Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dead Space Pushes The Envelope On The iPad

Dead SpaceWhen Electronic Arts (EA) does something right, it does it very right. Dead Space 2 is a phenomenal successor to the popular blend of action gaming meets horror adventure introduced in 2008. But for all the buzz that the sequel is rightfully getting, it's the less noticed advent of Dead Space for the iPad that sets the highest bar yet for native iOS gaming.

Released two weeks ago in conjunction with an iPhone app and Dead Space 2 for PCs and consoles, Dead Space for the iPad flawlessly reproduces the high definition cinematic experience associated with the game. The storyline is also unique to the iPad, introducing Vandal as the primary character as opposed to Isaac Clarke.

A brief history of the immersive world of Dead Space.

Set in the 26th century after an extinction-level event, humankind has come to rely on space exploration and technology to mine other planets for valuable resources. The protagonists are mining engineers who are unwittingly ensnared in plots set in motion by the Church of Unitology.

The Church of Unitology believes a prophesied artifact holds the secret to eternal life, including the ability to bring believers back from the dead. The artifact is real, but its effects act like a virus, causing delirium and death before reanimating human corpses into various alien organisms. Think of them as enhanced space-age zombies.

In the first Dead Space, Clarke was sent to salvage the mining ship Ishimura and (unknowingly) retrieve the artifact. In Dead Space 2, he wakes up to find he has been committed to the psychiatric facility on a sprawling space station. He is a live play demo from IGN for comparison purposes.

The iPad storyline is a little less mysterious and unfolds quickly. Vandal is a cult member recruited by the church to sabotage a mining operation. It isn't long before he discovers his work is responsible for unleashing the infestation on the space station. Whoops. He is a quick live demo of the gameplay in action, also from IGN.

Dead Space gameplay on an iPad.

Dead Space for the iPad has been built from the ground up, making the most responsive game for iPad to date. The controls are mostly hidden from sight and toggling for a map is eliminated because the game offers a directional beam any time you feel disoriented. Unlike most iPad action games, the linear path doesn't feel forced. Dead Space allows some wandering.

When the play interface is visible, it is usually limited to onscreen pickups or specific actions, such as slashing with the plasma saw, lifting objects with kinesis, or opening doors. The primary weapon is the ore cutter, which can be rotated with the tilt of the iPad. (I'm not fond of the tilt command, but it works well enough).

Occasionally, the screen does creep in too close to third-player view to see the action. But this rare occurrence seems like a small annoyance for the overall quality of the game. EA makes up for it with small touches like seeing a necromorph run across the hallway in front of you or pull a body into an empty corridor. The sound engineering is marvelous. Play with headphones.

Deep Space For The IPad Screams 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Graphically, the only game that comes close is Rage HD ($1.99), but Dead Space is light years ahead of forced tram movement. It's also more intuitive than CoD Zombies, which is a great game for what most people consider the standard.

Glen Schofield, Bret Robbins and crew have outdone themselves. Dead Space for the iPad is available from iTunes for $9.99. Dead Space for the iPhone is also available for $6.99. Dead Space 2 is also available for the PC, XBOX, and PS3 direct from Electronic Arts.
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