In 2008, the horror genre was starting to become stale. Sure, you could stick with your flagship series and play the lackluster offerings of that year, but it felt like something new was needed, something to freshen up the suffocating smell of shuffling zombies and faceless nurses. Enter Dead Space, a futuristic, blood-soaked romp through an abandoned mining ship filled with abominations as disgusting as they are diverse. Zero gravity segments that threatened players with the possibility of watching Isaac Clarke suffocate violently in the black vacuum of space. A rusting ship that is as much a hazard to our protagonists’ wellbeing as the alien life forms that relentlessly stalk him through its guts. To put it bluntly, Dead Space was damn good.
Then Dead Space 2 came along, and it too was good. Not damn good, but good. Besides giving every gamer a new well-found fear of things being near their eyes, it didn’t really reinvent the wheel, not that it needed to. It just really didn’t bring anything new to the table, save a few weapons and enemies. Still, a scary good time. Finally, the godless, money grubbing miscarriage known as Dead Space 3 arrived on shelves. A blatant attempt to fill EA’s greasy pockets with gamers’ coin, Dead Space 3 took everything that made the first two entries so endearing and replaced it with a generic, co-op action game.
As sad as the series’ fate is, the Dead Space universe is one of the finest crafted in gaming to date, with the original being rightfully lauded as one of the greatest horror games of all time. Even if you’re a true fan, there are some facts that you still don’t know about Dead Space. Grab your plasma cutter, make sure your oxygen tank is full, and make your helmet do that cool whoosh thing when you put it on, and let’s dive into some things you definitely didn’t know about Dead Space.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE DEAD SPACE GAMES FOLLOW.
15. The Protagonist Is Named After Two Prolific Sci-Fi Writers
Isaac Clarke has become one of the most prolific names in horror gaming ever since the success of the original Dead Space. The cramped halls of the USG Ishimura and the necromorph horrors that chased our beloved engineer through its poorly lit corridors have made his name a staple when discussing the horror genre in video games. However, his name is not his own.
Isaac Clarke is an allusion to two prolific science fiction authors: Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Asimov is credited with writing over 500 books, in addition to an ungodly amount of written work in other formats. Arthur C. Clarke is probably most well known for the 2001: A Space Odyssey series of books, as well as co-writing the screenplay for the Stanley Kubrick flick of the same name. The Dead Space universe is full of nods to sci-fi, but making the protagonist’s name homage to two of the best sci-fi writers to ever live in pretty awesome.
14. The Game Was “Banned” As A Marketing Ploy
When Dead Space was first announced, rumors of the game’s gory and brutal nature were running rampant in the gaming community. A game that focused on horror in space, with an emphasis on severing your enemies’ limbs in creative, bloody ways sounded almost too good to be true. When the game started making the rounds to be rated for the commercial market, reports were flying in, along with some well-timed trailers showing the gruesome gameplay in action, that it has been banned in Japan, China, and Germany.
Gaming message boards and news sites went wild. So violent that it had already been banned in three countries? Well, not exactly. The timely “banned” news was fabricated by the developers to build up the already monumental hype surrounding the game. Even though Dead Space is now seen as a horror classic, it was made even more legendary by a creative marketing campaign.
13. It Inspired Multiple Books And Two Movies
The Dead Space universe is one of the most well-constructed game universes ever conceived. It seems obvious then that the franchise’s story would be perfect for other types of media. Two movies released to further explain the universe and events that transpired between games, Dead Space: Aftermath and Dead Space: Downfall are two animated full-length movies that expand the lore of the Dead Space universe using top-notch voice acting and animation.
The Dead Space universe also inspired a handful of comics, as well as a novelization spanning four entries by famed author B.K. Evenson. It really speaks to a game’s credit if other forms of media seek to expand the expertly crafted universe farther. It seems that the world can’t get enough of derelict spaceships and horrendous alien parasites.
12. The Art Design Is Largely Based On Gothic Architecture
Even though it would seem to be the last influence in a game that takes place in a futuristic starship, the team that worked on the first Dead Space looked to gothic cathedrals and buildings for design ideas. According to the Art Director Ian Milham, “What we chose was gothic architecture…a lot of the world stuff and the forms, you’ll see a lot of repeating ribs and open supports. Things that sort of evoke human, body structure.” Although it might not be obvious at first, except for the cathedral is Dead Space 2, a closer look at the design of the Dead Space universe and the influence is clearly seen.
Isaac Clarke’s mining suit is basically plates of repeating ribs, lots of the walls and corridors are lined with repeating ribs, and the corridors are crisscrossed by exposed supports. The Ishimura has a sterile and organic feel, thanks to the gothic architecture that influenced the art team during development.
11. Behold A Pale Horse: The Many Deaths Of Isaac Clarke
If Dead Space does one thing right (above all other games), it’s death. Whether Isaac is blasting away a giant ball of tentacles spewing explosive goo, or cutting a lanky, humanoid horror apart piece by piece with a plasma cutter, the Dead Space universe is littered with creative, gory death.
This rule also applies to Isaac in each of the games; in the original Dead Space alone there are over fifty different unique and disturbingly detailed ways to die. From having your body repeatedly slammed into the ground until you look like a puddle of raspberry JELL-O, to being decapitated and taken over by a severed, sentient head, Isaac’s deaths in Dead Space are varied and shocking, to say the least. Isaac’s numerous deaths are usually played out in a little cutscene that’s woven so seamlessly into the gameplay that they always come as a shock, even if the player is expecting it.
10. Oh Captain, My Captain: The Turncoat Captain Of The Ishimura
When you think of Dead Space, the first name that comes to mind is certainly not Benjamin Mathius. Despite gamer’s unfamiliarity with the USG Ishimura’s captain, the events of the game couldn’t have transpired without him.
Before becoming the captain of the ill-fated planet cracker, Mathius was most likely a high-level Unitologist, as fleshed out in the in-game crew logs. He was put in charge of the USG Ishimura in order to find the marker, that twisty obelisk that changes people into murderous maniacs and subsequently necromorphs, but was ultimately corrupted by the Marker’s power. He became increasingly irrational, cutting off food to the settlement on Aegis VII and quarantining the settlement’s population from returning to the ship. Even though his name might not be as recognizable as Isaac or Nicole, there would be no Dead Space without the turncoat captain.
9. It Saved The Horror Genre On Consoles
In 2008, the horror scene was lagging on consoles. A few solid titles had been released after the success of such cornerstone horror franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but the horror scene was still largely the property of PC gamers. Then Dead Space came along and gave the horror genre the resuscitating breath of fresh air that it needed so badly.
The game had such a strong reception on consoles that it may have saved the horror genre on home consoles as we know it today. The game was so expertly crafted with genuine scares, frighteningly good design, and a chilling atmosphere of isolation that it put horror back in the running. Sometimes all it takes are a few cramped blood splattered corridors, and howling multi-limbed monstrosities chasing a space engineer to reignite the passion for a genre.
8. The Series Is A Giant Homage To Sci-Fi And Horror Flicks
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, or so said the first guy that blatantly ripped something off and got called out for it. Although Dead Space doesn’t rip anything off per se, it does definitely borrow some ideas from popular sci-fi and horror movies.
For starters, some of the creature design is heavily influenced by the Alien movies. Take the humanoid like creatures pasted on the walls of the USG Ishimura Isaac encounters. They are exactly like the survivor the space marines find webbed to the wall in Aliens, the one that pleads with the squad to kill them. Dead Space 2 has the stalker necromorphs that sound and behave exactly like the velociraptors from Jurassic Park; you even get a trophy titled “Clever Girl” for surviving the encounter. The Dead Space series also heavily borrows from Event Horizon, a 1997 movie where a crew investigates a distress beacon on an abandoned mining ship that is filled with otherworldly horrors. Sound familiar?
7. The Original Dead Space Is About Humans Abusing Nature
The story of the first Dead Space tends to get bogged down in all the superb gameplay and atmosphere present in the game; who cares why you’re shooting necromorphs, the action is bloody and frantic, the horror tense and chilling. But, the developers on the Dead Space team hid a deeper theme in the game that seems obvious after you analyze the story: the human race’s abuse of nature and the negative consequences that that abuse entails.
The USG Ishimura is s planet cracker series of ships, meaning that it cracks uninhabited resource rich planets and harvests the valuable innards. Beginning the restricted mining of planet Aegis VII, a mysterious artifact is found, brought aboard, and turns everyone into delusional homicidal maniacs. Although the negative effects are quite literal, in this case turning people into disfigured, freak show aliens, the message is clear: the abuse of nature and the exploitation of it for resources will only have negative effects on our lowly race, ending with our deaths.
6. Even The Creators Know Dead Space 3 Sucks
As seems to be an unfortunate rule in the video game world: business leeches off of sequels. The Dead Space series became more nad more mainstream as the series went on. Dead Space is hailed as a classic, Dead Space 2 was warmly received but lacking when compared to the first, and Dead Space 3 is still hidden in most gamers’ attics where they hesitantly drop a pail of fish heads on the floor for it to eat.
Why? How did a world as rich as Dead Space’s devolve into another action oriented shoot em’ up where they start to give the enemies guns and focus on a co-op career? Apparently, the Dead Space team was not at fault; it’s rumored that in the name of larger dollar signs, EA put pressure on the Dead Space team to make the game more palatable for a larger audience. Based on EA’s reputation, this isn’t surprising in the least; it certainly isn’t the first time they screwed up.
5. The Game’s Trailers Feature Lullabies Because Kids Are Scary As Hell
Little kids make everything creepier. In the middle of bloodshed and intense violence, a child is out of place and in effect, creepy as hell. Seeing a little girl in a white bed gown standing amongst corpses has the direct effect of sending a chill up my spine and urine down my leg. The marketing team for Dead Space knew this, so they spliced children’s nursery rhymes and lullabies into a trailer for the game.
Watching the derelict silhouette of the USG Ishimura being eclipsed by a foreign sun as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is sung in a distant, static-tinged voice is enough to make me pull the covers up over my head. Quickly cut to Isaac being cut to ribbons while the song continues, and I jumped out the window a long time ago. The same goes for the Dead Space 2 trailer; Ring Around the Rosie plays as the otherworldly horrors pursue Isaac and rip him asunder. I’m just glad they didn’t put any discarded dolls in the game, like so many other survival horror titles.
4. The Development Team Are Featured In Dead Space 2 Easter Eggs
It isn’t uncommon for a development team to pepper themselves throughout a game as a small homage to its creative team. Metal Gear Solid has the development team hidden around the game as ghosts, God Of War has Kratos’s phone number, and putting John Romero’s head on a stick as the true end boss of Doom 2 are just a few ways developers have snuck themselves into their creations.
Dead Space 2 is no different. In the first chapter hospital, the Visceral Games logo can be seen on a handful of x-ray charts. In the same chapter, the test subjects photos hanging on the walls are actually the faces of the UI development team. A mannequin in the mall has the face of the executive producer. The nonsensical scrolling text above numerous doors in-game are actually references to EA’s NASDAQ abbreviation. The list of easter eggs goes on and on, proving that gamers aren’t the only ones that have fun in a game’s world.
3. Dead Space 2 Is A Slam At Scientology
Although this might seem obvious at first, Dead Space 2 is largely a slam at religion. Really? A game where you navigate the winding corridors of a space station turned massive church and blast the inhabitants is a slam at religion? Yes, annoyingly patronizing hypothetical reader, the shot at religion does seem obvious. If you dig a bit deeper though, you’ll see that one religion, in particular, is being targeted: Scientology.
The trendy religion for bat shit crazy celebrities and those that believe that a fat white man was able to harness knowledge from 76 trillion years ago (Honestly, I couldn’t make this up), Scientology is a pyramid scheme veiled in the dangerously serious cloak of organized religion. Dead Space 2 pokes fun at it in a few blatant ways: the sets of books for sale seen around various screens in the church of Unitology (the in-game religion of Dead Space), mirrors the Dianetics series of books written by L. Ron Hubbard that established Scientology in 1954. Also, the nature of Unitology and Scientology mirror pretty closely: basically, insane alien based theories and mankind’s role in relation to them. At least Unitology seems a bit more grounded; they do have a marker and necromorphs to prove their point.
2. Dead Space Is Heavily Influenced By The Metroid Series
They might seem like obvious similarities at first: both in space, both have aliens, and both capture the feeling of isolation like few other games. Both series have a focus on derelict space ships or space stations. Both feature large, epic boss fights that usually require a combination of skills or weapons to beat.
Seem like a coincidence? Well, the first Dead Space and most of the Metroid franchise feature a protagonist that remains mute the whole time they blast themselves through space pirates and untold horrors. Also, we don’t see our protagonist’s faces in the first installment of their respective series until the very end of the game. Even though the Samus reveal was a bit more shocking for gamers at the time, being a woman bounty hunter and all, the similarities between the franchises can’t be denied.
1. The Original Dead Space’s Ending Was Hidden In Plain Sight
The original Dead Space’s ending was a thrillingly scary ending to an excellent game. We get to see Isaac’s face for the first time, he flies off into the depths of space after surviving unimaginable horrors, and, oh yeah, Nicole appears as a twisted, nightmarish visage of herself before leaping on our hero and the screen cuts to black.
But did you know the Dead Space team hid the ending right in the chapter titles? If you take the first letter of all the chapter titles they spell out: N.I.C.O.L.E. I.S. D.E.A.D. Pretty neat huh? Unfortunately, Dead Space 2 didn’t follow suit and instead just gives you a random jumble of letters. The developers did pick the tradition back up in Dead Space 3, but no one played that piece of crap and if they did, they were probably too disgusted to try and find any hidden meanings in its shallow gameplay.