Have You Played… Dead Space?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Nostalgia is supposed to be about the things of our early years, but recently I’ve been feeling nostalgic about games released much more recently than my usual rose-tinted diet of Ultima and Daggerfall. I’ve only gone and started missing Dead Space like it was a childhood friend.

I’m not a person of particularly sophisticated desires. Sure, I have a bookshelf dedicated to Umberto Eco, more books of medieval history and literature than is strictly necessary, and excruciatingly pretentious cinematic tastes, but strip all of that away and I basically want to play games about people fighting monsters. If they have a back-of-the-box feature called strategic dismemberment, all the better.

Dead Space is a very good game about people fighting monsters. The monsters used to be people, you see, so they have that body horror thing going on and remind me of John Carpenter’s The Thing. You’re on a spaceship and it’s a very good spaceship. Not quite as believable a space place as the Nostromo – what is? – but it’s a great setting for steadily increasing tension, shocks and scares. And of course, eventually you’re going to feel overpowered and start punching back harder and harder, but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

I think Dead Space 2 might actually be my favourite, but the best Dead Space game would probably contain the best bits from all three. Which is to say, the first two-thirds of Dead Space 1, all the creepy bits and the more varied environments of the second, and the ship graveyard in the third. And then nothing else from the third ever again.

63 Comments

  1. Kefren says:

    If they ever release Dead Space 2 on GOG I’ll definitely buy it. I replayed the first one recently – not a perfect game, but enjoyable for more than one playthrough.

  2. CAMN says:

    I never expected to like Dead Space as much as I did. Back then, it seemed like it was too good to be true, yet it was true.

    I still remember how hard it was to adjust my mental process of shooting everything in the head, to aim for the limbs. It was weird at the beginning, it made total sense about an hour later, and I never again questioned the reasoning behind it.

    Also, what the hell are you talking about? There are only two games in the Dead Space franchise. There is no such thing as Dead Space 3, and there never will.

  3. ToomuchFluffy says:

    Hmm, I have been wanting to give that one another try for a while. I played through most of it a few years back, but lost motivation somewhere towards the end. And since I bought Dead Space 2 a while back, that just serves as additional motivation.

    • CAMN says:

      Don’t delete your saves from the first one, you get extra goodies in the second one if it detects those saves.

      • Sunjammer says:

        I can’t be the only one who actively hates this kind of thing in games? I want a pure experience when I boot up a new game, not a shower of fawning thank yous that I played the last one. It’s artificial, immersion-breaking and feels like cheating to me.

        • CAMN says:

          I usually don’t like it either, but this time around the goodies were mostly “harmless”, in the sense that they didn’t break anything gameplay-wise. It was just a throwback to the original game, by giving you an attachment that made your Plasma Cutter gun look like the one in the first game.

          Also, it wasn’t even a good gun to begin with, I ditched it mid-way through the game.

          Either way, anyone can just download a save game for the first game from the internet, just put it in the right folder and that is it. You won’t be missing much either way.

        • Stingy.Duck says:

          I think it´s cool when your decisions from a previous game carry over to the sequel. I’m not sure if that´s the case with this one.

          Any way, to get goodies this way is better than having to pre-order or pay for DLC.

        • FroshKiller says:

          I hate the meaningless use of “actively” more.

  4. Sleepery says:

    I’ve just started playing it again, never finished it originally. It still looks really well with everything cranked up. I made the mistake however of setting it to easy, because at this stage I just want to get through the story, but it’s too easy. The necromorphs just need a single limb hit to kill on easy, and it’s ruined the tension completely.

    • Unclepauly says:

      I’ve always subscribed to the idea that normal is the true easy, and that easy was baby mode. I think most devs design their games that way.

      I guess it could be subjective

      • vocatus says:

        One exception to that would be Bioshock: Infinite. The combat was so frustrating and felt so out of place with the beautiful story and visuals, that I played through Easy just to minimize the annoyance.

        Felt like a story/adventure game shoehorned into an FPS mold TBH.

      • vahnn says:

        Play every game on the hardest setting!

        Few games are truly difficult at these settings. Most of the time it feels how I imagine Normal was in the old days. Or maybe I’m just better at games now.

  5. JKing says:

    I was considering buying Dead Space on GOG. Now I think I will.

  6. Viral Frog says:

    I haven’t actually been able to enjoy any newer horror games since I finished Dead Space and Dead Space 2. They were quite literally everything I could ever have possibly wanted from horror games. I haven’t played the third, but I will eventually, even if it is terrible and disappointing.

    Ever since DS, it seems like horror has been trending in the “make the player useless because running and hiding is fun, derp” direction. Games like Amnesia, Outlast… terrible. I haven’t yet played Alien: Isolation, but I’ve heard that you can at least fight back in that one. I may have to boot that up and see if it gives me back some of that warm, fuzzy, and terrified feeling that the DS games gave me.

    • Premium User Badge

      DuncUK says:

      Alien Isolation is a game of two halves… one part is dealing with the Alien, which is more about being aware of its current position at all times, hiding from it alot and if necessary using distraction to sent it away from where you want to be. Later on you get a flamethrower with limited ammo that you can use to make it retreat temporarily. You can’t ever kill it.

      The other part is dealing with killer androids… admittedly not as fun as the Alien, but there are often more than one of them and they can be killed although generally you don’t have anywhere near enough ammo to kill all of them. The Alien is usually absent in these sections and the very rare circumstances it isn’t is seems to completely ignore them. They are creepy as fuck though.

      Actually, there is the third aspect where you occasionally meet hostile humans. These sequences are pretty rare, you can absolutely kill all of them if you need to but generally it’s more fun to get the Alien to do the work for you if it’s around.

      Basically, get this game if you love the Alien franchise, especially the first two movies. It’s wonderful fanservice.

    • Unclepauly says:

      “I don’t like it, therefore it’s terrible”

      yuck

      • DarkFenix says:

        Not even close to what he said. Did you read it at all or did you just randomly feel like being a judgemental arse?

        • Unclepauly says:

          I read it twice, painfully. He doesn’t like horror games with no fighting. He does like game with fighting. Games with no fighting are terrible… for reasons? Idk he doesn’t state them. This longer version of my reply hasn’t done anything but add more words.

    • OmNomNom says:

      I agree! Amnesia and Outlast etc literally just did nothing for me. Once you’ve passed the first 5 minutes its mostly the same rinse and repeat and the lack of combat gets quite dull.

    • kwyjibo says:

      I did not feel a sense of horror in Dead Space at all. You start off with a gun that systematically dismembers your foes.

      It’s quite hard to feel scared when you can methodically remove each limb at will.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        Not to mention the entire derelict spaceship thing is straight out of the Video Game Horror Stock Setting Catalog. A little (okay, a lot of) id here, a little RE and SH there, every wall splattered with blood, every hallway filled with malfunctioning lights, dark corners and vents for stuff to jump out of following the appropriate Psycho and Shining-inspired musical cue. It’s fun in a schlocky haunted house way but too cliché and predictable to ever really be scary.

        • Caiman says:

          But see, that’s precisely why I find it scary. Psychological horror works on your inner fears, and what you just described triggers mine big-time. Possibly as a result of watching Alien when I was too young (and John Carpenter’s The Thing) I find Dead Space difficult to play even though I love it. Getting through it was an endurance test, it became so frightening in places that I’d spend days in a row booting it up, starting at the title screen, and quitting because I couldn’t muster up the courage to go back to it. Dead Space 2 was less frightening given its setting, but there’s one part of that game (you’ll know which part if you’ve played it) where the same thing happened again.

          What I’m trying to say is, horror is very subjective.

          • DocMo says:

            I’m with you. I only made it to the part where you had to run and trap some monster in some chamber. Scared me and I never went back to it.

            With Alien Isolation, that alien would just be creeping everywhere. I hated it. I don’t know how it kept finding me when I was hiding in the lockers. Scared me.

            I love horror movies. I realize that I don’t quite like scary games.

          • Unclepauly says:

            I respect your imagination sir. I don’t think mine could ever affect me so much. I’m actually jealous of people who can “get into the game” in this way.

    • Daymare says:

      I’m in this egalitarian boat where I enjoy all sorts of horror: “hiding/running” sims like SOMA (or ol’ Slender: The 8 Pages), the “gimped-combat” ones like Silent Hill (or the recent RE 7) as well as the actual horror TPS/FPS games Dead Space belongs to. All great in different ways.

      For me, atmosphere and setting in horror count way higher than actual combat mechanics. I do think, though, that “gimped combat” is generally a nice sweet spot here. Giving people something to fight back allows for more engaging interaction with enemies and can simultaneously be used to enforce the player’s weakness, such as being starved for resources, ineffective weapons, etc.

      Alien: Isolation is a bit more like Outlast in parts, in that you can’t kill the xeno. BUT there’s lots of different tools against it, such as the previously mentioned flamethrower, so in that regard (and vs. androids and *redacted for spoilers*) it *feels* more like the gimped combat ones I described.

      • Daymare says:

        A:I is also much more open in terms of level design than say, Outlast our Dead Space, it’s actually got a bit of that Metroidvania/Dark Souls DNA (much like nuPrey) in that you regularly return to places to open up new pathways.

  7. Zaxwerks says:

    I absolutely loved Dead Space 1 and 2. However I loathed Dead Space 3 and uninstalled it half way through, I’m trying to wrack my brains as to why this was as it was so long ago. I think it was the repetitive nature of the alien spawns, no matter where you were the aliens would predictably spawn in, you’d kill them and it would just repeat like this over and over. The charm wore thin until it was a boring grind.

    • DarkFenix says:

      Dead Space 3 was ruined in the name of needlessly shoehorned features like coop, crafting and microtransactions. The game pretty much played like a guide to just how out of touch megacorporations like EA really are.

      • vocatus says:

        Dead Space 3, much like Diablo 3, Max Payne 3, and countless other third-iterations before it, just reaffirmed my belief that the 2nd game in any series is almost always the best one. The first is usually fun but raw, and the second is where the developer typically gets more money and development time to really flesh out the ideas and mechanics presented in the first.

        The third inevitably falls apart or tries too hard to be something that it’s not. Or gets ruined by corporate stupidity (microtransactions, pre-order, DLC, etc).

        • Daymare says:

          What about: Warcraft III, The Witcher 3, Fallout 3, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Dark Souls 3?

          I’d also consider Skyrim a sort-of part 3 after Morrowind-Oblivion.

          Then again one could argue half of those are inferior to their predecessors. I’d say they’re all great games, but I’m just a rando on a vidya website.

          • egamruf says:

            I mean, I get your point, but Fallout 3 is the worst way to make it.

            Fallout 2 is definitely the best Fallout in the series. Arguably I’d say Fallout 3 commenced a new series anyway, in which case New Vegas (no. 2, again) is the best in the series (F3, F: NV, F4)

            Actually, that might be a better sin than implying Deadly Shadows is a better game than Thief 2 – it is objectively not.

          • Hidden_7 says:

            Thief 3 is (while still decent), the second worst Thief. I didn’t even think that was particularly controversial?

            Regarding the Elder Scrolls, it feels odd to decide that the third game in a series is actually the first? Especially when treating Morrowind as the 3rd (as it is?) actually makes the ‘third games can be the best’ point better?

            Absolutely spot on with Witcher 3, however.

          • Daymare says:

            My point wasn’t that parts 3 of games are the best of the series, but rather that they’re still as likely to be GOOD or even GREAT as any other. And yes, I thought all of those are pretty good.

            Yeah, I’d consider Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim (aka TES III – V) their own trilogy. You can disagree, but then tell me how Morrowind (TES III) is the worst of the first three? Afaik it’s widely regarded as the best in the whole TES franchise, so my argument still stands

            I think the idea of bad third parts comes mostly from movies.

          • Daymare says:

            … but I didn’ make that point sufficiently clear so that’s on me.

            Sorry, yes then we agree on Elder Scrolls I suppose!

          • dashausdiefrau says:

            Witcher is one where the first one is the best. I will never overcome how they never managed to come up with proper combat mechanics in any of those games.

        • Apologised says:

          “Dead Space 3, much like Diablo 3, Max Payne 3, and countless other third-iterations before it, just reaffirmed my belief that the 2nd game in any series is almost always the best one.”

          Mate.

          Mate.

          Sonic 3, Mario 3, Zelda: Link to the Past, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Super Metroid.

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          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          Snake muther flubbing Eater!!!

  8. Talahar says:

    I was way too much of a scaredy-cat to play more than about half an hour of the first Dead Space, but I was intrigued enough to watch let’s plays of both 1 & 2. Great atmosphere, interesting story, good jumpscares. Was fun to watch.

  9. Dudeist says:

    This is my first third person game I played, I’m fps only guy. Ok not mention GTA :D I love Dead Space and whole game universe.

  10. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    I discarded it right away when it came out because pfff, horror my ass, this is just a shooter with monsters and dim lights, gimme my Amnesia/Silent Hill atmospheric psychological horror blah blah blah…

    BUT THEN! About a year ago I kinda grew tired of hiding in closets and/or reflecting on the terrible feelings that lurk deep within the human mind or whatever; and I just felt like blowing shit up under flickering lights. Only then I came to appreciate Dead Space for the pretty fine thing it actually is.

    Also The Evil Within.

  11. Sunjammer says:

    DS3 had some excellent parts to it. The ship graveyard could have supported an entire game (and probably should), but I actually really liked the alien ruins/tombs near the end. The sound design and lighting in those areas was incredibly oppressive.

    The attempts to make Isaac a voiced protagonist have failed since the first moment they put words in his mouth. The plot and characters in 3, and the ridiculous boob-lady damsel they tried to turn Ellie Langford into, was just disgraceful. They’re on an arctic world so cold it kills you, and they made her wear a deep cut shortsleeve. Ridiculous.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Isn’t it crazy how that’s the girl they choose to cosplay from the whole Dead Space series? They choose the pandering character from the worst of the three games. Humans are weird.

    • Daymare says:

      I’m one of the few people who’ll agree that parts of DS3 were good, maybe because I’d actually finished it?

      I played 1-3 when they came out and while I believe that 3 may be the weakest, the last act in the alien city was probably among my favorites in terms of design and soundtrack. Very Lovecraftian. I also liked the first hour’s atmosphere after the crash on the ice planet, and how the game basically starts with Isaac and Ellie enoying a happy end that abruptly turns sour.

      I found there was a totally unnecessary love triangle between her, Isaac and that douchebag (Santos?) in part 3.
      Ellie was kind of a badass in 2 and I found that Isaac being able to speak was an important part of their chemistry there. Isaac speaking generally worked for me but then I’m always glad if devs move away from the Silent Protagonist trope. Please, more actual characters. I agree that Ellies role’s got reduced quite a bit in 3.

  12. kalirion says:

    I started on Hard and was having surviving, until I noticed the game switched my saved file difficulty to Normal. Seems it was a bug that remained unfixed for many years. Dropped it at that point.

  13. OmNomNom says:

    Dead Space 2 is one of my top games of all time, nothing does jump scares like this game! Play on the hardest setting for maximum brown pants mode.

    DS3 was pretty disappointing for me, didn’t find a moment of it scary and it was trivial even on the hardest setting.

  14. Danda says:

    The first Dead Space is a true classic. The third one is terrible.

    I played a bit of the second one. It had great stuff… and not so great (a different Isaac).

  15. Sardonic says:

    I returned to dead space a while back and was blown away by how good it looked on a high refresh rate monitor with gsync. It’s a game that really benefits from it, interestingly enough.

  16. kwyjibo says:

    Dead Space is a game with 2 hours worth of ideas spread out across what, 8+ hours? I don’t know, I got bored.

    Hours into the game, when it has totally run out of ideas. You board another ship, and on this ship, zombies are fast. And that’s the point I stopped playing, when I realised its best fucking idea left was “zombies wot run fast”?

  17. nimbulan says:

    I have played Dead Space, and I believe it’s the worst game I have ever completed. I only finished it because it was a gift and the entire game was a long painful slog with a constant FOV headache. If nothing else, I cannot forgive this game for using the lowest FOV ever in a first or third person game (I don’t have a source for this, but even Red Faction Armageddon doesn’t come close to this low, and you can actually fix it in that game.) I can’t think of a single redeeming quality in the entire game – there’s something very wrong with every single aspect of it and I can’t for the life of me figure out how it ever sold well enough to warrant a sequel, much less gain any popularity.

  18. Moni says:

    I fully recommend Mark Brown’s long-form video review of the trilogy: link to youtube.com

  19. Raoul Duke says:

    I have indeed played (some of) Dead Space, and to me it was one of the harbingers of the infestation of console games on PC. Extremely poor controls, horribly narrow FOV, annoying third person perspective, crappy textures, and repetitive gameplay, all crammed into a very unimaginative go here-> get thing-> use thing-> go here play cycle. And not that scary when you start with an ultra death cannon right out of the gates.

  20. fabrulana says:

    I totally loved the Dead Space series. It’s a pity they haven’t gone on to no 4 yet.

  21. Muzman says:

    It’s pretty solid. The fright factor doesn’t last very long and it’s rife with console required silliness and convenience of plot (some of which around maintaining a silent protagonist for no real reason. Isaac sees a ton of terrible stuff you’d want to warn your teammates about. But he can’t talk. I know they drop this in the series later though)

    But solid is the best word I have for it. The design looks good, the sounds are all a little bit screechy and go nicely with the music and general ambience. It’s decidedly alright. Even if you think you’d hate it it’s probably worth a go (unless you’re a 4X purist or something).

  22. Eleriel says:

    boy have I ever!

    I got the disc-version for PC for free with another purchase once… booted it up and promptly shut it down after the first necromorph attack. I’m a scaredy-cat… AND I thought it was a game where you couldn’t fight back. not my thing.

    it wasn’t until I watched Jesse Cox play through it that I found out it was actually more of a third-person shooter than a horror-game.
    promptly got it and DS2 for 360 and played through them. had a blast.

    … but that was before the dark times, before Dead Space 3.
    Having the necromorphs come out of vents is one thing, worked well in the first game. creating vents in WALLS OF ICE for the necromorphs to come out of because you’re too inept to think of another way for them to spawn? just… stop.
    … and they did.

  23. CaptWaffle1 says:

    I liked Dead Space 3. It’s a different beast for sure- but I enjoyed my time with it. The first game has you feeling somewhat underpowered for a good chunk of the game- the second game gives you more fun toys and, in my opinion, it’s easier to feel empowered at an earlier junction. DS3 can either have you woefully underpowered or wrecking things depending on how your weapon crafting experiments go. I still found it quite difficult even with the crazy-powerful weapons. DS3 has several things going for it that I loved.

    The weapon crafting. A gun that shoots acid-coated razor-blades from the bottom part and a concentrated projector-beam-cannon-thing from the top? Very feasible. The depth of the crafting system alone was enough for me to forgive a few sins in other aspects. I did enjoy the environments, story, and ESPECIALLY the pre-planetfall part. It was such a surprise to me after seeing all the images of an ice-planet. It certainly leans more towards action than DS 1 and 2 but I had a lot of fun with it. I get people that were upset that it strayed away from hardcore survival-horror but I enjoyed it for what it was…. think it gets a bit too much hate. Not liking it as much? Sure. Turning the game off in disgust a few hours in? To each their own I suppose.

  24. second_hand_virgin says:

    Tried first game, after years of nagging (oh, the most scary game ever, you’ll see!), seen the first EVIL PLUCKED CHICKEN chargin at me, lol’d hard like 15 minutes, then never got back to the franchise.

  25. LagTheKiller says:

    Oh my Emperor it was so sweet experience. Demanding combat, decent… crafting, good graphics, tons of ways to use evrything including stasis n kinesis. Yes u can rip a limb and knock it back with it. Screaming “Stop hitting yerself” after demanding sequence is optional. And above all of this dark thick terryfing atmosphere which crawls even in “safezones”. Whole fcking city. Empty. U are alone and every noise and crack could be mofo dropping oit of vent or from a pile of corpses. Moreover hijacking process drives ppl crazy. SPOILERS do you remember when u hear regular thumping at the end of barely lit corridor? And it was unturned human hitting his head against the wall. But when u approach he stopped looked at you and killed himself. Or when you have to go throigh medbay and half possesed chirurgeon and nurse is still in operation block. Those screams. SPOILERS END Also where and when in flying heretic burnt ass name u are overpowered? Till the end of the game 2 runners and charger can kill u fairly quick. Ofc u can use special weaponry but it burns ammo fast (forget assault rifle) or u got off stasis. Or there are those nifty jumping children chimeras shooting at you and evrything that has scatter is useless especially in no gravity big areas.

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