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Joystiq hands-on: The beginning of Dead Space (PS3)

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As one of the most anticipated titles of the year, Dead Space is enjoying quite the moment in the sun. Releasing next week for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and later in the month on PC, we had a chance to go hands on with a near-final build of the PlayStation 3 version at the Sony Holiday event in Toronto, Canada. Having experienced the game with a plethora of weapons and abilities at PAX in Seattle, how does the game compare to the beginning where resources are limited? Jump in for our analysis.

Gallery: Dead Space | 46 Photos

Other than chattering in your ear from a survivor upon the USG Ishimura, players immediately feel alone when playing Dead Space. The upcoming horror-shooter from EA Redwood Shores appears that it would like to bring the fear and isolation to space in games that Ridley Scott was able to bring to the cinema.

During the PAX 2008 demo of Dead Space, players were treated to a full inventory of weapons and abilities. A standout weapon in that demo was the Ripper (essentially, a chain-saw gun) which, with the help of a little stasis energy, was able to shoot out a spinning blade in front of Isaac Clarke (the main character) and use it as a walking deathtrap for unfortunate enemies -- a polymorphic alien species called the "Necromorphs."

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At the Sony Holiday event in Toronto, the Dead Space demo was set to the first section of the game where Isaac was tasked with reactivating a tram that runs through the nearly deserted ship, the USG Ishimura. Wielding the handheld ore cutter -- the Dead Space equivalent to a pistol -- we made our way through a series of doors before encountering an area which required us to fix the lock so the tram could move out of the area.

Using some of our stasis power to slow down the gravity of the tram lock we were able to fix the issue overhead while being forced to explore below the tram for another issue. As you walk through rooms in the beginning of the game very few enemies show themselves but as you progress toward completing your objectives they flow in like water. Attacking from all sides we immediately went to task on each enemies legs. Players will learn the hierarchy of enemy types fairly early in the game, certain enemies are more dangerous than others and require much more time and attention of your weapons. Low on ammo and short on health, we set Isaac running through a corridor away from a pair of crawling enemies whose legs we left kicking around the bottom of an elevator.

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Clicking the right-thumb stick Isaac points his palm to the ground which projects a line image of the next area to visit. The helpful guide may seem like cheating but, following it will only ever lead players to their objective while the entire ship is riddled with secrets to uncover. After accessing the tram terminal and activating the ride for two NPCs, we're told to make our way back to an area -- which we mistakingly thought was the tram but story elements of this part are hazy because we couldn't hear the game during the event. Upon arrival we activate a console within what we believe was another tram -- but later discovered it was the ship you and two other characters arrived in. Suddenly the controller begins to vibrate slowly and onscreen enemies rush over top the ship as it begins to cave in. Running from the back end to the door at the terminal, Isaac leaps just in a nick-of-time -- a grand and not-at-all cliché cinematic moment. But either way, it's rad.

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Of course, the noise of the falling tram car sends a flood of enemies in our direction and we begin to strategize. With our back to the end of the tram walkway, we begin by taking out the legs of the enemies rushing toward us then to the slug-like creatures that have the ability to leap across the screen. Ending each encounter, one limb at a time, the enemies are whittled down to nothing and Isaac is able to survive another moment of silence in space.

Not surprisingly, Dead Space was as enjoyable in the beginning (with few weapons) as it is later with a stacked inventory. The draw is the mystery and tension aboard the USG Ishimura. The infamous tag line for the film Alien was, "In space no one can hear you scream." Playing Dead Space is slightly different, while no one can hear Isaac's screams everyone in your house will be able to hear yours ... and they will use that to make fun of you. Dead Space hits stores on October 14 for consoles and October 20 for the PC.

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