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Dead Space for iPad Review: Bigger is Better

Around this time last year — just after the iPad was debuted —  there was a very vocal chorus of nay-sayers insisting that mobile platforms like iOS simply could not, would not be viable gaming platforms. Since then, the iOS — and in particular the iPad — has been treated to a bevy of games that approached that magical “console quality.” We’ve had two NOVA games, Square Enix’s Chaos Rings, Madden 11, Rage HD, Real Racing 2, Sonic 4, and even the stunning Infinity Blade.

But here, now, with EA’s phenomenal Dead Space for iPad, the iPad has finally matured into a true game platform.

Call it “Resident Evil in Space” if you want — they probably did at the pitch meeting — but there’s no denying that the original Dead Space was a great game. Where it may have fallen short in original concept, it more than made up for it in execution: Spooky setting, plenty of zombie-esque enemies, and solid action. Amongst its many highlights was the awesome integrated HUD and freaky, persistent Necromorphs that would crawl at you with the only arm they had left.

All the great things about the console Dead Space title have made it to the iOS version — just read our review of the iPhone version for details. What I’m here to report is that all the goodness of the iPhone game shines best on the iPad. The story is shorter and the enemies not quite as numerous, but the heart, soul, shape, and feel of Dead Space is alive and kicking in this app. And on the iPad, it’s an absolute treat — a horrible, bloody, violent treat.

Dead Space for iPad is a console game. It has console-level graphics, console-worthy gameplay, and console-quality production values. The dev team for Dead Space cut no corners, took no shortcuts, spared no detail. This looks, feels, and plays like a console game put out by a major gaming company. Graphics? Slick. Gameplay? Engaging. Audio? Phenomenal. Touch controls? Elegant.

And on the iPad’s larger screen, with more room to interact and better field of vision, the game really sings. While I’m sure that the game is nearly just as playable on the iPhone, on the iPad Dead Space has room to breathe. The larger screen space lets you appreciate the visuals, the better speaker means that headphones are less necessary to enjoy the audio (though the directional nature of the stereo sound effects and your thumbs have enough freedom to navigate and aim.

I will quibble just a bit about the game design, in that there’s a definite “feast or famine” quality about it. For the most part, you are beset by enemies in spaced-out mobs, such that the action moments are pulse-pounding and challenging. But the time between these moments of action are usually little more than running down hallways and through doors, then down more hallways then through more doors. I get that this is the way survival horror works, and even the way the first Dead Space worked. But it will leave you with moments of monotony where all the slick design feels just a little wasted.

So no, Dead Space is not a 100% perfect play experience; but it’s the best play experience I’ve had on my iPad. This is the game that naysayers have been saying could never be on the iPad — a console title, brought to life in a console way, with console sensibilities, by a publisher with the resources to make it all work. I know that iPhone is still the first device in the iOS family, but Dead Space is, for me, a game that absolutely demonstrates where the larger form factor is better.

If you have an iPad and love great console games, buy Dead Space for iPad. No, don’t worry about the price. It’s worth it.

Our Score: 5 out of 5

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