Your job? To investigate an interplanetary mining ship overrun with tentacled beasts that used to be its crew

(EA; Xbox 360, PS3, Mature)

With privately funded space travel being all the rage amongst the Forbes 100 set, it might be a good idea to remind ourselves that we really don’t know what’s waiting for us amongst the stars. Set several centuries in the far future, the sci-fi survival-horror game Dead Space should serve as an effective worst-case scenario. Part of a space-faring repair crew, engineer Isaac Clarke travels across the galaxy to investigate a sprawling mining station that has gone silent. Once there, he discovers that the ship — on which his former girlfriend is part of the crew — has been overrun by a virus that infects the dead and turns them into spiky, tentacled creatures called necromporphs. These slavering space freaks haunt the eerily quiet ship, chasing Isaac down as he races to return a cursed artifact back to the planet’s surface and end the necro-plague. Players can fend off the undead with melee attacks, but the only way to kill them is to dismember them — throughout the ship, you’ll find tools that will let you do this with the necessary accuracy. There’s also this advantage: Isaac?s technology also allows him to slow down time, giving him time to better his aim or solve any number of logic puzzles.

With its ominous murmurs, creaking metal, and tense, narrow corridors, Dead Space creates a sense of genuine dread — it should come bundled with a box of Depends. And the great art direction and UI are equally effective: Isaac’s uniform (which looks like a gimp suit ordered by a 26th-century fetishist) sports a glowing LED health indicator and floating holographic panels that let you play through the terror without ever feeling pulled out of it. The game ramps up slowly, but if your nerves can stand it, Dead Space eventually delivers a uniquely chilling experience.

What we like:
· The bleak tone and adrenaline-jolt action combine to deliver a nasty case of the space shivers.

What we don’t like:
· The game’s save structure makes you replay big chunks of the game if you die in an inopportune place.

Grade: B+