In space, no one can hear you snore

Dead Space

HIGH The game's final battle is pure spectacle.

LOW Realizing after four fetchquests that it probably wasn't going to get any deeper.

WTF I'm practically alone on a derelict cruiser and I still need to hoard money?!?

For the record, the only reason I bothered to finish Dead Space was so that I could review it without having to hear fans of the game wailing that I didn't play it all the way through. I knew after the first two hours that nothing at the end would redeem its shortcomings, but I had to push forward regardless, if only to deliver my criticisms with impunity.

Before getting to what's wrong, let me say what's right: the graphics. Dead Space is indeed a very attractive-looking game, with lots of detail everywhere and plenty of visual polish to spare. I also give the game points for the way they've integrated traditional HUD information into the character design. First impressions of the game are going to almost universally be good ones, since it's not until a player has spent some time with the title that the warts began to show.

In my opinion, Dead Space's biggest issue is that the gameplay boils down to walking down a series of corridors while killing aliens, flipping a switch or picking up an item, and then walking right back to where you started from, killing more aliens in the corridor you've just come down. The entire adventure is an unbroken string of menial fetch quests, making me feel more like an interstellar errand boy than someone fighting for survival.

Worse, these tasks are so false and banal that it was nearly impossible for me to remember what I was supposed to be doing or where I was supposed to be going without constantly checking my quest log and using the game's direction-finder. And really, it didn't even matter—all I needed to know was which hallway I was supposed to clear in order to progress the story. It's not until past the game's midway point that things start to get mildly interesting, but even then only in fits and starts. Dead Space is packed with boring, repetitive filler from start to finish, and its cumulative twelve hours of gameplay could have been condensed down to six, and been better for it.

Games with lackluster gameplay are nothing new, but they can sometimes be partially redeemed by great characters or an intriguing story. Dead Space has neither.

Failing on nearly every level, anyone who's seen more than three science-fiction films will be able to call out the generic and cliché elements that are the core of the plot, as Dan so ably noted. Exacerbating the cookie-cutter formula, the developers absurdly chose to make main character Isaac Clarke a silent protagonist, completely obliterating any chance of interesting characterization or dialogue. Clarke is (I guess) trying to rescue his loved one throughout the adventure, and multiple characters speak directly to him, but by not uttering a single word it's hard to feel anything or attach any sort of emotional weight to a man completely cloaked in esoteric fetish armor.

Dead Space

Grabbing beyond the sci-fi genre, Dead Space indulges in every survival horror trope as well. From constantly finding conveniently-placed audio and text logs, to ominous growling sounds when nothing's there, to endless monster-in-the-closet placements, to completely predictable "pull the switch, and then get ambushed" moments, everything that's supposed to be scary here has been done better in other games. The future-industrial level design is completely uninspiring as well, feeling not like a spaceship, but like a watered-down version of Doom 3 with a few more windows thrown in.

In addition to its severe lack of freshness, there are several incongruous or nonsensical elements that only serve to undercut the entire experience. For example, who thought it was a good idea to include a money and upgrade system? The main character is supposed to be an engineer on a high-tech ship, and he's got to deal with picking up credits and selling "diamond semiconductors" back to an automated store in order to buy the equipment he needs?

Also out of place are the "kinesis" and "stasis" powers. Feeling like nothing so much as some current-trend keeping up with the Joneses, both of these elements (responsible for moving objects from a distance and slowing time) are Dead Space's only efforts towards including puzzles to break up the combat, and they don't seem to fit thematically with the rest of what's been set up. So, Clarke is an engineer, but can move things with his mind and he can also stop time? That sounds handy, but where I'm from, technicians simply shut down the machines they're working on before they start repairs.

I also found it utterly baffling that the most interesting and appropriate segments of the game, the zero-gravity areas, were entirely too short and too few in number. A pity, since these novel segments could've been a real claim to fame if the game had centered more around them.

Finally, I also feel an obligation to mention EA's transparent effort to wring more dollars out of consumers by releasing a slew of insignificant mods and skins for download shortly after the game launched. I suppose I shouldn't let it bother me since these are completely optional and don't affect my evaluation of the retail release in any way, yet I can't help but feel that we are on the edge of an extremely slippery slope, and this is just one more piece of evidence in support of that. How long before developers start releasing full-priced games with half the content they should be shipping with, only to put "extra" bits that should have been included from the start up for sale on PSN or Xbox Live?

Dan's right when he says that Dead Space is the equivalent of a beach novel or competent summer blockbuster…although I think our levels of appreciation for such a thing are quite different. This has been a fantastic year for games, and as such, I think there is little room for titles who fail to bring something new and worthwhile to the table; should solid shooting mechanics and good looks be all we expect? If all of the fancy, high-gloss graphics were stripped away, what you'd be left with is something that feels a decade old and would be easily mistaken for one of the countless survival horror cash-ins that plagued consoles during the last generation. I suppose players who crave another go-round with this type of minimum requirement content can take Dead Space for what it is, but in my view, it isn't much. Rating: 5.0 out of 10.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been gaming since the days when arcades were everywhere and the Atari 2600 was cutting edge. So, like... A while.

Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.

Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway
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13 Comments on "Dead Space Second Opinion"

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James
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James
4 years 8 months ago

I just came across this review, and I must say that I am shocked, SHOCKED. I could not disagree more with your final score. It is simply far too…high. Most of your criticisms are right on point, but I honestly think you were too kind to this turd.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
6 years 2 months ago
Having just finished the game last night (bought it used for a summer playthrough) I can say that this review is technically correct, but incredibly cynical and joyless. Can you see the plot movements coming? Yes, but I found it enjoyable to suspect every single character of betraying the (personality-less) Isaac for no real reason. The level of violence is truly impressive and even trumps RE5, as do the controls and the “scary” moments. For comparison’s sake, RE5 has NO jump moments, and DS manages at least a few (often when you can’t hear them coming). I think the fetch-quest… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
6 years 3 months ago
Finally, some sense, I mean seriously, you don’t play HORROR genre games for the storyline, you play them to be shocked, startled, and scared. The type of scare in DS is, admittedly, fairly cliche, but if you find having mutant zombies jumping out of the walls and proceeding to maul you none stop not in the least bit shocking or frightening, you may need a head examination. This game may not have the most engaging plot line, but it’s enough to add a bit of a chill to the atmosphere. If I wanted plot line, I’d play an actual RPG,… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
6 years 3 months ago
For the record, the only reason I bothered to finish Dead Space was so that I could review it without having to hear fans of the game wailing that I didn’t play it all the way through. I knew after the first two hours that nothing at the end would redeem its shortcomings, but I had to push forward regardless, if only to deliver my criticisms with impunity. Before getting to what’s wrong, let me say what’s right: the graphics. Dead Space is indeed a very attractive-looking game, with lots of detail everywhere and plenty of visual polish to spare.… Read more »
RandomRob
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RandomRob
6 years 10 months ago
when I first popped Dead Space in my PS3, I was immediately wowed by the graphics, then bothered that the field of view was so narrow, and 1/3 full of Isaac’s back. I thought the dismemberment combat was repulsive, somewhat interesting, but couldn’t imagine grinding thru 15 hours or so of it. By the time the first level ended I was pretty sure I could see every plot twist coming because the game ripped so shamelessly from Alien, the Thing, and many other scifi horror films. I decided the game was a gorefest hackjob of a game, and sold my… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
7 years 8 months ago
Arguing over whether a mechanic is misplaced or whether a storyline is an interesting mix bag of classic themes or cliche is pointless as it is simply too subjective and I doubt we are going to convince each other of anything. I also want to make it clear that my reply’s main purpose was to encourage gamers to play a great game, not to have a go at Brad. I will reply to the critisim of the RPG elements, which largely consist of the money and upgrade systems. These allow the player to mold the gameplay to suit their personal… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
7 years 9 months ago

What is this review? It is a “Second Opinion”. Thats what it is, an opinion. Don’t hate the guy because he doesn’t like the game. Brad didn’t like BioShock that much either. Both games I love. You always must remember that a review is an opinion. Not to mention his arguements are valid.

Brad Gallaway
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Brad Gallaway
7 years 9 months ago
[quote]The gameplay in Dead Space is extremely intense and enjoyable.[/quote] Subjective. [quote]The world is also more open than you imply, largely to accommodate item finding and gathering to improve your equipment.[/quote] *strongly* disagree. “open” is not a word i’d ever associate with Dead Space. [quote]There is absolutely nothing illogical about having automated stores. What more efficient way would a space ship provide supplies to civilians?[/quote] the stores themselves weren’t the illogical part, it was more about having a money system in a survival horror. [quote]One of the best parts of this game was the deep upgrade system which you completely… Read more »
Dale Weir
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Dale Weir
7 years 9 months ago

[quote=Anonymous]This is one of the best games I have ever played in my life and i have play about ten-shit loads of them. Please don’t rob yourself of the experience because of this clown.
[/quote]Dude, this had the makings of a great critical comment. We love to read intelligent rebukes from our readers and this was looking like a good one.

Then you had to ruin it at the end by taking a cheap shot. Why were you able to leave out such silliness in the entire post only to mar the post by taking the low road at the end? 🙁

Anonymous
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Anonymous
7 years 9 months ago
This review is a travesty. The gameplay in Dead Space is extremely intense and enjoyable. I have been playing video games since Wolf3D and can honestly say that the battles I had in Dead Space are some of the best and most memorable I have ever had. The world is also more open than you imply, largely to accommodate item finding and gathering to improve your equipment. There is absolutely nothing illogical about having automated stores. What more efficient way would a space ship provide supplies to civilians? Sure the items listed don’t make sense, but how stupid would have… Read more »
Mike Bracken
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Mike Bracken
7 years 9 months ago

Kinda ironic that someone who can’t even spell the word “professor” would ask that…

proffesor poof
Guest
proffesor poof
7 years 9 months ago

Is English your first language?

Mike Bracken
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Mike Bracken
7 years 9 months ago

I’m really curious as to what I’m going to make of this game personally. I think it looks really cool, but the flaws you point out are invariably things that bug me in most survival horror games.

I guess I could just pop it in and find out, but I’m too busy having “fun” with Midnight Club: Los Angeles…

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