Dead Space (video game)
|Developer(s)||EA Redwood Shores|
Havok (physics engine)
|Release date(s)||NA October 13, 2008
|Distribution||Blu-ray Disc, DVD, download|
Dead Space is a 2008 science fiction survival horror video game developed by EA Redwood Shores (now Visceral Games) for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game was released on all platforms through October 2008. The game puts the player in control of an engineer named Isaac Clarke, who battles the Necromorphs, reanimated human corpses, aboard an interstellar mining ship, the USG Ishimura.
The player controls Isaac Clarke, a ship systems engineer who must fight his way through a mining starship infested with an alien scourge. The crew has been slaughtered, and their corpses reanimated into creatures known as "Necromorphs". Some common "Necromorph" types include Slasher, Lurker and Brute. The game is played from an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective.
Dead Space does not use a traditional heads-up display; instead, all information is relayed to the player via holographic projections from Isaac's Resource Integration Gear (RIG) spacesuit and the weapons themselves. For example, a small holographic display is mounted on Isaac's weapons to indicate ammunition count while aiming; also, the "health meter" indicating Isaac's condition is integrated into the suit spine. Via floating holograms projected in front of Isaac, the player can check the current objectives and the 3D map, or access the inventory screen to manage items. However, the game still progresses in real time, so the player is in danger of being attacked while doing this.
Combat involves a mechanism called "strategic dismemberment", in which the player must cut off limbs or sections of the Necromorphs to defeat them. For example, shooting most Necromorphs in the head will have little effect, but they can be stopped once the player removes its arms and legs. Depending on how they are wounded, Necromorphs can adopt new stances and tactics, even sprouting new limbs or giving birth to new enemies in the process.
In keeping with Isaac's profession as an engineer, the weapons in Dead Space are mostly improvised from mining tools, such as a plasma cutter (for horizontal and vertical slicing), rotary saw, a hydrazine torch (repurposed as a flamethrower), a high-energy contact beam, and a force cannon that emits powerful shock waves. A military-grade automatic rifle is also available. All weapons feature a secondary-fire mode; for example, the plasma cutter can be rotated 90 degrees for an optimal angle for more effective dismemberment of vertical limbs (such as legs on a normal bipedal humanoid). The player must scavenge for ammunition and items, which are found throughout the ship or dropped by Necromorphs when killed. Automated stores throughout the ship can be accessed to buy and sell items or store them for later use. Also, the player can use Bench units, workbenches used to upgrade Isaac's suit and weapons with "power nodes". Isaac can melee enemies with a swing of his weapon, or a stomp.
Other than weapons, Isaac is also equipped with other tools to help him survive, solve puzzles, and combat enemies more effectively. Isaac's Stasis ability can be used to slow down enemies and objects temporarily, and a Kinesis module allows Isaac to pick up and throw items, which also allows him to impale Necromorphs. Dead Space also features vacuum and zero gravity environments, and Isaac can navigate through them using his pressurized suit and magnetic boots. Isaac will eventually suffocate while in a vacuum or a toxic environment as his suit can only contain a limited amount of air, so the player is forced to proceed quickly when in these situations.
Set in the year 2508, when the USG Ishimura (石村?, lit. "Stone Village"), a "planetcracker" starship, sends out a distress signal to the Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC) during a mining operation on the planet Aegis VII. The CEC dispatches the USG Kellion to investigate. After a guidance system malfunction crashes the Kellion into the Ishimura dock, the crew tries to seek other means of transport. As they explore what appears to be an abandoned ship, they are attacked by grotesque monsters, killing off all but ship systems engineer Isaac Clarke, Commander Zach Hammond, and Computer Specialist Kendra Daniels. Hammond notices that many of the ship's systems are failing; he and Kendra direct and assist Isaac in fixing them to keep them alive for rescue.
As Isaac Clarke moves about making the necessary repairs, he discovers various text and audio logs scattered throughout the ship, piecing together the events that transpired prior to their arrival: during the course of its illegal mining of Aegis VII, the Ishimura crew found the Red Marker, the most valuable relic of Unitology, an influential and powerful religion. Captain Mathius, a devout Unitologist, shifted focus from mining to retrieving the Marker, after being asked by the Church of Unitology to do so. Soon after the Marker's extraction to the Ishimura, humans from the planet's colony and the ship suffered from mass hysteria and violent hallucinations, before subsequently killing each other. Mathius cut off traffic and communications between the two sides, later going insane. Chief Science Officer Terrance Kyne tried to relieve Mathius of duty, only to accidentally kill the captain in a struggle. An alien virus, the genetic coding of which is encrypted on the Marker, then began ravaging the Aegis VII colony, infecting any available corpses and turning them into "Necromorphs" – mutated and reanimated corpses that violently slaughter uninfected humans to spread the infestation. A colony shuttle carrying an infectious Necromorph caused the scourge to spread across the Ishimura. Though Hammond states that he is unaware of what the Marker is, Kendra confides to Isaac that Hammond may be lying. Isaac later encounters his girlfriend Nicole Brennan, a medical officer aboard the Ishimura, though they are unable to meet.
After repairing the critical systems, Isaac's team launches a second beacon, attracting the nearby USM Valor; however, the Valor, having picked up an escape pod with a Necromorph inside (jettisoned earlier by Hammond) is overrun and crashes into the ship. Hammond deduces, from the military equipment he finds on board, that the Valor was actually assigned to destroy the Ishimura (later confirmed through a text log found on the Valor.) Deciding that they must escape while they can, Isaac and Hammond retrieve the Valor's power core in order to repair an available shuttle, though Hammond is killed by an enhanced Necromorph in the process. Dr. Kyne, one of the last survivors of the Ishimura, later contacts Isaac, urging him to return the Marker to Aegis VII, believing that it can restrain the "Hive Mind", a creature that controls the Necromorphs (though originally created for military purposes). After assisting Isaac in loading the Marker onto the shuttle, Kendra murders Kyne and betrays Isaac, revealing herself as a government operative ordered to retrieve the Marker for her superiors. She reveals that the Marker is a reverse-engineered copy of the Black Marker found on Earth, placed on Aegis VII by the government to monitor its effects. She then leaves on the shuttle without Isaac, but Nicole arrives and is able to help him recall the shuttle via remote pilot, prompting Kendra to flee via escape pod.
Isaac takes the Marker back to the colony, pacifying the Hive Mind and creating a "dead space" that makes all Necromorphs in the surrounding area dormant (it is revealed in the "backstory logs" unlocked by completing the game that "dead space" refers to the area surrounding the Marker wherein the infection and reanimation processes are subdued by the emission of various types of signals from the Marker). However, this also disrupts the gravity tethers keeping Aegis VII from tearing itself apart. Before Isaac can leave, Kendra appears and starts to take the Marker back to the shuttle. She shows Isaac, through a recovered distress transmission, that Nicole committed suicide via lethal injection before Isaac's team arrived on the Ishimura; his visions of her were the Marker's attempts to bring itself back to the planet. Isaac intercepts Kendra loading the Marker back into the shuttle; before she can leave, however, the Hive Mind reawakens, violently killing her, leaving Isaac to defeat it in a ferocious battle.
Leaving the Marker behind, Isaac flies off in the shuttle before the colony is destroyed. As he sets course away from Aegis VII, Isaac removes his helmet and watches Nicole's first transmission again. Now knowing how it ends, he turns it off before it can finish. Noticing something in his peripherals, Isaac looks to his right and is attacked by a vision of a bloody Nicole, just before the scene cuts to black.
Electronic Arts first announced Dead Space in September 2007. The game was developed at their studio in Redwood Shores, California, whose other titles include The Godfather and The Simpsons Game. The game's executive producer, Glen Schofield, said that the team aimed to create something 'darker and creepier' than their previous titles: "We are all such huge fans of the horror and sci-fi genres; we wanted to create the most terrifying game we could, and keep the player on the edge of their seat the entire time." The design team reportedly spent time analyzing a wide variety of horror films in order to find inspiration for in-game scares.
Previews universally drew attention to the high levels of gore and violence in the game, in particular the tactic of "strategic dismemberment" (emphasized by Schofield as "the primary theme of Dead Space"). The Necromorphs cannot be subdued by a single shot, rather they have to be incapacitated by shooting off their tentacles and appendages. A series of developer diaries released for the game had featured one episode about the system, in which developers mentioned that using conventional tactics, such as aiming for the head or torso would only serve to aggravate some of the Necromorphs. In order to make the corpses look more realistic, the development team studied photos of car crash victims and war scenes. The game was initially in development for the original Xbox console.
Dead Space's credits refer to two people for the music composition. Audio director Don Veca was quoted in an interview saying "The music credits read 'Music Composed and Conducted by Jason Graves in Association with Rod Abernethy.' Early on, Rod was involved in initial brainstorming, but Jason actually composed, conducted, and arranged all the music." On November 11, 2008, Amazon.com and iTunes released the soundtrack of Dead Space for download.
In 2009, Dead Space was nominated for several awards by the non-profit Game Audio Network Guild (GANG): Music of the Year, Audio of the Year, and Sound Design of the Year. By the voting of GANG members, Dead Space was awarded Audio of the Year and Sound Design of the Year.
The retail PC version of Dead Space uses SecuROM copy protection as seen in the other EA PC titles Spore and Mass Effect, which requires online authentication. Previously it limited the number of times a user could install the game to five; however, in April 2009 the company released de-authorization tools which afford an unlimited number of installs. The Steam and Impulse versions do not have this DRM.
Marketing and release
Electronic Arts and Image Comics announced a comic book series based upon the game on February 21, 2008. Illustrated by Ben Templesmith and written by Antony Johnston, the six-book Dead Space comics are a prequel to the game. Set on Aegis VII, the planet that the USG Ishimura is orbiting, the deep space mining colony pulls an ancient artifact called "The Marker" from the planet which begins to affect everyone in the colony. The first issue was released on March 3, 2008. However, a limited edition version of issue #1 with exclusive cover art was made available at WonderCon 2008 to the first 25 people who went to the convention each day.
Electronic Arts and Starz Media also announced an animated film, Dead Space: Downfall, a prequel to the events of the game, taking place after the Necromorphs invade the USG Ishimura. The film, developed by Film Roman, was released on October 28, 2008.
Electronic Arts released an Ultra Limited Edition of the game limited to only 1,000 copies. The package includes the game, Dead Space: Downfall, a bonus content DVD, the Dead Space art book, a lithograph, and the Dead Space comic. People who bought the game within the first two weeks of its release could also download exclusive suits for free: the Obsidian Suit for the PlayStation 3 version and the Elite Suit for the Xbox 360 version.
Initially, Dead Space community manager Andrew Green stated that Germany, China and Japan had banned the game. However, it has been confirmed that this was a marketing ploy and that Dead Space was not banned in any country.
No Known Survivors
On August 22, 2008, No Known Survivors, a website similar to an alternate reality game that provides an opportunity for visitors to explore the narrative world of Dead Space, was launched,. The site depicts two stories, each divided into four chapters, and uses 3D animations, voice acting, original video, Papervision 3D technology, and various other interactive components. The first, Misplaced Affection, tells the story of an organ replacement technician who falls in love with a capable P-Sec officer and slowly loses his sanity as Necromorphs attempt to break down the door to his shelter. The second, Thirteen, follows a sleeper agent who "makes the wrong decision for the right reason", set after Isaac launches the distress beacon. The site is less like a typical alternate reality game and more like a PC adventure game, such as Myst.
The site is based around a hub featuring nine severed body parts, each of which represent a content release. The week before a content piece was released, its assigned body part would mutate, finally evolving into a mature Necromorph part. Starting on August 25 and ending the week of the PC release, a new Necromorph part became active every Monday, allowing visitors to continue the stories featured on No Known Survivors up until Dead Space's release. Following the release of Dead Space, ninety three prize winners were awarded a copy of the game on a platform of their choosing, while ninety two prize winners were awarded the limited collector's edition of the game and one grand prize winner was awarded the limited edition of the game in addition to a life-sized replica of Isaac Clarke's level three Rig helmet.
Dead Space has received positive critical and commercial reception. Xbox World 360 awarded the Xbox 360 version a 91 out of 100, stating the game was a "nail-biting experience," driven forward by a "film-worthy" script and "inspired" setting, and that it was "Rapture in space: every bit as disturbing, just as meticulously designed and easily as believable." PlayStation World awarded the game 9/10 and a PSW gold award, stating that Dead Space is the "world's scariest game", saying "This is bold, bleak gaming from the haunting opening credits to the pulse pounding finish." IGN rated the game 8.7/10, saying it was "visually striking, everything from the holograms to the Necromorph is incredible." GamePro awarded the game a 5/5.
1UP.com gave the game a B+, saying that it is "incredibly polished", but slightly repetitive and criticizing several gameplay elements that detract from the game's horror theme, such as the waypoint system. Eurogamer gave the game a 7/10, saying "provided all you want from a game is the opportunity to repeatedly turn evil monsters into red mush in gorgeous HD detail. Dead Space easily delivers on that promise, but fails to turn its polished production values into something truly memorable over the long haul." GameSpot rated Dead Space at 9.0 out of 10, calling it "an incredibly atmospheric and disturbingly gruesome deep-space adventure that will haunt your dreams and leave you begging for more." Game Informer rated the PS3 version at 9.25 out of 10, saying "Although the reasons for most missions are mundane, the game always falls back on its great gameplay and atmosphere." The Guardian gave Dead Space four stars. X-Play has also given the Xbox 360 version of Dead Space four stars out of five. Giant Bomb editor Brad Shoemaker gave the Xbox 360 version of Dead Space 5 stars out of 5, saying it was "much greater than the sum of its familiar parts. It's also one of the best shooters so far this year." GameTrailers gave it 8.8 out of 10, praising the audio, the atmosphere, and the dismemberment, saying that "it was interesting to unlearn the head shot". Its main criticism was a lack of enemy variety, and no hot buttons for certain items.
The success of Dead Space has led to additional games, films and print media. In September 2009, Dead Space: Extraction was released for the Wii, a prequel to Dead Space. Dead Space 2 was released on January 25, 2011, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows, with Isaac reprising his role as the protagonist. Dead Space for iOS was released on iTunes on Jan 14, 2011 and takes place 3 years after the first Dead Space game. It was later released for Android and for BlackBerry Tablet OS. The latest installment, Dead Space 3 was released in February 2013.
Dead Space: Downfall is an animated film, and a prequel to Dead Space. An animated sequel, Dead Space: Aftermath, which takes place between the two video games, was released to tie-in with the second game. On July 24, 2009, it was revealed that Electronic Arts was working with director D. J. Caruso on a live action feature based upon the game, intended to "bridge the gap between the two games." EA will produce the film with Temple Hill partners Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey.
A Dead Space comic was released as a prequel to Dead Space: Extraction. A novel was also released based on the video game series; Dead Space: Martyr was written by Brian Evenson and released on July 20, 2010 by Tor Books and Visceral Games. The novel gives information on the Church of Unitology and the discovery of the "Black Marker." According to the press release, the book's main character, a geophysicist named Michael Altman, the founder of the Church of Unitology, makes a key discovery that leads to the beginning of Dead Space. There was another novel written by Evenson, in the Dead Space lore called Dead Space: Catalyst.
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- EA Redwood Shores (2008-10-14). "Dead Space". Microsoft Windows/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360. Electronic Arts. Scene: Engine Problems (video log). Level/area: Chapter 2. "Hammond: Isaac! Somehow, one of them [Necromorphs] found a way down to the captain's nest! I managed to contain it in a damaged escape pod. …Lifting the executive lockdown. I found the deck logs. Whatever is happening around here, it came from the planet when they cracked it open. It spread to the colony, and reached the ship. Isaac, this isn't an infection; it's some form of alien life! [static] Shit! We've got bigger problems. The ship's engines are offline and out orbit is decaying! Get over to the Engineering deck ASAP, while I stay here and figure out what the problem is."
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- EA Redwood Shores (2008-10-14). "Dead Space". PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Electronic Arts. Scene: Report from Kendra (audio log). Level/area: Chapter 4. "Kendra: Isaac, listen up. I've gone over the medical reports. These things are BIO-RECOMBINATORS. They take dead tissue, absorb it and molds it into new forms. One iteration seems to have the sole purpose of infecting corpses; the others…well, seem to be making corpses to infect. And that body tissue we keep seeing on the walls is part of it, too. I found a report that says it's a habitat changer."
- EA Redwood Shores (2008-10-14). "Dead Space". PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Electronic Arts. Scene: Mercer's Journal (audio log). Level/area: Chapter 2. "Mercer: I finally convinced Jurgens to show me the video feed from the colony. And what I saw was glorious. Breathtaking. Miners undergoing a transformation into something extraordinary. I must know more. Even as the believer within me wants to become one of them, the scientist needs to uncover their secrets. I need to study one of these... Necromorphs, as Kyne so clinically puts it. I need to witness this infection first hand. Perhaps that patient from the colony..."
- EA Redwood Shores (2008-10-14). "Dead Space". PlayStation 3, Xbox 360. Electronic Arts. Level/area: Chapter 10. "Hammond (holo-link): I just read through the Valors munition logs. Their presence here can't be a coincidence. […] They were on a search-and-destroy mission, do you hear me?!"
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