Steven King, that very prolific author, delineates three types of fear. First is the gross-out, or disgust; the thing you want to get away from. The second is horror, the unkown; an aversion to things that you do not quite understand. And finally there is terror, the creepiness; when something is so close to being normal, but off by a tiny bit that makes it completely uncomfortable to look at. Dead Space
wants to be scary, so it taps into all three fears. However, it ultimately relies more on disgust and the jump-scare than anything else.Dead Space
is a third person survival shooter set in space. You play Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent to repair the deep-space mining craft 'Ishimura'. Unfortunately, the ship is overrun with space-zombies called necromorphs and something really shifty is going on there so your job quickly becomes to get off that metal hunk before you're brutally murdered.
As mentioned earlier, Dead Space
is more like a shooter than a horror game. The trope of horror is invoked, with the shadows creeping along the walls and monsters scurrying in the vents while you can only hope they don't jump you when you're looking the other way. When the horror subsides the gross-out takes over as the monsters are disgusting amalgamtions of bodyparts with claws where hands used to be and tentacles from every orifice looking to turn you into deli-meat if you don't shred them before they get in your face. Is the game terrifying at any time? Once, in a cutscene for a second or so, but when you do the math, Dead Space
is a survival disgust shooter.
The reason why it isn't horror is because you get a good glimpse and understanding of your foes. The necromorphs all waddle toward you and they'll let you pick them off. Dead Space
does not work quite like most zombie games. Necromorphs are completely unimpressed when you behead them. No, you have to dismember them; tear them limb from limb. This creates for some cool gameplay mechanics where you'll aim for the legs to slow them down and then tear their arms off to finish the job. Yet, some enemies require a more measured approach where you have to get around them or prevent them from falling in the first place, otherwise they'll spawn more trouble. Occasionally one will get the drop on you, but you're not scared of the creeps; you're spooked, anxious and thrilled, but not fearful. You're armed to the teeth to such an extent that you only really fear for your life, and that is classified as suspense. Dead Space
plays much like Resident Evil 4 and 5
in terms of controls. You aim with a laser pointer and use your ammo conservatively. You can use special powerups to slow enemies down or to throw the set pieces at them. You're a veritable slayer of monsters and everytime you gear up with new tools you start to look the part as well. What also helps the suspenseful atmosphere is the intergrated HUD. You don't have a screen overlay; your health and ammo are displayed on your character's model and interacting with the world is done in the same manner. It creates a keen level of immersion that not many shooters can attain.
When all is said and done, Dead Space
makes good use of its atmosphere and lighting to build suspense and to release that tension at the best moments. You're on the edge of your seat, holding on for dear life as you fight off the hordes of disgusting creatures. Even the bossfights are a well measured and carefully calculated ordeal that keep you sucked in and fighting for survival without resorting to cheap set-pieces or quick-time events. Dead Space
is an amazingly atmospheric thrill shooter that needs to played if only for its amazing presentation.