Ever fancied curb-stomping an alien baby on board a huge space ship adrift in deep space? No? What's wrong with you? Well the guys at EA's Redwood Shores studio, or EARS as the team calls it, has. They're putting the shocking act into the super gory Xbox 360, PS3 and PC sci-fi survival horror game Dead Space, set 500 years in the future and due out late 2008. And now, having got our grubby mitts on the game's lengthy third chapter, we can happily report that squishing an alien baby with your boot feels... kinda weird. And worryingly satisfying.
Curb stomping alien babies, in a funny way, explains a lot about what EA is trying to do with Dead Space. Since its announcement, gamers have been left somewhat in the dark about what Dead Space is all about. Now that the development team has got the game running well, looking good and scaring the bejesus out of testers, they've busted it open for us to dive straight in. Allow us to turn the lights on.
You play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer by trade who's sent to investigate the Ishimura, a two kilometre long, 1000-crew strong "planet cracker" which beats the hell out of planets in order to mine them. The Ishimura has been out of contact with Earth for long enough for people to worry. So off trots Isaac, who thinks he's on a simple fix-it job to sort out the Ishimura's communication array. How wrong.
Isaac finds the ship adrift, dead in space. Its crew is no-where to be seen. Blood stains are everywhere, lights are flickering, inhuman groans, cries and shrieks reverberate around the interior of the ship and large thumps, as if coming from something dreadful overhead, are causing dust to shift and metal to creak. Isaac knows something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong indeed.
Right off the bat we can see that Dead Space is dripping with sci-fi cool. It's played from a third-person perspective (some gamers have said the game is simply Resident Evil in space), with Isaac himself taking up a huge amount of the screen. He wears a specially made engineering suit as opposed to a super-powerful multi-faceted combat suit and wields mining tools as weapons instead of great big guns. He isn't combat trained, or battle hardened. He's a smart, fit guy, but he's no Steven Seagal in Under Siege. He's just a normal bloke, with a girlfriend back home, religious parents and a decent job. He's making the most of the situation, doing the best he can. He's not revelling in this deep space nightmare.
There's no HUD in Dead Space. Well, not in the traditional sense anyway. Your health is shown via a changing neon strip on the back of Isaac's suit. Like 2K Boston's critically acclaimed FPS BioShock, you pick up audio and video docs left behind by the crew as you delve deeper into the Ishimura's depths. And, like in BioShock, these can be played as you move - there are no cutscenes. They'll be used to reveal what exactly went wrong on the ship, and explain just what the hell is going on with these crazy aliens.
When a vid log displays, or your inventory screen displays, it appears as a hologram just in front of Isaac. When you pan the camera it will move around the image, showing it as a thin line from the side, and in reverse from the back. It's a lovely touch, and one which is sure to please videogaming sci-fi fans.