E3 08: Dead Space Hands On

After hands on time with the Dead Space demo today at E3 you can safely put to bed that Dead Space is going to be the survival horror experience of the year. Set aboard the space mining ship the USG Ishimura, Engineer Isaac Clark is sent to his doom.

I visited EA’s “behind closed doors” room today at E3 to check out this title. You’ve seen the trailers, you’ve seen the gore. It plays better, scarier, and funner than videos like the one at the top of this post do it justice. I got to play the opening level of the game. The first thing you’ll notice is the atmosphere and environment is a cross between Bioshock’s eery corridors and Doom’s alien influence. You won’t have any large scale battles in this game because frankly it’d be impossible. The enemies are unpredictable and just when you think you have down you take one step too many and receive a razor blade to the head.

The combat places emphasis on conserving your ammo, taking good shots, and making use of vulnerable limbs rather than the traditional aim for the head. Every enemy you encounter will have a weak spot highlighted in a faint tint of gold noting a weak spot. You must first aim there to defeat your enemy. Just because your enemy is arm and leg-less though doesn’t mean it’s easy pickings. Some enemies have two or even three waves of attacks to them. You always have to be on your tows. In my play through I was pretty cavalier with my ammo and ran out of all of it and was left to try and melee around. And that’s not just one weapon, that’s four. I emptied my pistol, my rifle, and a flame thrower. Also of note is that each weapons has an alternate fire you can use which I found useful for aiming depending on the enemy to pinpoint body parts.

There are some enemies you can’t do anything about. Luckily, using the right bumper you can get them into temporary stasis to get in close and lay in some shots. Other enemies are so large and powerful and that they trigger cut scene esque struggles. If you’ve viewed the trailer you’ve seen the part where you are being dragged away by a tentacle and it appears like a cut scene. Within the game, it really isn’t it. You need to actively be aiming at the weak point to try and free yourself before you are killed.

Another aspect of Dead Space that cannot be commended enough is the innovation in the use or lack of a HUD and other information on screen. If you want to see your health look no further than the back of your suit. Want to see your inventory? One push of the back button brings up your in game inventory which your character’s head will follow as you scroll through items.

The last part of my play through and where I eventually died occurred in the first zero gravity portion of the game. There are some nice puzzle elements here where you are exposed to an alien poison by an enemy and you must kill the enemy before time runs out. In this puzzle you must first find the enemy by jumping from wall to wall using the LT to lock in and Y to jump across. It made for a disorientating experience and with the timer going counting down your life the panic of the game is on. What little I played was a lot of fun and fans of the genre are going to eat this up. Definitely keep an eye on Dead Space in the weeks to come towards its release.

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