PAX 08: Dead Space
Dead Space. Despite the name, the PAX booth was very much alive with people getting a first look at the gameplay, and Redwood Shores didn’t disappoint. Dead Space follows the story of Issac Clarke, an engineer responding to a distress call from a malfunctioning space mining ship. Upon making contact with and docking on the ship, Issac finds that not only did the ship’s crew not respond when hailed, there appears to be nobody alive on the ship either. To make matters worse, Issac and his two partners soon discover that the ship is now inhabited by a hostile alien race. Issac is soon separated from his colleagues and must fight his way to safety through claustrophobic corridors and often broken and malfunctioning machinery, as if dealing with aliens wasn’t enough.
Getting in to the booth was well worth the surprisingly short wait, with a fairly long playable demo available to showcase the game. Dead Space features a very minimalistic HUD in order to immerse the player immediately, but it’s also pretty intuitive despite the lack of information in the normal places. For example, your life remaining isn’t shown as a bar but as a lighted area on the back of Issac’s respirator, which is visible at most all times. Ammunition remaining is also displayed on the weapon, as many games now do, but that’s the only place it shows up. In fact, aside from when you wanted to switch weapons or look at your inventory, the HUD was almost non-existent. This left a lot more room for the important stuff: decapitations, mangled limbs and deformed monstrosities screaming at you from all directions. One of the most entertaining weapons available in the demo was a gun that shot out a rotating saw blade that hovered in front of Issac, letting him run down a narrow corridor and send limbs flying. Unfortunately for Issac, that isn’t the end of whatever he’s fighting in most cases. During the demo I was surprised quite a few times by enemies I thought I’d killed, but apparently not thoroughly enough. Most enemies in Dead Space actually must be dismembered in a certain way, or they may continue to crawl after Issac or even mutate into a new form in order to deal with their disability, and it’s a lot scarier than a cripple in a wheelchair.
The demo also focused on showcasing Dead Space’s largely puzzle and problem solving aspects, aside from the main horror survival part. During the demo Issac had to eliminate foreign objects from a large room by incinerating them. Using the lack of gravity to their advantage, players jumped from wall to wall, grappling on with magnetic boots while being hounded by aliens every step of the way. While it was pretty intense, the atmosphere felt a little lacking, but understandably. The demo was short and not enough to really build a horror atmosphere, but all the right elements were definitely there. Dead Space also looked excellent, displaying the impressive lighting when artefacts were incinerated also being a large part of the demo. Attention to detail was also impressive (even down to bloodstains on Issac’s boots). Personally I’ve been looking forward to Dead Space for some time, and if the demo is any indication it’s going to be everything I’ve been hoping for.