Eric Warner Staff Writer
The horror genre has gotten more popular as the years have passed and the more media appears to properly convey it. Typically, a horror book, movie, or television show takes place in either a modern or past setting with a few exceptions, being the likes of Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” The same trend is true for video games, with one of the most popular horror series being “Resident Evil,” which is always set in contemporary times. However, in 2008, Electronic Arts (EA) Redwood Shores studio attempted stepping away from that norm and echoed the spike of originality that “Alien” produced in the movie industry.
The developers went beyond the campsites, abandoned the fantasy caves, and strives to properly convey the struggles of an everyman in a horrific scenario. They traveled to the stars and aimed to go beyond, so that their consumers experienced an uncommon horror story set in a probable future. On Oct. 13, 2008, the gamer world would be sent to “Dead Space.”
“Dead Space” is a third-person, survival horror game set in the far future. The narrative revolves around the USG Ishimura, a gigantic planet-cracking ship designed to extract billions of tons of ore from planets; the Ishimura is essentially the haunted house of the game. After receiving a distress call from the ship, the CEC dispatches a repair crew that includes Commander Zach Hammond, computer specialist Kendra Daniels, and engineer Isaac Clarke to assist the Ishimura. Isaac is the silent protagonist of the game and his motivation stems from the fact that his girlfriend, Nicole Brennan, is aboard the planet-cracker as one of its medical officers. While Hammond and Daniels instruct Isaac how to repair the ship, Isaac searches for his beloved, discovers what events led up to the distress call, and encounters what is left of the now inhuman crew.
What I want to talk about is not the narrative, not only because I do not want to spoil the game for future players, but also because I want to focus on the originality of the setting. The Ishimura is a truly haunting habitat, with the first encounter showing its dark vastness. As you enter the ship, your hairs begin to rise.
What is most petrifying about the Ishimura is that it should be holding a crew of over 1,000 people, but it seems utterly empty. As you walk, you can hear creaks and shudders of the aching vessel. Lights are almost always off until you encounter a false scare area full of billowing engines and flashing lights. Abandoned stations drip with overflowing water or sometimes even blood. At times, the only sounds you can hear are your own footsteps which makes you tense, just as you seemingly see a shadow scurry by you. Was that one of the crew members or are you just going crazy from encountering this game’s own twisted version of hell? Is Isaac going crazy or is this just part of the game? These are the kinds of questions the player should ask as they venture through this gruesome setting.
Even after ten years, the Ishimura still looks amazing and will certainly resonate in the nightmares of gamers forever.
“It touches on themes of what is means to be human, the dangers of religion and government, and the consequences over the consumption of resources.”
What makes “Dead Space” a masterpiece is its perfect conglomeration of elements from other genres. It has the mystery and excruciating tension of “Alien,” the world of “Blade Runner,” the ship of “Event Horizon,” the creatures of “The Thing,” and the game play of “Resident Evil 4.” It touches on themes of what it means to be human, the dangers of religion and government, and the consequences of over consumption of resources. While its successors might have lost this game’s feel and sense of horror—specifically the third game which killed the series—the first “Dead Space” game should go down in history as one of the greatest horror games of all time. It may not be a game that everybody will enjoy, but it is certainly a game that everybody should play. If nothing else, this game will make you quiver when you hear Jane Taylor’s “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”