There’s an on-going discussion in the more pretentious corners of the Internet, where floppy-fringed journalists like myself are to be found constantly waging over one argument; are computer games an art form?
I say yes, based on nought but the idea that they are a creative process designed by a group of individuals in an attempt to elicit an emotional response.
There are those who disagree with that argument, often on the basis that no computer game anywhere has ever made anyone feel anything except bored. It’s to those people I offer up Dead Space as proof of their foolishness, because Dead Space is a game that can definitely make you feel something. It can make you feel afraid.
Or at least, it can if you’re willing to give it a chance to do so.
Unfortunately, Dead Space isn’t the type of game that really encourages you to give it a chance based on first impressions. It has a rather pastiched plot that seems to be an equal mix of Event Horizon and System Shock 2, the presentation seems to focus too much on the gory side of horror to really scare a more experienced survival horror fan and the controls are noticeably wonky from the start.
But, really, it is worth a chance. It may have these flaws, but it’s also visceral, inventive, enjoyable and drop-dead gorgeous. It looks even better than thick and pulpy home-made jam on an inch-thick slab of warm, home-baked toast. Everyone loves toast, right?
As we mentioned before, the core premise for the game isn’t anything groundbreaking to fans of either games or cinema. There’s this really big spaceship in orbit about this planet which suddenly sends out an ambiguous distress call and you’re sent to investigate. When you get to said ship, which was in the process of breaking up the planet it was orbiting and salvaging the raw materials, you find that almost everyone is dead and – we didn’t see this coming, honest – there are aliens and zombies everywhere.
To brush off the totality of the plot so lightly is a touch on the mean side perhaps as there is actually some decent narrative that creeps out as the plot ticks over, but early on the game seems fairly basic. Things take a turn for the more emotional when your character, Issac, starts dropping hints about how he’s looking for a woman named Nicole who is supposed to be stationed on the planetbreaker – but discussing that would be to venture into Spoilerville.
As things go on and you venture further into the ship, the details of the plot start to clarify quite gruesomely and you learn more about the alien lifeform, called the Necrophage, how it came to be on the ship and what it is exactly. Again though; Spoilerville, population: not us, please.
All you really need to know early in the game though is that there are strange creatures and parasitic alien things on board and they’ve got one weakness – dismemberment. The enemies don’t take much damage from bodyshots in Dead Space and while a headshot can knock the foe's skull clean off, that won’t stop him either. Instead, you’ve got to knock the limbs off and cause as much bleeding as you can by aiming for the elbows, crotch and knees. Oh, this is going to be fun!