This month, we’re still focusing on games of a darker nature; things to help make us jump and get us ready for that wonderful holiday: Halloween. We’ve lingered in the sinister Darkwood, a top-down RPG, followed by the utterly nerve wracking FPS Outlast. Or should that be FPR, as in first person Runner, since you spend the game too terrified to actually shoot anything. Going for different style, I wanted to mention Dead Space. Dead Space is a trilogy released by EA games, one of my favorite game companies from the early days of PC gaming. It is a third person shooter. That is, a game where you get to see your character as you play; the “camera” view is over the characters shoulder. This is especially neat when upgrading the characters armor and weapons. It gives you a chance to see the results in action. How’s your health? You can tell just by looking at your spine; the lights indicate how well you’re doing.
Now, anyone who has ever seen a zombie movie knows: shoot it in the head. Hell, even Die Hard taught us that when Karl got back up and he wasn’t even a zombie! Dead Space, however, tells us something different. You play as engineer Isaac Clarke who finds a derelict vessel whose crew has been slaughtered. The mysterious ship is full of blood, gore and viscera everywhere. And it’s very possible that an artifact resembling a stone tentacle may have been responsible for it all. Keep this in mind: we’re talking a three-part homage in just that brief description: Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and, my favorite, H. P. Lovecraft. As the mutilated crew start to metamorphose into the things that will try to kill you, you have to learn how to use a weapon that fires off a laser blast that cuts in a line. Useful because what you’re aiming for is not the head. Your only hope of surviving is to cut the creatures arms and legs off. The gun can be rotated for horizontal or vertical shots. So when the unnamable starts moving against you, you have to be ready!
This gets especially difficult when something in the walls causes a vent to blow open right above you and out drops a slithering mass with arms in your path. Beyond having to locate the mouse and keyboard again after jumping 12 inches off your seat, the next thing to do is run backwards while shooting for dear life in the hopes of dismembering the crawling chaos that is working its way toward you. It’s loads of fun being trapped in a room when the lurking fear gets up and charges towards you. Rooms with zero gravity make it even more challenging as one floats through the air, desperate to stop moving and hit the mark. Using your jet pack in zero gravity can make you the winged death, but it’s also harder to know where the enemy will come from when it can be any direction.
Now let me say, I’m not a fan of games that rely solely on gore to get the point across, but when a story is compelling and we’re playing in Lovecraft’s backyard, I’m willing to make exceptions. The artifact is something out of the aeons that might as well be a frozen limb of one of the Elder Gods and the madness that it brings is frightening. For anyone who has seen Event Horizon, you have some idea of what to expect.
Throughout the trilogy, Isaac encounters more horrors as the story progresses to a deeply Lovecraftian conclusion (that I refuse to spoil here – to quote a friend “spoilers!”) Dead Space is not for the faint of heart. It’s not as terrifying as Outlast, but it will give you a proper fright. (Outlast is perhaps too close to home; we’re not in space with ancient tentacles yet…) Do yourselves a favor for Halloween: find Dead Space and see what madness it brings. You might make it out with your mind intact. ML
Note: during my play-through, I did not take screenshots. All images courtesy of EA’s website: https://www.ea.com/games/dead-space