Dead Space is a third person linear sci-fi horror game. ("Linear" isn't derogatory!) You are Issac Clarke, a mute (but not amnesiac) ship engineer. The game begins as you approach Ishimura, a mining ship that has sent a distress signal. Once you land, things quickly go from the worst to... more worse. The inhabitants have mutated into zombies (called "necromorphs"), and your ride gets destroyed. The ship starts going through an asteroid field without defenses, and the air is slowly being poisoned. You discover that the planet that was being mined below struck an alien artifact of some kind. This was a beacon to a cult that believed the government was covering up alien life. They stole the artifact, started worshiping it, had hallucinations, and everything went to hell.
The remaining inhabitants are impervious against chest and headshots. Instead, they must be killed by shooting their legs and... claws. This is the first game that I've ever played that explicitly discourages headshots in favor of shooting enemies anywhere else. A game designer must have been watching someone missing headshots so much that they designed a game where it was the whole point.
The gameplay involves shooting enemies in the limbs. The game starts you off with a plasma cutter, which does exactly what it says on the label. In my playthrough, I only bought a pulse rifle, but two or three others are available. Unlike Bioshock, this game has a proper inventory. Issac has some other abilities, like stasis and telekinesis. At first, you'll use telekinesis on small boxes in front of a door (Issac can't use his hands?), but it's more useful later. You will need to use stasis sometimes to run around enemies to shoot at their weak points.
The game throws ammo and money at you like crazy. (Unlike some games, Dead Space bathrooms don't have much loot.) I wasn't ever in a shortage of either. Health is another story. This Issac does not auto regenerate health. This is a game where you pick up health packs to store and use them later, exactly like FEAR.
There were only a handful of jump scares. In order to play this game, I needed to find a way to increase the field of view to not get nauseated. I think this helped lessen the scare factor; not that I was particularly scared at any point. (I've been through labs to get papers. Your turn.) I had my weapon ready when opening most doors; something was there maybe three times, and the ship is full of doors. A tram system connects the main areas of the game. The first room beside it is generally safe, with few exceptions. There were several points where the room locks ("quarantine") because there are unknown organisms in it. There's this huge growth on the wall, and you realize there's something unknown in here only NOW?
As implied, there are stores on each level, selling ammo, guns, health, air, stasis, and new suit levels. Every so often, you will find schematics that unlock new store items. There are other stations to upgrade equipment. Power cores upgrade equipment. Cores usually lie around in wall mounted blue boxes, or dropped by tough enemies. Cores also unlock some rooms with lots of ammo and credit goodies.
I have never seen a game where the corpses are so light. They will flop around unrealistically as you walk through one. There is no way a corpse will roll around to the other side of the hall that fast (are they made of paper?). One time, one glitched between Issac and his gun. I was starting to think that this was an effect of weaker gravity, but Issac lumbers around like a space marine, and everything else seems to move in 1 G gravity.
I like how they UI is presented. A glowstick on Issac's back shows his health level. A semicircle next to the glowstick indicates stasis energy. Guns project a holographic number in the air for the number of shots left in the clip. When in a vacuum, air is displayed in seconds left as another hologram on the glowstick. Although I do not like glowy armor in games, this is actually functional.
I played through on medium difficulty. I died a handful of times, but it wasn't much of a discouragement. There is one section where you need to shoot asteroids waiting for the automatic system to engage. I had to try about three times before I got it. Each time I tried, it was easier, so I'm not sure if I was getting better, or if there is a difficulty adjustment in the background.
I remember when this came out. A college classmate asked if I was playing Dead Space, and I remember telling him that I didn't have it, and that I was immersed in Fallout 3 instead. I picked Dead Space up in a Humble Bundle, and it's On The House at Origin right now. I'm not a fan of this particular kind of game, but I found it to be enjoyable, after increasing the FOV.