Not much splits opinion like gaming on an iOS platform. Some will quite happily tap and swipe their way to victory, whilst others are vehemently against the lack of buttons. Whether you like it or not, some big players are taking a long, hard look at iOS. Epic has adapted its Unreal Engine and brought us Infinity Blade; Capcom has brought us Street Fighter and Dead Rising, and EA has ported across its much acclaimed Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.
Now it’s the turn of survival horror game ‘Dead Space’, but can a franchise well known for suspense and shocks successfully make the jump to a much smaller screen?
Taking place just before the events of Dead Space 2, you play a character of unknown origins; codename ‘Vandal’. Working for a religious order, you are tricked into unleashing the horrid, alien ‘Necromorphs’ upon a huge space station known as ‘The Sprawl’. Left for dead (and feeling rather disgruntled) you now have to make a desperate trek to escape being part of a Necromorph sandwich (mmmm, entrails).
I think the first thing to comment on is the graphics; they look absolutely phenomenal, and are a real showcase of what iOS is capable of. The level of detail packed into Vandal is second to none on a mobile device, and although the environment is made up of similar looking corridors (by design), it looks great and the contrast of light and shadow is expertly done. Animation is also top notch, with Vandal clomping about The Sprawl, chopping and slicing through the legions of enemies. The one letdown is the Necromorphs, who lack the attention to detail that has been lavished upon the main character – it’s not bad, but is noticeable.
As with the console games, Dead Space favours a clear screen over a detailed HUD. The state of your health is indicated via bars on the back on Vandals suit, whilst tapping an icon in the top right hand corner of the screen will reveal several other icons allowing you to switch weapons. The game uses a virtual d-pad on the left hand side of the screen, and wherever you place your thumb is an ‘anchor point’. Sliding your thumb up slowly will see Vandal walk forwards, whilst sliding it up quickly will see Vandal break into a sprint. Sliding your thumb left and right will see you strafe left and right, and double tapping Vandal will trigger a quick 180 degree spin.
Tapping on the right hand side of the screen will see Vandal raise whatever weapon is equipped, which can then be aimed via the left side of the screen. A further tap on the right will fire. You can also rotate certain weapons and engage a secondary function by quickly flipping your device 90 degrees. On the whole the control scheme works really well, especially during the moments of tense exploration. Things do have a tendency to deteriorate though, especially when you are trying to quickly move, position yourself, and fire upon an enemy. I would imagine it’s a lot easier on the iPad version, with its vastly bigger screen.
Vandal also has ‘stasis’ and ‘kinesis’ abilities to play around with. Stasis will temporarily slow down a moving object (be it man made or organic), while kinesis allows you to move heavy objects. A very handy compass is also included, which briefly lays on a line across the floor in the direction of your objective. I thought this was a great feature, and it means you aren’t constantly checking a map to see where you are supposed to be heading.
At the start of the game there is a wonderfully tense atmosphere, as not only are there Necromorphs to deal with, but Vandal’s own descent into madness due to horrific visions. Walking through The Sprawl is a nerve-wracking experience, as dead bodies are suddenly dragged into vents, and seemingly dead Necromorphs lying on the floor disappear – leaving you on edge as you just know they are waiting for you somewhere close by.
Unfortunately after a few chapters the effects of these shock tactics begin to wear a bit thin – you can second guess when you are about to be attacked, and it gets a tad repetitive.
- Looks gorgeous
- Not a cut-down port
- Tense atmosphere
- It’s Dead Space! On an iPod!
- Controls occasionally get messy
- Eventually becomes a bit predictable
- No Game Center support
What we have here is an amazing achievement. Dead Space iOS is no cut-down rush job; it’s a proper game, with its own unique story. Whilst it doesn’t have the perfect control scheme, it certainly comes closer than any other iOS title. It’s not the longest game in the world, but in my opinion if it had gone on any longer it would be in danger of outstaying its welcome. An essential purchase for any iOS owner.
This review is based on the iPod version of the game.