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Dead Space: Downfall Blu-ray Review

The Blu-ray Disc format has, in its early tenure, seen an ample selection of animated films from Pixar hits like Ratatouille to timeless classics like Sleeping Beauty. But there hasn’t been anything like Dead Space: Downfall, and likely won’t be again for some time to come.

Horror and gore in Downfall is a foregone conclusion given the film’s tie-in to the videogame from EA (read our Dead Space review for PS3 and Xbox 360) and to a six-issue comic book. Anyone who’s played the game knows to expect blood; it’s the nature of the beast, both figuratively and literally.

However, the amount of gore in the movie compared to the more “survival horror” approach in the game is a bit shocking, unexpected and even a bit unnerving. There is a glimpse of full frontal male nudity, and a woman being slowly sawed in half into a perfect slice of the human anatomy you’d expect to see at Bodies: The Exhibit. Animation with this much “internal” detail would never see the light of day cinematically. Parts make Heavy Metal’s groundbreaking release almost 30 years ago look like child’s play. This gore holds primal entertainment value for newcomers to the Dead Space universe.

For Dead Space gamers, the story of how Ishimura’s crew are wiped out after an alien artifact is brought on board and turns them all into monstrous creatures plays perfectly into the game’s introduction. The film’s somber final note ends at the precise moment the game begins, with the nightmare of many transferred to the life of one.

Despite some lapses in logic, Downfall’s tale of the “fortunate” survivors aboard the Ishimura struggling to escape is a fitting preface to the game. It is fun to compare the film and game’s Ishimura ship designs against one another to pick out similarities and differences alike. For the other camp, the film lights a desire to want to delve right into the game.

Animators at Film Roman employed an edgy line-art animation style similar to some of the adult swim shows like Venture Bros to bring Dead Space: Downfall to life. The dark and heavy edges accentuate blood, only overpowered by limited appearances of CGI-ships or machinery that look as out of place as color on black and white. These heavy, solid colors look fantastic in Anchor Bay’s AVC MPEG-4 encoded 1080p transfer. Not having to worry about gradients in shading with the added benefit of being straight digital to digital leaves little room for the transfer to go wrong.

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix is just as clean as the video with proper levels for dialogue, score and effects. Surrounds use makes the biggest splash as the energized creatures rush survivors from all angles in the surround stage. There’s a fair amount of ambient effects right now such as beeps and blips on the Ishimura’s bridge where several scenes are staged both before and during the “infestation.”

Anchor Bay has packaged Dead Space: Downfall with an embossed slipcover emblazoned with a severed limb. All of the extra features on the Blu-ray version are ported from the DVD version. That’s not to say they look “bad” in 480p. Quite the contrary, in fact, as the 480p MPEG-2 presentation of all of them ranks on the upper tier of the resolution’s capabilities save for the raw deleted scene. Unfortunately they look a lot better than what they have to offer.

Isolated Soundtrack — The film’s soundtrack plays on top of character artwork slides. The first 30 seconds or so are enjoyable until the same 10 slides or so begin repeating over and over.

Deleted Scene “Graverobber” (4:13) — A pencil storyboard presentation with some character voices and a smattering of sound effects looped in bring this hard to follow scene partially to life. It is hard to make out exactly what is going on with the rough animation other than there is chasing, a fight and a close call escape.

The Art of Dead Space Photo Gallery — Character, environment and signage concept art for the film and the game is perusable.

Movie Trailer (2:01, HD) and Game Trailer (1:25) — Watching the game trailer in a choppy non-HD transfer after the sleek HD movie trailer is painful to say the least.

BD-Live access is included but is not accessible at the time of this review. Also listed on the back cover are Dead Space Cheat Codes, but we were unable to find them after scouring the menus for close to 20 minutes. They are hidden and hidden very well.

EA has committed to crossing over into film and Dead Space is a logical first step for the publisher. The game is genuinely scary, despite its reliance on horror cliches, and Downfall is the perfect cinematic animated complement that plays unlike anything else available on Blu-ray right now.

Score: 8

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