Dead Space in Review – If you want Survival Horror done right, leave it up to EA…

EA is one of the few major publishers that have truly embraced the App Store. Even better, many of their titles truly set a quality benchmark for others to follow, from the classic boarding goodness of SCRABBLE to becoming the mayor in SimCity Deluxe to the parkour action of Mirror’s Edge. And now they’ve has set out to redefine the 3rd Person Shooter genre with the highly anticipated release of Dead Space. Dead Space is an atmospheric 3rd person horror action shooter, one of the rare to ever hit the App Store. The story is set 3 years after the events of the original Dead Space (PC/Consoles) and prepares the scene for the sequel, which was released at the same time as the iOS version. You play the role of the unnamed saboteur, known only as Vandal. You arrive on Titan on a secret mission and inadvertently set loose the Necromorph horde. Shocked by this development you have no choice but to do your best and  stop the undead from spreading to The Sprawl.

Dead Space is truly a unique experience on the iDevice. The gameplay can be roughly divided into the following types: exploring the labyrinth corridors of Titan with an occasional Necromorph or two to overcome, and being locked in confined arenas, where you have to defeat waves of enemies. On top of that you’ll encounter some minor puzzles like using the accelerometer of the iDevice to do zero-g jumps from platform to platform, or navigating the outside of Titan with a limited air supply to reach the exit. The Necromorph hordes have quite a few footsoldiers to hamper your progress. From the basic shambling brutes and suicide bombers to the pregnant would-be swarm mommas, Dead Space sports a formidable number of opponents. An interesting concept in Dead Space is that killing enemies by simply shooting them anywhere you want is almost useless, or at least very wasteful in terms of ammunition. A much better tactic is to aim for and cut off their limbs, though be prepared to see Necromorphs without heads or legs still trying to grab at you. Once they start crawling on the ground without legs to stand on, you can conserve much ammo by stomping them to death.

With so many ways to kill and be killed, the armaments have better be good, right? Well, they are. Uniquely suited for Dead Space gameplay, the game offers 4 weapon types to help you survive. But this seemingly narrow choice gets doubled right off the bat by offering 2 weapon modes each, switched by an intuitive tilt of the iDevice. Additionally you’ll have a rechargeable Statis module built in your rig that makes the hordes much more manageable, at least for a time, and coupled with the infinite plasma saw, be prepared to make some minced Necromorph meat. Finally the Kinesis module offers the opportunity to use the various junk laying around the levels to hammer the monsters to kingdom come, and for some puzzle solving too. And if that is still not enough for you, using power nodes collected throughout the game, you can flexibly upgrade the weapon of your choice, enhancing specific characteristics to suit your gameplay style. With all of the variety of ways to dispose of the Necromorphs, Dead Space excels in the interface as well. It takes the basic concept of a dynamic virtual d-pad and touchpad-style targeting and augments it with an intuitive trigger on the back for the stasis power, tilting the device to switch weapon modes and hotspot based interactions with the environment to create the most integral controls I’ve seen on the platform yet.

The graphics are equally on par with conveying the claustrophobic interiors of Titan and the gruesome bloody results of the Necromorphs’ killing spree. I do have one thing to complain about on the visual side of things – most of the arena areas are so dark that often you’ll only notice the enemies when they’re right on top of you. I figured that in many ways this is inherent in the game design, but after some time I found it to be more of a frustration. Finally I can’t help but advise to play with the headphones on. The audio is amazing and the designers did a superb job of tailoring the sounds for a truly scary experience. So much so that I’d recommend you holding onto your iDevice tightly while playing – I have had a few near misses of dropping my iPhone thanks to Necromorphs popping out unexpectedly.

Dead Space is certainly a milestone release for the iDevice. It does what established franchises like Resident Evil or Silent Hill failed to on the iOS platform – create a full-blown survival horror experience. A very very scary survival horror experience. Playing Dead Space is like watching a blockbuster sci-fi horror movie, but with atmospheric graphics and sounds, an interface that works superbly and a gripping storyline. With this I declare Dead Space officially touched!

App Summary
Title: Dead Spaceâ„¢ Developer: Electronic Arts
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.1 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $6.99 App Size: 290.51MB
  • Great story tying in with the Dead Space universe
  • The best interface for an action-shooter I’ve seen on the iDevice ever
  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Scary. Like reaaallly scary. Especially with headphones on.
  • Unique damage system and excellent armory
  • Often impossible to see enemies in some areas
  • Some IAP only upgrades


A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well):

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