has surpassed all others
There's huge satisfaction in seeing an enemy charging towards you, intent on ripping your head off, only to collapse to the floor as you slice both legs from beneath it. It also great at dealing with one of the enemies that sprout 3 or 4 serpent like spitting protrusions – one quick shot at the right time and your slice all of them from its body, either killing it or rendering it largely harmless.
Creeping around the oppressive, blood spattered corridors of the doomed mining ship Ishimura, modified mining tool permanently at the ready, convinced that around every corner lies another abomination of alien-corrupted life ready to tear you limb from limb has been one of the most scary and tense experiences in my gaming life. I've played quite a few so-called ‘scary' games that have generally relied on shock tactics to provide their thrills, but in my opinion Dead Space has surpassed all others; and the time it takes for the visions of horror to fade from my mind after playing are testimony to the developers' skill and expertise in creating a title that will linger in your consciousness for some time to come.
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