Space is terrifying. An endless vacuum that is deadly to humans on every level, the very fabric of the cosmos is something to be scared of, but as is usually the case with popular fiction, it’s the denizens of outer space that provide the horror in Dead Space. The stars of this game are the Necromorphs, twisted corpses that have been reanimated by alien creatures and run around on their hands in a convincingly gruesome way.
They are horrible, nightmarish things, but probably nothing that you haven’t seen before from various zombie flicks, but when they are combined with the dark spaceship setting, having them crawl along the ceiling and burst out of walls becomes something that just may have you going into palpitations. It could be said that, after Alien, anything that you put into a cramped dark spaceship corridor automatically becomes scary.
Place Snow White aboard a dark corridor on the Nostromo and the Seven Dwarves would have run a mile.
I digress. The Necromorphs are scary, if a little formulaic, now lets move on to the actual gameplay. Playing from a third person viewpoint, the game plays like a slower paced version of Resident Evil 4 but with the added ability to move a little while you aim your weapon. The core of the action is based around the clever use of dismemberment, with the Necromorphs needing all their limbs removed before they give up the ghost. This means aiming very carefully while they lumber towards you. Cut their legs off and they crawl along at the same speed, and it makes combat very tense, especially when you are being attacked from multiple angles by various beasties.
You are helped by a selection of weapons geared towards dismemberment, so no ‘standard’ rifles or guns, but instead work tools such as plasma cutters that allow you to slice and dice with precision. The combat is exciting and involving, although there is a fairly big problem with it. Your character takes up a lot of the screen, making it hard to track enemies, especially when the rooms go dark upon some encounters, and this is taken to another level if you find yourself baked up against a wall. When this happens, your character is made even larger, taking up to 70% of the screen, making it impossible to play. When you take into consideration the fact that a lot of the rooms you do battle in are small, meaning that there is far too much shooting where you think the bad guy is.
I won’t ruin it for fans of the series by giving away anything about the story, but it is set in between the two main console games and is a fairly good yarn. This iPad version has great graphics, almost up to a par to the visuals of the first game, and more than a match for the Wii side story, Dead Space Extraction, and are really smooth and impressive. It really does look like a full HD console game running on your tablet.
The sound is equally impressive, aside from the music that appears when you are attacked in a locked room. It just feels generic and unnecessary, and i would much rather the Necromorphs just slip into the room quietly, as the scares with he sudden music only works a few times before you become immune to it.
The game has achievements, extras, multiple save file support and some great presentation that bleeds through the games menus and through to the game itself. All this added to the six hour main game means that you get a fair bit of content for the premium price.
Overall, EA have done a great job of converting the Dead Space experience to the iPad, and Dead Space fans should snap this up, despite the high price. The frustrations will start to aggravate you long before the end, however, so this is something to take into consideration before parting with your cash. If you are after something that feels like a full console game, then this might just be the space horror for you.