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With ridiculously smooth graphics rivaling that of the recently hailed "Infinity Blade" and incredibly intuitive third-person touch screen control the game brings the full "Dead Space" experience to your Apple device.
"For best experience, use headphones."
This experience includes having the breath scared out of you, watching bodies thrown across corridors with their splattering sound in comfortable balance between your ears and having every bullet fired echo across your mind.
Coupled with the recent release of "Dead Space 2," EA has put out a mobile game bridging the gap between the first game and the new sequel exclusively on the iPhone and iPad. But this isn't some dumbed-down low-res port of the first game with extras and it's certainly not a lazy publicity effort. With ridiculously smooth graphics rivaling that of the recently hailed "Infinity Blade" and incredibly intuitive third-person touch screen control the game brings the full "Dead Space" experience to your Apple device.
The story takes place three years after the events of the first game when a recent Unitology convert under the codename Vandal is sent to check on a problem within the Mines of Titan. Over the radio, he speaks to a supervisor who maintains communication with him during the game, but upon Vandal's exploration of the mines he is soon faced with a necromorph outbreak. He's routed to the location of various weapons over the radio. But even armed, Vandal's not safe; he's in constant danger from the relentless appearance of necromorphs, as well as from his own mind. Vandal is having visions, horrid flashes of death and monsters, which can last from a split second to 10. He'll mutter to himself something concerned or reassuring but there's no fooling the player: he's going nuts and the stress of the situation will only make things worse.
Like the original "Dead Space," both sound and visuals work together to optimize the experience. The series' clean heads-up display works exceptionally well here, getting rid of any possible screen clutter on the iPhone and serving to enhance the luxurious screen real estate of the iPad. This allows the player to fully take in the morbidly detailed environment and its blood-smeared walls that often feature warning messages, slouching mutilated bodies or necromorphs that leap from vent to vent as the sound effects spike.
You'll notice that like the first "Dead Space" game, there's no music. You're in space and the ambience reflects that; you'll hear the sound of your armored boot clanking against the metal grates for much of the game, building tension. Sometimes you'll hear screams or clawing or indiscernible noises that mark coming danger, and then the sound of your weapon dismembering a disfigured beast.
The controls are something to boast about. This is as close as you can get to a game pad without actually having one. A very forgiving virtual D-Pad sits invisible behind Vandal, who is situated on the bottom left corner of the screen. Slide your finger in the direction you'd like him to move -- up for forward -- and slide farther to make him run. Your right thumb acts as a virtual second thumbstick that allows you to pan the camera simultaneously as you move simply by dragging around in the space next to Vandal.
Attacking is simple and intuitive: Tap the screen once to draw your weapon and tap it again to fire, panning the screen with your thumb to aim the crosshairs. A quick tilt of the iPhone or iPad will switch to the equipped weapon's secondary function. Tapping the stasis meter on the back of Vandal's suit will drastically slow down both enemies and interactive environment pieces.
Close-quarters combat is done by swiping: swipe upward or diagonally with the on-screen indicator to slash your saw and swipe downwards to stomp. Vandal's health meter, as in "Dead Space" and "Dead Space 2," is situated on the glowing spine of his suit and along with his stasis meter regenerates over time. The player will also make use of Vandal's kinesis ability, tapping on an object in the environment with the kinesis symbol, aiming, and tapping the screen to throw.
The game menu is hidden except for a "rig" symbol in the upper right-hand corner. Tapping it makes your weapon inventory appear in that same corner; the menu appears on the left with the battery meter for your phone, and a navigation symbol sits in the bottom left. Tap this and a line is temporarily drawn in front of you, directing you to your next objective.
I'd like to remark that the game would fit well on the PSP with its sharp graphics, but the goal here seems to be the touch screen. By developing for the iOS, EA has brought a new experience to both the series but to the iPhone/iPad, as well. "Dead Space" is not only the first console-identical survival horror game on the devices; it also breaks the boundaries of what we know mobile "app games" to be. "Dead Space" was designed for the iOS, and takes full advantage of the hardware. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 3DS or NGP (a.k.a. PSP2) version in the future, as those systems would provide the combination of touch controls and high quality graphics current handhelds currently cannot.
"Dead Space" on the iOS takes place over 12 short chapters, spanning a three to four hours, but comes with a list of in-game trophies that also unlock wallpapers for your device. Unfortunately, there was no GameCenter compatibility at launch, but that may come in a future update. You are given a chance to register the game with EA, and doing so unlocks two power nodes and another unnamed reward in the "Dead Space 2" console game. As a marketing tool the game is a success: you'll want to play "Dead Space 2" after completing this one. As far as bringing the feeling and expectations of a console game to a smart phone and tablet, EA has done it a little too well and has consequently spoiled us in our expectations of what app games can do.
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