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
Producer(s)
Designer(s)Paul Mathus
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
Release
  • NA: October 13, 2008
  • NA: October 20, 2008 (PC)
  • AU: October 23, 2008
  • EU: October 24, 2008
Genre(s)Survival horror
Mode(s)Single-player

Dead Space is a 2008 survival horror video game, developed by EA Redwood Shores and published by Electronic Arts for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. Set on a mining spaceship overrun by deadly monsters called Necromorphs released following the discovery of an artifact called the Marker, the player controls engineer Isaac Clark as he navigates the spaceship and fights the Necromorphs while struggling with growing psychosis. Gameplay has Isaac exploring different areas through its chapter-based narrative, solving environmental puzzles and finding ammunition and equipment to survive.

Dead Space was pitched in early 2006, with an early prototype running on Xbox. Creator Glen Schofield wanted to make the most frightening horror game he could imagine, drawing inspiration from the video game Resident Evil 4 and films including Event Horizon and Solaris. The team pushed for innovation and realism in their design, ranging from procedural enemy placement to removing HUD elements. The sound design was a particular focus during production, with the score by Jason Graves designed to evoke tension and unease.

The game was announced in 2007, and formed part of a push by Electronic Arts to develop new intellectual properties. Though making a weak sales debut alongside their other 2008 titles, Dead Space eventually sold one million copies worldwide. Critics praised the title for its atmosphere, gameplay and sound design. It has since been ranked by journalists as one of the greatest video games of all time. It is the debut entry in the Dead Space series; in addition to two sequels (Dead Space 2, Dead Space 3), the game inspired several spin-off titles and related media including a comic prequel and animated film.

Gameplay[edit]

Isaac fighting a group of Necromorphs.

Dead Space is a science fiction survival horror video game; players take on the role of Isaac Clarke, controlling him through a third-person perspective. Players navigate the spaceship Ishimura, completing objectives given to Isaac during the narrative, solving physics-based puzzles within the environment, and fighting monsters dubbed Necromorphs.[1][2][3] In some parts of the ship that have decompressed, Isaac must navigate the vacuum. While in the vacuum, Isaac has a limited air supply which can be replenished by finding air tanks within the environment. Some areas are subject to zero-g, with both Isaac and specific enemy types able to jump between surfaces and these areas having dedicated puzzles.[2][4] During exploration of the Ishimura, Isaac finds ammunition for his weapons, health pickups, and Nodes that are used to both unlock special doors and upgrade weapons and Isaac's suit. At points in the ship, Isaac can access a store to buy supplies and ammunition.[5][6] Isaac can use a navigation line, projected onto the floor on command, to find the next mission objective.[7]

Isaac has access from the start to a basic stomp, which can be used to break supply crates and attack enemies; and a melee punch which can kill smaller enemies and knock back larger ones. Two more abilities unlocked during the game are Kenisis, which can move or pull objects in the environment; and Stasis, which slows movement for a limited time.[7] All gameplay displays are diagetic, appearing in-world as holographic projections; Isaac's health and energy levels are displayed on his back of his suit, ammunition count appears when weapons are raised, and all information displays—control prompts, pick-ups, video calls, the game map, inventory, store fronts—appear as holographic displays. While the player is in menus, time in the game does not pause.[6][7]

While exploring, Isaac must fight Necromorphs, which appear from vents, or awaken from corpses scattered through the ship.[3] The various types of Necromorphs have different abilities and require altered tactics to defeat.[1] 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.[2] Isaac can access multiple weapons to combat the Necromorphs, which can only be killed by cutting off their limbs.[3] To do this, Isaac uses weapons designed for cutting; the starting weapon is picked up during the first level, while others can be crafted using blueprints discovered in different levels.[8][9] Workbenches found in levels can be used by Isaac to increase the power or other attributes of his weapons and suit.[10]

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

Dead Space is set in the year 2508, during a time where humanity has spread through the universe and harvests resources from barren planets using ships dubbed "Planetcrackers" following their near-extinction on Earth due to resource shortages. The oldest is the USG Ishimura, which is performing an illegal mining operation of the planet Aegis VII.[11][12] The backstory reveals that Aegis VII was the home of a "Red Marker", a manmade copy of the original alien Marker monolith discovered on Earth; attempts to weaponise the Marker and its copies led to the creation of a virus-like organism that infected corpses and transformed them into monsters called Necromorphs. Two key factions in Dead Space are the Earth government, which hid the Markers; and Unitology, a religious movement that worships the Markers, founded in the name of original researcher Michael Altman.[13][14] In the events leading up to Dead Space, the colony on Aegis VII discovers the Red Marker hidden there. Following its discovery and the Ishimura's arrival, the colonists and then ship crew begin suffering from hallucinations and mental illness, climaxing in the emergence of the Necromorphs. By the time the ship Kellion arrives, the entire Aegis VII colony and all but a few of the Ishimura crew have been killed or turned into Necromorphs.[12][15]

Characters[edit]

The main protagonist is Isaac Clarke, an engineer who travels on the Kellion to find out what happened to his girlfriend Nicole Brennan, who was aboard the Ishimura as Senior Medical Officer.[16][17] Aboard the Kellion with Isaac are chief security officer Zach Hammond, and computer technician Kendra Daniels—unknown to any of them, Kendra is an Earth government agent sent to control the situation on the Ishimura.[16][13] Other characters encountered by Isaac during his time on the Ishimura are Challus Mercer, a scientist who believes the Necromophs are humanity's ascended form; Dr Kyne, a survivor who wants to return the Marker to the planet; and Nicole, who appears to Isaac at various points through the ship.[16][14]

Plot[edit]

Isaac arrives at Aegis VII on the Kellion with Kendra and Hammond; during the journey, Isaac has been repeatedly watching a video message from Nicole. A malfunction while docking at the Ishimura crashes the Kellion, and all the Kellion crew but Isaac, Kendra and Hammond are killed by Necromorphs when the ship's quarantine is broken. Isaac navigates the ship, restoring systems and finding parts to repair their ship so they can escape. They almost succeed, but the ship is destroyed in a further malfunction. During these events, all three begin experiencing escalating symptoms of psychosis and dementia, ranging from hallucinations to paranoia. Kendra hints that Hammond is not to be trusted.

During his exploration, Isaac learns through audio and video logs about the incident. The Ishimura's illegal mining operation on Aegis VII, which was designated off-limits by the Earth Government, was meant to find the Red Marker for the Church of Unitology. The Aegis VII colony was almost entirely wiped out by mass psychosis triggered by the Marker, causing both killings and suicides. The Marker was brought aboard the Ishimura along with survivors and bodies from Aegis VII. A combination of factional fighting and the emerging Necromorph invasion kills nearly everyone aboard. Two survivors Isaac comes across are Dr Kyne, who has abandoned his belief in Unitology; and Challus Mercer, who has gone insane and sees the Necromorphs as humanity's ascended form.

During efforts to escape and survive, Hammond is killed by a powerful Necromorph mutation, and Mercer allows himself to be transformed. Another ship, the Valor, arrives and is infected through an Ishimura escape pod, but records show it was dispatched to remove all trace of the incident. Kendra kills Kyne before revealing her Earth Government allegiance, as Kyne threatened the Marker and the Necromorphs' controlling "Hive Mind". The Marker was a copy of an ancient alien artefact found on Earth, left on Aegis VII as part of an experiment that Earth wants retrieved. Guided by Nicole, Isaac sabotages Kendra's attempt to escape the Ishimura, then returns the Marker to Aegis VII, neutralising the Necromorphs and initiating Aegis VII's collapse.

Kendra retrieves the Marker and reveals the truth to a captive Isaac; his encounters with Nicole were hallucinations created by the Marker to return it to the Hive Mind, as Nicole's final message ends with her committing suicide to avoid becoming a Necromorph. Isaac pursues Kendra, and sees her killed by the awoken Hive Mind before she can escape with the Marker. After killing the Hive Mind, Isaac leaves on Kendra's shuttle as Aegis VII is destroyed. In the shuttle, Isaac switches off a rerun of Nicole's final message, then suffers a violent hallucination of being attacked by her corpse.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey were the respective co-producer and co-director of Dead Space.[18][19]

Dead Space was the creation of Glen Schofield, at the time working at EA Redwood Shores. Schofield wanted to create what he felt would be the most frightening horror game possible. His concept drew influence from the Resident Evil series, particularly the recently-released Resident Evil 4, and the Silent Hill series.[20] EA Redwood Shores had established itself as a studio for licensed game properties, and the team saw it as an opportunity to branch out into original properties, establishing themselves as "a proper game studio" according to co-producer Steve Papoutsis.[21] During this early stage, the game was known as "Rancid Moon".[18] Dead Space was described as a project multiple staff at Redwood Shores wanted to work on for many years.[18] Co-director Michael Condrey described it in 2014 as a grassroots-style project where the team were eager to prove themselves, but not expecting the game to become anything large-scale.[19] When they pitched the game to parent company Electronic Arts in early 2006, they were given three months to create a prototype.[22]

As to get a playable concept ready within that time, the prototype was developed the original Xbox hardware. The team decided it would be better to get something playable before working out how to make the game work on next-generation hardware. Their twin approaches of early demos and aggressive internal promotion ran counter to Electronic Arts practises for new games at the time.[22] Electronic Arts eventually approved the game after seeing a vertical slice build of the game equivalent to one level, by which time all the basic gameplay elements had been settled on.[18][22] According to co-producer Chuck Beaver, this pre-greenlight work lasted 18 months. After approval and using their experience creating the vertical slice, the team built eleven more levels in just ten months.[22] The team reused the game engine they designed for The Godfather, which was chosen due to being tailored for their development style and supporting the necessary environmental effects, and implemented the Havok physics engine.[21][23] While Electronic Arts wanted details on its prospective budget and sales, Schofield pushed for a focus on quality before anything else.[24]

Game design[edit]

Schofield wanted to create a game that ran counter to Electronic Art's usual output.[25] To help guide the team, Schofield often described Dead Space as "Resident Evil in space".[20] There are different accounts as to the game's relation to the System Shock series. Co-director Michael Condrey said that Dead Space was only influenced by both System Shock and System Shock 2.[11] Co-designer Ben Wanat stated that the team were originally planning a third entry in the System Shock series and played through the originals for reference, but when Resident Evil 4 released they decided to make their own intellectual property based around its gameplay.[26] While greatly influenced by Resident Evil 4, Schofield wanted to make the game more active, as the necessity to stop and shoot in Resident Evil 4 often broke his immersion.[20] The gameplay balance was aimed between the faster pace of third-person shooters and the slow pace of many horror game protagonists.[27] Resource management underwent constant tuning and balancing to make it tense but not unfair or frustrating.[28]

Immersion was a core element of the game, with any HUD elements being in-universe and story sequences like cutscenes and audio or video logs playing in real-time. In addition, the standard HUD elements were incorporated into the environment with suitable contextual or overt in-game explanations.[20][29][17] As a side effect of this approach, it helped the team better realise and convey the setting.[28] A quick turn option was both implemented and removed several times during production before eventually removing it as mapping it to the last available controller buttons was causing test players to turn by accident during dangerous situations.[23] The Microsoft Windows version's control scheme went through several different configurations, with the team wanting the best possible for mouse and keyboard.[28]

One of the founding gameplay principles was "strategic dismemberment", the focus on cutting off limbs to kill enemies that distinguished Dead Space from the majority of other shooters which placed focus on headshots or allowed volleys of fire against enemies. Because of this, weapon accuracy and enemy behaviour were adjusted around this concept.[21][30] An instance of this was how enemies reacted to a traditional headshot, becoming enraged and charging at the player rather than being instantly killed.[30] A two-person co-op multiplayer option was prototyped over a three month period, but ended up cut so the team could focus on making a polished single-player experience.[25]

A procedural element was created for enemy placement, so that enemies would appear at random points within a room, not allowing players to easily memorise and counterattack patterns.[31] They had a mechanism for controlling where enemies would spawn from places like vents depending on the player's position. One gameplay sequence, where Isaac is ambushed and dragged down a hallway by a large tentacle, stalled development for a month. The team initially planned it as a instant death scene players had to avoid, then changed it to be an interactive one that Isaac had to escape. A dedicated set of mechanics and animations had to be created for the sequence, and Schofield admitted that the way and order he assigned tasks stopped the sequence working properly. This caused them to shift their production structure to a "layered" structure which focused on finishing one section at a time, so they could pinpoint any problems with ease. The team had to cut two other unspecified pieces to allow the tentacle sequence to work. Ultimately this problem helped build up team confidence, allowing them to tackle other problems in the game and add more content.[20]

The character animation was designed to be realistic, with extensive transitional animations to smooth out shifts between different stances for both the player, other characters and enemies.[32] The zero-G sections were in place alongside the setting, and the team performed extensive research on real space exploration and survival to get the atmosphere and movement right.[33] Implementing zero-G was challenging for the team, with Beaver describing the process as "months and months and months of work". While technically easy to achieve by switching off gravity values in Havok, reprogramming sections to be convincing and fun to play in presented different challenges.[23] Isaac needed a separate series of animations for zero-G environments, with his sluggish movement achieved by animation director Chris Stone doing an exaggerated stomping walk with bungee cables strapped to his legs.[32] Due to the number of ways Isaac could die, his model was given dozens of points where he could be torn apart, and the death scenes became a part of the game's visual identity.[20] A key issue for the team when designing the horror elements was not reusing the same scares too many times, and allowing for moments of safety for the player without completely losing the tension.[34] In earlier builds, the team made extensive use of jump scares, but as they grew less frightening they were thinned out, and more emphasis was placed on the in-game atmosphere.[31]

Scenario and art design[edit]

The basic scenario was written by Ellis, Remender worked on the bulk of the script, while later dialogue and additions were made by Johnston.[35]

In his earliest concepts when he called it Rancid Moon, Schofield envisioned a scenario similar to Escape from New York set on a prison planet in outer space. The team liked the "space" element, but disliked the prison setting.[18] Contrasting with many game productions at the time where the story had a low priority, the team chose to have the story defined from the outset, then build the levels and objectives around it. The first solid concept was the mining of planets by humans, with the twist that one planet they mine holds something dangerous.[36] Due to the focus on player immersion, there were little to no traditional cutscenes, with all the narrative being communicated through real-time interaction.[36][37] The world's themes of religion and rogue states outside Earth's control were decided upon to ground the science fiction narrative.[11] Unitology emerged five months into development as Schofield felt something was missing. After reading up on the Chicxulub crater, Scholfield wrote the original Marker as the object which caused the crater, and built Unitology around it.[38]

A key early inspiration for the game's tone was the film Event Horizon.[12][20] Schofield cited the film's use of visual storytelling and camera work, referencing a particular scene where the audience sees a scene of gore missed by the on-screen character, as an early inspiration.[20] Another strong influence on Schofield was the French horror film Martyrs.[38] Several elements made reference to other science fiction movies; Isaac's struggle was compared to that of Ellen Ripley from Alien, the dementia suffered by characters referenced Solaris, and the sense of desperation mirrored that in the story of Sunshine.[12] How the story was conveyed was a mechanical challenge due to both the real-time elements and the ability to complete some objectives out of order.[28]

There were three people involved in the game's scenario Warren Ellis, Rick Remender and Antony Johnston.[35] Ellis created a lot of the background lore and groundwork.[39] This draft was given to Remender, who wrote out planned scenes, added some scenes of his own, and performed rewrites before the script was handed to Johnston.[35] Johnston, who was involved in writing the game's additional media, worked in links to those other works into the game's script. While the scripting process lasted two years, Johnston only worked on the game for the last eight months of that time. Much of his work focused on the dialogue, which had to fit around the key events, which had already been solidified. Johnston also contributed heavily to the audio logs, which he used to create additional storyline and flesh out the narrative.[40]

Isaac, with his non-military role and backstory, was meant to appeal to players as an average person who was not trained for combat or survival.[17] His armour and weapon design followed the principle of him being an untrained engineer; the armour is a work suit for conditions compared by staff to an oil rig in space, while the weapons are mining tools.[11][27] Isaac's name made reference to two science fiction authors, Isaac Azimov and Arthur C. Clarke.[25] The design of the ship environments deliberately moved away from traditional science fiction, which they saw as being overly clean and lacking function.[21] The large number of familiar environments and designs, in addition to making the Ishimura a believable living environment, increased the horror elements as they would be familiar to players.[41] To achieve the realistic feel, they emulated Gothic architecture, which fitted their vision both practically and aesthetically.[21] The lighting was based on light from the strong lamps used in dentistry.[41]

The Necromorphs were designed by Wanat. Similar to the ship design, Wanat designed the Necromorphs to be realistic and relatable.[21] His approach to them was to illustrate how the human form looked after it was "ravaged by a violent transformation that literally ripped it inside out". They retained elements of their original human form, increasing their disturbing nature.[28] As reference, the team used medical images and scenes from car crashes, copying injuries and incorporating them into the monster designs.[42][28] Those real-life images were used as reference for the dead bodies scattered round the environment.[42] Their multi-limbed or tentacled appearance was dictated by the dismemberment gameplay, as having enemies without limbs would not work in that context.[30] Their naming drew inspiration from the kind of code naming that happens in war zones among soldiers.[41]

Audio[edit]

Sound design[edit]

Schofield insisted from an early stage that emphasis be placed on the music and audio design to promote the horror atmosphere.[20] The sound work was led by Don Veca, and the team included Andrew Lackey, Dave Feise and Dave Swenson. Each member's work often overlapped with others.[43] Feise, the first member to join, mostly worked on weapon designs and the "tweaky futuristic synth" elements. Swenson was described as a jack of all trades, working on a wide array of elements and in particular creating impact sounds and handling the more scripted linear sections.[44] Lackey's contributions focused on boss fights and the opening sections.[43] Despite Veca's executive role, he "stayed in the trenches" as much as possible and worked on every aspect of the sound design. The dialogue and voice implementation was handled by Andrea Plastas and Jason Heffel.[44] For one of the areas in the game, which had no enemies but relied on sound and lighting, audio director Don Veca used sounds recorded from a Bay Area Rapid Transit train; the results were described by Schofield as a "horrible sound". The monster noises used a base of human noises; as an example, the small Lurker enemies used human baby sounds as a base mixed in other noises such as panther growls.[45]

As with other elements of production, the team wanted to emphasise realism. When it came to zero-G environments, they muted and muffled any sound and focused on noises from within Isaac's suit, as these mirrored actual experiences in the vacuum of space.[45] The sounds played into gameplay, as the team wanted players to use their sound cues to help anticipate enemy attacks while also stoking their fear.[43] The team wanted to recreate the scripted sound design of linear horror films in an interactive environment. They watched their favorite horror films, noting their use of sound effects and music, and implementing them into Dead Space.[46] One of the constant issues was optimising the limited amount of RAM the team had for both music and sound effects, which partly inspired the development of specific tools rather than using popular sound design systems.[44]

The voice audio was recorded during motion capture sessions with the actors.[44] The cast included Tonantzin Carmelo as Kendra, Peter Mensah as Hammond, and Keith Szarabajka as Kyne.[47][48][49] Isaac is a masked silent protagonist, so the team worked to incorporate personality into his appearance and movements, with a large number of animations for his various conditions and actions. This approach was based on the portrayal of Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2.[20][25] A suggestion from Electronic Arts turned down in early production was that a famous actor should portray Isaac.[25]

To control the sound design elements, the team created custom software tools.[44] One of the tools they created was dubbed "Fear Emitters", which controlled the volume of music and sound effects based on distance from threats or key events.[45] Other sound tools included "Creepy Ambi Patch", which acted as a multitrack organiser for the various sound layers and added randomised internal sounds to create a greater sense of dread; "Visual Effects", which incorporated sound effects naturally into the environment and to specific areas; and "Deadscript", a scripting language developed as a replacement for a sound language later used for Spore that was taking up too much space.[44]

Music[edit]

The music for Dead Space was composed by Jason Graves. He had a background in classical music and composition for film and television before debuting in video games through his work on King Arthur.[50][51] When Veca spoke about their intention for the score, he described their wished-for music as dark and "Aleatoric in style", ranging from eerie sounds to loud cacophonous sections.[52] Graves joined the project during early production, when the game was a quarter of the way through development.[53] He received the job after hearing from his agent that Electronic Arts was looking for a composer who could create an unconventional sound.[50] During their requests for composers, the team cited the work of Christopher Young as a reference for applicants. A later direct inspiration was the score for The Shining.[53] Using the available guidelines, he put together a sample demo, which both got him the job and greatly impressed Veca.[51]

When Graves got the job, he was told that the team wanted "the scariest music anyone had ever heard". As part of his research, Grave listened to a lot of modern experimental orchestral music.[51] Graves and Veca shared a common music source so they both understood the end goal.[50] Rather than creating character themes and bombastic pieces, Graves created a score based on moody ambience. The few setpiece tracks were composed for boss encounters or scripted chase sequences.[53] He based the musical style on the name Necromorph itself, with "Necro" meaning "death" and "morph" meaning "to change"; he wanted to make a musical version of that concept.[54] His being on the project from such an early stage greatly influenced the style and pacing of the music. He was regularly sent movies of level playthroughs as reference for his work. The entire score was recorded using a live orchestra, but Graves recorded each section separately so the elements could be adjusted based on the in-game situation.[53] Many of the ambient elements were created by Graves having recordings for string or brass sections allowed to each play any note they wanted, then he would take the resultant sounds and mix them.[51] One of the samples played during the game's credits came from the sample demo which won Graves the job.[53]

The music recording sessions took place at the studio of Skywalker Sound.[50] The music had four different interactive layers prepared, interacting depending on the in-game situation. This element made Graves nervous, as both the sound he was creating and how it was being integrated had not been done before in gaming.[55] At one point, he was afraid that half their recording budget would be spent on elements that could be scrapped as unworkable.[54] The game credited both Graves and Rod Abernethy as composers, but Veca clarified that while Abernethy was involved early on, all the music was composed by Graves.[44] According to Graves, Abernethy helped with the project logistics and was present during the early brainstorming sessions.[50] The final in-game score for Dead Space was three hours long and recorded over five months, several times the music Graves had composed for previous video game titles.[53] Graves described it as the most challenging and enjoyable composing job he had undertaken for a game, praising the amount of freedom he was given by the sound team.[52]

Release[edit]

Dead Space was announced in September 2007.[56] Dead Space formed part of a strategy formed under Electronic Arts's new management to push new original intellectual properties over their previous licensed and sports properties.[57][58] The website went live in March 2008, featuring screenshots from the game, an animated trailer, a developer blog, and a dedicated forum.[59] The game received a large amount of marketing support from Electronic Arts.[58] 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".[6]

Initially, Dead Space Community Manager Andrew Green stated that Germany, China and Japan banned the game. However, it was confirmed that this was a marketing ploy and that Dead Space was not banned in any country.[60] In North America, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Dead Space released on October 13, 2008, with the PC version releasing on October 20. All versions released in Australia on October 23, and in Europe on October 24.[61] Electronic Arts released an Ultra Limited Edition of the game limited to 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.[62] The people who bought the game within the first two weeks of its release could download the exclusive suits for free: the Obsidian Suit for the PlayStation 3 version and the Elite Suit for the Xbox 360 version.[63]

Related media[edit]

Alongside the video game, the Dead Space team and Electronic Arts created a multimedia universe around the game to both promote it and show off different elements of its lore and story referenced in the game.[64] The first was a limited comic series, running between March and September 2008.[65][66] The next was an animated film, Dead Space: Downfall, produced by Film Roman and released in October 2008.[67][68] The comic covers the five weeks following the Marker's discovering Aegis VII,[69] while Downfall reveals how the Ishimura was overtaken.[67]

In addition, Electronic Arts launched an alternate reality game with a dedicated website titled No Known Survivors.[70] Spread over the nine weeks prior to the game's release, players opened the different episodes using graphics of mutated human limbs. Exploring in the style of a point and click adventure game, the story was split across two episodic stories, told through a combination of audio logs, short animations and written documents found in each environment.[70][71][72] The two episodes were "Misplaced Affection", which focused on a hiding medical technician remembering his attempted affair with another crewperson; and "13", which focused on a sleeper agent for the government planted aboard the Ishimura.[71][72] It began its release on August 25.[70] The final episode of content was released on October 21, alongside the game.[73]

No Known Survivors was developed by web creator Deep Focus.[72][74] The website was developed in close cooperation with the game's development team.[71] The challenge for Deep Focus was creating an immersive experience which would excite potential players, while being unique to the online environment. According to Creative Director Nick Braccia, the aim was to take pieces of the Dead Space lore and "blow [them] up" in ways that could only work in this environment. While more interactive events were considered, the production timeline meant several concepts were cut. The point and click interface style, and the limited exploration space of a single room per scenario, was chosen due to technical limitations and to create an experience impractical on mainstream consoles.[72] The scenario of No Known Survivors was written by Johnston.[40]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
AggregatorScore
Metacritic(X360) 89/100[75]
(PS3) 88/100[76]
(PC) 86/100[77]
Review scores
PublicationScore
1Up.comB+[78]
CVG9.1/10[79]
Eurogamer7/10[80]
Game Informer9.25/10[81]
GamePro5/5 stars[82]
GameSpot9/10[83]
GameTrailers8.8/10[84]
IGN8.7/10[85]
OXM (US)6.5/10[86]
PALGN9/10[87]

Upon release, Dead Space earned critical acclaim.[64] On review aggregate website Metacritic, the 360 version scored 89 out of 100 based on 79 reviews.[75] The PS3 version scored 88 out of 100 based on 67 reviews,[76] while the PC version scored 86 out of 100 based on 28 reviews.[77] All scores denoted "generally favorable reviews" from critics.[75][76][77] Several retrospective journalistic and website articles have ranked Dead Space as one of the greatest video games of all time, pointing out its innovations in the survival horror genre.[88][89][90][91][92][93]

Matt Leone of 1Up.com praised its innovations in third-person gameplay, though faulted several elements that felt like padding.[78] Computer and Video Games's Matthew Pellett was similarly positive about the gameplay and lore, though wishing for more zero-G sections and again faulting its length.[79] Dan Whitehead, writing for Eurogamer, enjoyed the experience despite some frustrating design elements and other parts that clashed with the horror aesthetic.[80] Andrew Reiner of Game Informer enjoyed his time with the game, praising its committent to horror elements and gameplay elements. In a second opinion, Joe Juba called it "the premiere accomplishment in survival horror since Resident Evil 4".[81] GamePro gave the game a perfect score, praising almost every aspect of the experience except for a lack of additional gameplay modes.[82]

Lark Anderson of GameSpot praised the enemy design and behavior, praising it as being able to stand out within the survival horror genre.[83] GameTrailers was positive about the game's use of both many horror tropes and its references to other horror and science fiction properties, saying players would be compelled to push on despite the disturbing atmosphere.[84] IGN's Jeff Haynes faulted some overpowered mechanics and frustrating New Game+ elements, but generally praised it as an enjoyable new title in the genre.[85] Meghan Watt, writing for Official Xbox Magazine, was less positive due to several mechanical frustrations and a lack of scary elements.[86] Jeremy Jastrzab of PALGN summed the game up as "easily the most atmospherically intense, genuinely scary and well-built survival horror experience of this current generation".[87]

The storyline saw a mixed reaction; many praised its atmosphere and presentation,[79][82][85] but other critics found it derivative or poorly written.[80][81][86] Where mentioned, the graphics and environmental design were praised.[78][83][85][87] The voice acting and sound design were also well received, with the latter being praised for reinforcing the horror atmosphere.[81][84][85] The twist on combat mechanics and enemy behavior design met with much praise,[80][81][83][85][86][87] but repetitive level and mission structure were often faulted.[78][83][86][87] The complete lack of a HUD was also positive noted.[80][81][85]

Sales[edit]

At release, Dead Space reached tenth place in North American game sales, compiled in November by the NPD Group. Recording sales of 193,000 units, it was the only new property to enter the top ten.[94] It was the only Electronic Arts property within that group.[95] In early analysis, low sales of the title were attributed to strong market competition at the time, though sales improved over time due to positive critical reception.[96] By December, the game had sold 421,000 units across all platforms. The game, along with Mirror's Edge, was considered a commercial disappointment following its extensive marketing. Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said that the company would have to lower its expected income for the fiscal year due to multiple commercial disappointments including Dead Space.[58] In February 2009, Electronic Arts CFO Eric Brown confirmed that all versions of Dead Space had sold one million copies worldwide.[97]

Awards[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref
2008 NAVGTR Camera Direction in a Game Engine Nominated [98]
Animation in a Game Cinema Won
Art Direction in a Game Cinema Nominated
Camera Direction in a Game Engine Won
Direction in a Game Cinema Nominated
Lighting/Texturing Won
Sound Editing in a Game Cinema Won
Sound Effects Won
Use of Sound Won
Game Original Action Nominated
Game Developers Choice Awards Audio Won [99]
2009
British Academy Games Awards Action & Adventure Nominated [100]
Artistic Achivement Nominated
Original Score Won
D.I.C.E. Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design Won [101]
Action Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition Won
Annie Awards Best Animated Video Game Nominated [102]
Spike Video Game Awards 2008 Best Action Adventure Game Nominated [103]
Game Audio Network Guild Awards Audio of the Year Won [104][105]
Music of the Year Nominated
Sound Design of the Year Won
Best Use of Multi-Channel Surround in a Game Nominated

Sequels[edit]

Following the success of Dead Space, EA Redwood Shores was restructured as a "genre studio" called Viceral Games, going on to develop several titles alongside their work on the Dead Space franchise, which spawned both further additional media and spin-off titles on several platforms.[106][107] A direct sequel, Dead Space 2, was released in 2011.[107][108] A third title, Dead Space 3, released in March 2013.[109] The third game met with disappointing sales,[110] and a prospective sequel was cancelled before Visceral Games was closed down in 2017.[107][111]

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External links[edit]