Dead Space (video game)

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Dead Space
Dead Space Box Art.jpg
Developer(s)EA Redwood Shores
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Michael Condrey
Bret Robbins
Programmer(s)Steve Timson
Artist(s)Ian Milham
Writer(s)Warren Ellis
Rick Remender
Antony Johnston
Composer(s)Jason Graves
SeriesDead Space
Platform(s)PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Microsoft Windows
Genre(s)Survival horror

Dead Space is a science fiction survival horror video game, developed by EA Redwood Shores (subsequently known as Visceral Games) for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. The game was released in October 2008.[2] The game has a strong science fiction atmosphere and is set in a spacecraft. It puts the player in control of an engineer named Isaac Clarke who fights Necromorphs, monstrous reanimated human corpses, aboard an interstellar mining ship, the USG Ishimura.[3]

Dead Space was met with widespread critical acclaim, being cited as one of the greatest video games of all time, and has sold over 2 million copies. Sequels Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 were released on January 25, 2011,[4][5] and February 5, 2013, respectively.[6]


Isaac fighting a group of Necromorphs.

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 horrifically slaughtered, and their corpses reanimated into creatures known as "Necromorphs". Various types of Necromorphs appear throughout the game, each with different abilities and requiring different tactics to defeat. The game is played from an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective.[3]

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 is integrated into his suit spine and the spines of suits worn by other game characters.[7] The player can check the current objectives and the 3D map via floating holograms projected in front of Isaac, or access the inventory screen to manage items or choose guns. However, the game still progresses in real-time during these activities, so the player remains in danger of being attacked while browsing through menus and the map.[7]

Combat involves a mechanism called "strategic dismemberment", in which the player must cut off limbs or sections of the individual Necromorphs to defeat them. For example, shooting most Necromorphs in the head will have little effect and will only disorient them, however they can be stopped once the player removes its arms and legs.[8] Depending on how they are wounded, Necromorphs can adopt new stances and tactics, such as sprouting new limbs or giving birth to new enemies in the process.[9]

In keeping with Isaac's profession as an engineer, the weapons in Dead Space are mostly improvised from mining tools,[7] such as a plasma cutter (for horizontal and vertical slicing), rotary saw, a hydrazine torch (repurposed as a flamethrower), a high-energy demolition beam, and a cannon that emits powerful shock waves. A military-grade automatic rifle is available, and Isaac can also attack enemies by clubbing them with his weapon or stomping on them. All weapons feature a secondary-fire mode; for example, the plasma cutter can be rotated 90 degrees for more effective dismemberment of vertical limbs (such as legs on a normal bipedal humanoid).[10] 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. The player can use workbenches to upgrade Isaac's suit and weapons.

Other than weapons, Isaac is 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 move and throw items- sufficiently heavy or sharp objects can become improvised projectile weapons.[7] Dead Space features zero gravity environments, through which Isaac can navigate using magnetic boots.[11] Isaac's suit will protect him from the direct effects of vacuum or toxic environments, but it has a limited air supply and he will eventually suffocate, so the player is forced to proceed quickly when in these situations.


The story is set in the year 2508, and begins when the USG Ishimura (石村, "Stone Village"), a "planet-cracker" starship, designed to extract ore in large masses of billions of tons, 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.[12] 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 Daniels direct and assist Isaac in fixing them to keep them alive for rescue.[13][14]

As Isaac 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. A covert group of devout Unitologists led by Captain Benjamin Mathius had themselves transferred aboard the Ishimura in a mission To bring the Marker to Earth. [15][16] 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. Dr. Terrence Kyne, the ships chief science officer and a Unitologist, had grown disillusioned with his religion after witnessing the horrifying effects the Marker had on others and began to feel at odds with the other Unitologists on board.

Mathius eventually cut off traffic and communications between the two sides, later going insane. Dr. Kyne tried to relieve Mathius of duty, only to accidentally kill the captain in a struggle.[17] An alien virus, the genetic coding of which is encrypted on the Marker, 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.[18][19] 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, Daniels 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.[14]

After repairing the critical systems, Isaac's team launches the second beacon, attracting the nearby military vessel 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.[20] Deciding that they must escape while they can, Isaac and Hammond retrieve the Valor's singularity 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.[21] After assisting Isaac in loading the Marker onto the shuttle, Daniels murders Kyne and betrays Isaac, revealing herself as a government operative ordered to retrieve the Marker for her superiors.[14] 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 leaves on the shuttle without Isaac, but Nicole arrives and helps him recall the shuttle via remote pilot, prompting Daniels to flee via escape pod.[14]

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. However, this also disrupts the gravity tethers keeping Aegis VII from tearing itself apart.[14] Before Isaac can leave, Daniels 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.[22] Isaac intercepts Daniels 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.[22]

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.[23]


Electronic Arts announced Dead Space in September 2007.[24] The game was developed at their studio in Redwood Shores, California. A 2006 rumor had suggested that the studio was working on a System Shock sequel.[25] This was later confirmed by Dead Space designers Ben Wanat and Wright Bagwell, who stated that it was originally intended to be System Shock 3, before the release of Resident Evil 4 inspired them to go back to the drawing board and develop it into something more along those lines.[26]

Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey were main creators of Dead Space

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."[27] The design team reportedly spent time analyzing a wide variety of horror films in order to find inspiration for in-game scares.[28]

Previews 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".[7] 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.[29] In order to make the corpses look more realistic, the development team studied photos of car crash victims[30] and war scenes.[31] The game was initially in development for the original Xbox console.[32]


Dead Space credits 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."[33] On November 11, 2008, 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.[34] By the voting of GANG members, Dead Space was awarded Audio of the Year and Sound Design of the Year.[35]


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.[36] 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 installations.[37] The Steam, Origin, and Impulse versions do not have this DRM.

On July 14, 2016, released a DRM-free version.[38]

Marketing and release[edit]

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.[39]

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.[40]

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.[40] 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.[41]

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.[42][43]

Italian horror director Dario Argento lent his voice to the Doctor Terrence Kyne character for the Italian release of the game.[44]

No Known Survivors[edit]

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.[45] 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.[46] 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 represents 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, 94 prize winners were awarded a copy of the game on a platform of their choosing, while 5 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.


Aggregate scores
GameRankings(X360) 89.07%[47]
(PS3) 89.05%[48]
(PC) 85.32%[49]
Metacritic(X360) 89/100[50]
(PS3) 88/100[51]
(PC) 86/100[52]
Review scores
Game Informer9.25/10[57]
GamePro5/5 stars[58]
OXM (US)9/10[62]
PC Gamer (UK)86%[63]
PC Gamer (US)81%[64]
X-Play4/5 stars[65]
British Academy Video Games AwardsBest Use Of Audio
Best Original Score
12th DICE AwardsOutstanding Achievement in Sound Design
Action Game of the Year[66]
Game Developers Choice AwardsBest Audio[67]
IGNBest New IP (2008) (Xbox 360)[68]
GameSpot "Best of 2008" awardsBest Atmosphere
Best Sound Design[69]
Game InformerGame of The Month

Dead Space received widespread critical acclaim. 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."[70] 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."[71] 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. 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."[72] 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.[73]

Dead Space was a commercial success, with EA CFO Eric Brown confirming 1 million sales in 2008 across three platforms.[74] On August 3, 2010, EA announced the game had sold 2 million copies.[75]

Sequels and related media[edit]

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.[76][77] Dead Space 2 was released on January 25, 2011,[78] for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows,[79][80] with Isaac reprising his role as the protagonist.[81] Dead Space for iOS was released on iTunes on January 14, 2011, and takes place three years after the first Dead Space. 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 Dead Space and Dead Space 2, 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.[82][83]

A Dead Space comic was released as a prequel to Dead Space: Extraction. A novel was also released based on the series; Dead Space: Martyr was written by Brian Evenson and was released on July 20, 2010, by Tor Books and Visceral Games.[84] 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.[85] There was another novel written by Evenson, in the Dead Space lore called Dead Space: Catalyst.[86]


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External links[edit]