I've been trucking my way through Dead Space over the last few days. I'm hoping to have it finished up tonight so that tomorrow can be all Fable, all the time.
I have been very impressed with Dead Space so far. It's been quite some time since a survival horror game gripped me the way this one has, and I think it has a lot to do with the atmosphere and environment they've created.
I can't say enough good things about the environment in Dead Space. The Ishimura actually feels like a real place. Stuff makes sense, the layout makes sense. Each area has its own character, so you don't end up feeling like you're walking down the same hallways for the entire game. The lighting is superbly done. The little details, a bloody smear here, a gory hole in the way there, a hastily scrawled death note on a wall in this room... all of it combines to create an atmosphere that is almost more creepy than any of the actual monsters in the game.
Another enjoyable aspect is the variety of objectives in the game. Yes, every level you're trying to avoid having your face eaten by scary creatures, but for each level you different objectives, and they all feel different and unique from the last. And even better, they all make sense. None of it is just "go find this key so you can open this door and look for another key". You're not wandering around this ship full of aliens just for the sake of stretching your legs. Everything you do, every objective you go after is something that you feel needs to be done to keep yourself alive, to get yourself off the ship.
And you're not just facing monsters. Sometimes you're up against the environment. Having a creature pop out at you from a vent isn't the only way to create a scare, and obviously the developers knew that. If a door is barred, or a section of the hull is blown out, and you need to venture out into a vaccuum to reach your destination... if you have to trek across a portion of the outside of the ship, with a limited air supply... that can be scary enough on its own. Especially when the environment is so well captured. Something about being out in the silence of space, watching your air meter tick away as your breathing becomes more labored... it can be pretty intense.
The slight RPG elements are a nice touch too. You can collect power nodes to upgrade your suit and weapons. More damage, faster reload, etc. It's not overly intrusive, but it's a nice little addition that lets the player custom tailor some things to match his playstyle.
And no tired old shotguns here. Instead you get an array of tools and weapons that you can use to dismember and disfigure the many different types of alien creatures coming your way. Guns that fire horizontal lines of plasma, tools that fling cutting saws, etc. The game also seems to provide juuust enough ammo that you're not running around on empty the whole time, but not nearly enough that you can go silly with it. You really need to make your ammo count, cut off as many limbs as you can as efficiently as you can, and that adds to the overall intensity.
If you're into survival horror at all, you should definitely check this one out.