Dead Space is a survival horror game developed by Visceral Games in 2008. The best way to describe Dead Space is that it’s basically Resident Evil in space, just with more steps. Dead Space is also my next entry in to the Gem Vault.
Dead Space follows Isaac Clarke, an engineer, travelling to a ship – the Ishimura. The Ishimura is a mining vessel that sent out an SOS. Isaac, along with the crew of the Kellion, are sent on a repair mission to help the Ishimura. Isaac has a particular interest in this as his partner Nicole is on the Ishimura.
It should be noted that Dead Space has 2 sequels. While they add interesting story beats I personally think that they are inferior to the first game. So I just want to include the first Dead Space specifically because this is the real Gem.
The game starts with a recording of Nicole being played by Isaac, she apologizes and seems scared. No other information is given for this now. After the recording is finished you come upon the derelict Ishimura.
Trying to land on the Ishimura poses some complications and the Kellion crashes into the dock. The crew are able to get out of the ship and start making their way into the Ishimura but no one is around.
Isaac separates from the group to look for a control console. Suddenly a quarantine alarm goes off and the main lights in the room are turned off. On the other side of the glass from Isaac the crew from the Kellion are panicking. Without warning a monster jumps down from the vent and starts to kill the other crew members, another monster comes for Isaac who has to run away alone.
Upon escaping this monster Isaac is able to find a Plasma Cutter, a tool used by engineers. It’s basically a hightec stapler, in a cool way! Even though it’s a stapler it is the perfect tool for this particular job but we will get back to that later.
Your task from this point on is to try to find Nicole, then a way to survive, and escape the horrors on the Ishimura.
So there’s the set up, a pretty good one too. I won’t spoil anything as if you haven’t already played Dead Space I couldn’t recommend it more.
The monsters that I mentioned early are called Necromorphs. So what’s the deal with these monsters? Well isn’t it obvious? Yeah probably not. Basically they are mutated space zombies. If that phrase alone doesn’t make you want to play this game then I don’t know what will.
The necromorphs in this game are probably some of the scariest gaming monsters that I’ve experienced. They come in a few different forms but the idea is that a human corpse is transformed into a monster. Simple enough and not that scary right? Well what if that monster had swords for hands? Or was some kind of baby thing that shoots you with their back tentacles? What if it was some kind of 2 legged snake dog?
The point is that they are freaky and dangerous, if they catch you, and they will, they will brutalize you. The death scenes in this game are pretty gorey, like getting decapitated kinda gorey and I love it. There’s no better motivator than not wanting some sword zombie to cut your head off.
Something that I think is very unique to Dead Space is the way that you kill the enemies. Instead of them just having a health bar you need to shoot them to death, specifically by focusing on removing limbs. To be more specific the quickest way to kill all enemies is to literally shoot off the limbs and head. In normal difficulty, shooting off 2 limbs basically guarantees death and this can be achieved in 2 well placed shots.
This is something that I think is special about Dead Space and why your first weapon, the stapler, is so helpful. One shot from your Plasma Cutter, aimed at the neck, will remove that head. A simple engineers tool turns out to be the perfect weapon against these monsters, it’s a nice touch.
I’ll admit I don’t play “horror” games very often because I cannot handle them. I repeat I cannot handle them. I will however make the occasional exception and Dead Space is one of those exceptions.
The level of horror and tension that is built up in Dead Space genuinely rivals the more recent Resident Evil 2 Remake. You are basically alone on a huge and desolate ship drifting through space with barely any power. Shuffling through dark and tight corners always scared that some monster is going to jump out of somewhere and rip your head off.
I said at the start that Dead Space is basically Resident Evil in space, just with more steps. I explained the space part, it’s set in space but let’s talk a bit about the extra steps.
Dead Space gives you access to multiple weapons and each has a way to upgrade. This is similar to Resident Evil however the process is different. Dead Space has an item called a power node, using these power nodes you can make upgrades to your equipment.
At a workbench you can use power nodes to upgrade all weapons, your armour, and your other abilities. I’ll focus on the weapons as my example here. Each weapon has a unique skill tree for you to upgrade. Going through the tree you can upgrade 4 aspects of your weapons. Damage, reload, capacity, and speed. It should also be noted that most weapons have other more specific upgrades too.
I actually like this system more than the Resident Evil one. It gives you a lot more control, and there’s a lot more upgrading to do throughout. Also it feels like there are more weapons, and varying ones at that. I’m super basic though so my favourite one is the Pulse Rifle, which is basically just a standard machine gun from other games.
This may seem like a weird thing to praise but the menu design in Dead Space is incredible. It kind of gives a kind of old school VHS type of feel but as a futuristic augmented reality version.
Also of note is your outfit. This suit is sick. I don’t know if I would say it inspires the idea of being an engineer but you sure look like a badass. Along the way you can upgrade the level of your suit to get more armour and inventory space. Each time you upgrade it more is added to the armour plates and the like. It’s a very clear way to show armour progression and I love it.
One thing that the suit has that both Zack and I agree is of amazing design is the health bar. Normally in games, you have a HUD with your health and other things displayed, not in Dead Space. On the back of your suit, shown as a kind of pipe going down your spine, is your health bar. When you get hit, the bar drops and changes colour, when you upgrade your health the bar gets longer. It’s an ingenious and innovative way to show something like a health bar.
This is only slightly relevant but in Dragon Age 2 you can get a DLC armour of this Engineers armour. Every time that I play that game and I have the stats to wear it, I always keep the Engineers armour on. There is nothing more satisfying than playing a medieval fantasy game wearing a spacesuit.
Suffice to say that I like Dead Space and everything that it stands for, so in summary:
Dead Space is a pretty harrowing story of a regular guy going mad whilst he’s chased around a spaceship by mutant zombies. It builds genuine tension and there are plenty of jump scares mixed in with all of the action.
I think there are 2 franchises that need to get remasters or remakes, the Mass Effect Trilogy and then Dead Space. I think that Mass Effect 1 and Dead Space 1 specifically need remakes.
For Dead Space, it needs a Resident Evil 2 and 3 Remake level of job. Dead Space in the RE Engine would be life. That’s what I’ll hold out for, one day!!
Dead Space Gem Vault entry.
Written by Kyle Munn