Each deck is a self-contained environment in which you run around putting out fires while moving closer to escape, and while your team will remain in frequent contact, you are almost always alone--and most of the few survivors you do encounter have been driven insane by their ordeals. This sense of isolation in such a hostile environment, coupled with bloody visuals and a brilliant sound design, has you constantly questioning your own sanity and wondering when the next attack is coming. Further enhancing this effect are the bone-chilling logs you find left behind by the crew in which their final thoughts and moments are recorded. Though audio logs are nothing new to this type of game and are in fact often used to flesh out the backstory, these are exceptionally well done, and are accompanied by full video logs and text reports, which all together make for a much more compelling narrative.
As you explore the many decks of the Ishimura, you will come across two utilities that will prove to be of endless use: stasis and kinesis. Stasis, a finite resource that must be replenished at recharge stations across the ship or with booster packs, allows you to temporarily slow down fast-moving objects, while kinesis gives you the ability to lift, move, and throw objects in the environment at no cost. Each can be used independently or in tandem to solve puzzles or navigate the ship, and each has useful battle applications as well. For instance, stasis can be used to virtually stop incredibly fast-moving Necromorphs and give you the time to tear them limb from limb, and kinesis can be used to throw explosive canisters or even severed extremities to conserve ammunition.
Space babies like to hug your face and stab your back. They are not very lovable.
During your travels, you will find a number of areas that do not have functional gravity. In these situations, Isaac's magnetic boots will keep him grounded and allow you to perform zero-gravity jumps and attach to nearly any surface. Suddenly having a full 360-degree range of movement is a mind-bending experience, but once you get the hang of it, few experiences are as enjoyable as leaping from the floor to the ceiling to dodge an attack and then finishing off your assailant, sending its body, blood, and limbs floating off in different directions realistically. Many of these zero-g situations are also performed within a vacuum, making oxygen, in addition to your health, a scarce commodity.
Between searching for Nicole, trying to escape, and fighting for your survival, you've got your hands pretty full, but this is not to say that there aren't other things for Isaac to do. As the monsters you are killing were once people, they will occasionally drop credits that can be spent in the automated stores you will come across. RIG upgrades, health items, new weapons, and additional ammunition can all be purchased, and if you happen to find a new item schematic and take it to a store, you'll be able to buy that as well. Inventory management is a key element as you can only carry around so many medical kits or plasma cartridges. In the event that you find yourself overburdened, you can sell off your unneeded goods or toss them into the safe for pickup later at any other store location, but you may also find yourself constantly low or out of ammo if you simply go into every enemy encounter guns blazing--sometimes it's better to run and conserve ammo.
As an engineer, Isaac can make use of the numerous nanotech workbenches onboard the Ishimura to upgrade his weapons and equipment. Each upgradeable item has a circuit board arranged like a skill tree, and by soldering in power nodes (typically found in fuse boxes or purchased at the store) down a set of branching paths, functionality can be greatly increased. For example, weapons can have their damage and clip size upped, and Isaac can even increase his RIG's maximum health or the duration of his stasis ability. Fuses can also be used to override certain optional door locks, though, so if you want to be ready for potential secret-item caches, make sure you don't use up all of your power nodes.
Strategic dismemberment works both ways. Don't let this happen to you.
From engineering to hydroponics and beyond, Dead Space never fails to impress with its visuals. Whether you're watching the torrential rainfall of asteroids across the hull of the Ishimura from the bridge atrium or witnessing the way a corpse spins serenely in a zero-g vacuum, the haunting yet beautiful graphics of Dead Space have a way of sticking in your mind long after you've quit playing. Semi-interactive cutscenes such as the one in which your team's rescue ship explodes within the Ishimura docking bay simply must be seen firsthand, and the tremendous lighting and environmental effects lay the groundwork for an intense horror adventure. VSync is enabled by default, which prevents some really nasty visual tearing but adds about a half a second of lag into mouse movements. This can be compensated for by adjusting mouse sensitivity, so make sure you tweak your control settings for an optimal experience.
What really rounds out the entire experience, however, is the incredible sound design. Throughout the halls of the Ishimura, you are stalked mercilessly by the Necromorphs, and while you can't always see them, you are constantly surrounded by the menacing noises they produce or the eerie pitter-patter they make as they crawl through the ventilation shafts. You'll occasionally hear the distant screams of Necromorph victims or the creepy singing of a mentally unbalanced survivor, and environmental effects such as those generated by the sudden release of a burst of steam will keep you on the edge of your seat. Perhaps the most impressive use of audio in Dead Space takes place in a vacuum: any sounds that originate outside of Isaac's helmet are muffled and barely audible, while those from the inside, including his breathing and grunts of pain, are amplified.
Dead Space is a remarkable game from a well-tread genre that manages to stand out from its competitors in almost every way, from visual presentation to engaging story, innovative combat mechanics to fright factor. Whether you're looking for a terrifying horror experience or a deeply story-driven adventure that will keep you engaged for 15-20 hours, Dead Space is a fantastic game that you should not pass on.