PAX 08 in Review: Dead Space

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Tucked away in the back of the exhibition hall was the Dead Space booth. The surprisingly short line led inside a dark room with two screens. Art Director Ian Milhelm stood proudly by as I took the controls.

The demo placed me in a dank section of the USS Ishimura. Apparently, some asteroids had punched a hole in the ship and we had to get them out. With a press of a thumbstick, the camera shifted and illuminated a blue line leading to the objective. This one button path finding made the dark halls a little easier to navigate. One frightening but empty hallway later, I emerged into a room with no gravity.

Corpses floated eerily across the room with blood trailing out in all directions. Rounding the corner, I spotted one of the car sized asteroids floating on the far side of the room. I checked my trajectory and prepared to jump across to the far wall when something jumped out in front of me. I jumped for the first time since Silent Hill on the playstation. Ian Milhelm beamed behind me. The creature had the arms of a man but no legs and a distorted head with large jagged teeth. I fired at its head which tore off it's body and spun into the center of the room. For a moment I was relieved, then I noticed it was still coming.

I remembered the combat system video I had seen weeks before. Strategic dismemberment is the name of the game. Don't shoot it in the head. Take out its arms and keep it from holding onto the hull. I fired a couple shots at it's clawed arms and watched as it spun off into the furnace.

I spent a few moments grabbing rocks with the telekinesis gun and throwing them towards the roiling furnace. Once done, I restored the gravity and moved towards the exit. Suddenly I was surrounded by gruesome creatures all intent on my destruction. Somehow I managed to kill them, throwing gas filled limbs from fallen adversaries to detonate near livelier ones. I survived, barely.

I was impressed with Dead Space. The effects, the enemies and the atmosphere were fantastically crafted to create a believable scenario for your character. The animations for Issak (your character in the game) were befitting someone in a heavy engineers suit with magnetic boots. He stalked around as if burdened by his own gear. The menus are handled in real time as holograpgic projections from his own suit and terminals around the ship. They behave realistically, flattening out as you rotate the camera around them.

Most impressive however, was that this game comes from EA, a company I had written off years ago. It's incredible to see this innovative and creative title bearing the EA logo. Milhelm and the countless other working on Dead Space are proud of their work and rightly so. Given their lineup this year, it's safe to say there are more good things to come from EA. Bravo guys, Bravo.