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I have always been a big fan of the survival-horror genre. Phantasmagoria, Resident Evil, and Silent Hill are three of my favorite games / series of all-time. At least, they were.
I recently played through a game called "Dead Space" on a friend's recommendation, and I was blown away. I have been playing horror games since I was 12 years old and I have NEVER been as terrified or intrigued with a game as I was with Dead Space.
The game is set on the USG Ishimura, a "Planet-Cracker" starship, designed to tear multi-trillion ton chunks of rock from the surface of uninhabited planets and mine them dry of minerals. You play as Isaac, an engineer who is sent to the ship with a small crew to investigate a communications blackout. Shortly after boarding, however, the team realizes that something has gone horribly wrong and has to fight for their survival while discovering the true nature of what happened on this ship.
The atmosphere is one of extreme tension and suspense, and the game was constantly surprising me, even though I've come to expect certain things out of survival horror. I often found myself walking down the hall, peeking around corners, sitting for 10 seconds or more with my flashlight on a vent or stomping corpses just because I began to become paranoid after my first few predictions (which I use to keep my wits about me in games like this) were wrong and left me disarmed when the game actually did throw something my way. Kudos Dead Space, you had a survival horror veteran nervously tip-toeing her way through the entire story, causing her to nearly jump out of her skin on more than a shitload of occasions.
The game plays very similarly to resident evil, with sparse ammunition and a limited inventory, and even offers the player the option to play through again with all their equipment (effectively making the game a cakewalk the second time through). Any weapon or equipment you pick up can be modified using "power nodes" to create a path of circuits that lead to upgrades in damage, reload time, ammo capacity and much more, based on the effects of the item. Speaking of weapons, I had a lot of fun messing with all the different guns and trying out their effects. One especially fun weapon was the "Force Gun", described as a "kinetic booster device", which knocks enemies flat on their back, allowing you the opportunity to stomp on their face with deadly effect.
The controls are fluid and easy to learn, and the interface is clean and presented in a very unique style; the HUD is non-existent, instead being portrayed as in-game holograms that actually appear in the game world in 3d, without leaving the action to switch to a more traditional menu. Isaac's health bar is a series of lights on the back of his suit, which I thought was a really cool touch.
Dead Space is amazing and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. So if you love survival horror games that actually fit the genre's name, you should definitely try Dead Space.