Dead Space (video game)

Dead Space (video game)
Dead Space
The cover depicts the words "Dead Space" in black type, and a severed forearm floating in zero gravity.
European cover art
Developer(s) EA Redwood Shores
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Designer(s) Glen Schofield (executive producer/creator)
Bret Robbins
Writer(s) Warren Ellis
Rick Remender
Antony Johnston
Composer(s) Jason Graves
Series Dead Space
Engine Godfather engine[1]
Havok (Physics Engine)
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
BlackBerry Tablet OS
Release date(s) PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Microsoft Windows
  • NA January 25, 2011
  • EU March 22, 2011
BlackBerry Tablet OS
  • NA August 18, 2011
Genre(s) Survival horror
Third-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player
Media/distribution Blu-ray Disc, DVD
System requirements

Dead Space is a survival horror third-person shooter video game, developed by EA Redwood Shores (now known as Visceral Games) for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game was made available on Steam on October 20, 2008.[4] The player takes on the role of an engineer named Isaac Clarke, who battles a virus-like infestation which turns humans into grotesque monsters called "Necromorphs", on board an interstellar mining ship named the USG Ishimura.[5] On August 18, 2011, Electronic Arts released Dead Space on the BlackBerry Playbook.

A sequel, Dead Space 2, was released on January 25, 2011.[6]



The player takes the role of Isaac Clarke (named after science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke[7]), an engineer who must fight his way through a mining starship infested with hostile, grotesque monstrosities called Necromorphs, which are reanimated human corpses. The game is played from an 'over the shoulder' third-person perspective.[5]

The interface of Dead Space does not feature a traditional heads-up display. Instead, all information is relayed to the player via holographic projections and the features on the suit and the weapons themselves. For example, a small display on the weapon shows the ammunition count; also, the 'health meter' that indicates Isaac's condition is integrated into the spine of Isaac's armor.[8] Via floating holograms projected in front of Isaac, the player can check the current objectives and the 3D map, or access the inventory screen to manage items. However, the game still progresses in real time, so the player is in danger of being attacked.[8]

Combat involves a mechanism called "strategic dismemberment", in which the player must cut off limbs or sections of the Necromorphs to defeat them. For example, shooting a certain type of Necromorph in the head will have little effect, and it will continue attacking the player until all of its limbs are removed.[9] Depending on how they are wounded, Necromorphs can adopt new stances and tactics, even sprouting new limbs or giving birth to new enemies in the process.[10]

In keeping with Isaac's profession as an engineer rather than a soldier, the weapons in Dead Space are mostly improvised from mining tools,[8] such as a plasma cutter, rotary saw, a hydrazine torch used as a flamethrower, a high powered energy beam called the contact beam, and a force cannon emitting powerful shock waves. A military-grade automatic rifle is also available. All weapons feature a secondary-fire mode; for example, the plasma cutter can be rotated 90 degrees for an optimal angle for more effective dismemberment of vertical limbs (such as legs on a normal bipedal humanoid). The player must scavenge for ammunition and other various 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. Also, the player can use work benches and spend "power nodes" to upgrade Isaac's suit and weapons.

Other than weapons, Isaac is also 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 pick up and throw items, which also allows him to impale the Necromorphs.[8] Dead Space also features vacuum and zero gravity environments, and Isaac can navigate through them using his pressurized suit and magnetic boots.[11] Isaac will eventually suffocate while in a vacuum or a toxic environment as his suit can only contain a limited amount of air, so the player is forced to proceed quickly when in these situations. Also, Isaac can jump from platform to platform in weightless environments. Some levels even lead out onto the surface of the ship's hull, where the player must watch out for floating debris that may cause Isaac to lose his footing.


The game takes place in the year 2508,[12] when the USG Ishimura ("石村" a Japanese surname which translates literally to "Stone Village"), a "Planet Cracker" starship, sends out a distress signal to the Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC) during a mining operation on the planet Aegis VII. The CEC dispatches another ship to investigate, the USG Kellion. As the Kellion attempts to dock with the Ishimura, a guidance system malfunction occurs and the Kellion crashes into the Ishimura's dock. The crew then begins to seek another means of transport. As they explore what appears to be an abandoned ship, they are attacked by grotesque monsters who kill off all but Clarke (who becomes separated), Hammond, and Kendra. Hammond recognizes that many of the ship's systems are failing, thus he and Kendra direct and assist Clarke in fixing them, so as to keep them all alive for rescue.

During these treks, Clarke discovers various text and audio logs scattered throughout the ship and pieces together the events that transpired before his arrival: the ship's captain was actually an agent of the Church of Unitology, a large and influential religious cult. The Ishimura was assigned to retrieve the religion's most valuable relic, the Marker, from Aegis VII, under the guise of an illegal mining operation. Soon after the Marker was extracted and brought to the Ishimura, the civilians, first on the planet colony then the ship, suffered from mass hysteria and violent hallucinations, before subsequently killing each other. The captain cut off traffic and communications between the two sides and later went insane. Dr. Terrance Kyne, the Chief Science Officer, tried to relieve him of duty, only to accidentally kill him in a struggle. An alien organism then began ravaging the colony, infecting the bodies of the dead and turning them into "Necromorphs" - organisms that kill to spread the infestation. It then spread to the Ishimura via a colony shuttle carrying several Necromorphs, which crashed into the docking bay. Though Hammond states that he is unaware of what the Marker is, Kendra confides to Clarke that she believes Hammond is lying. Clarke later encounters his girlfriend Nicole, one of the Ishimura's crew, though they are unable to meet.

With the critical systems repaired, the three are able to launch a beacon, attracting a nearby military ship, the USM Valor. However, the Valor, having picked up an escape pod containing a Necromorph - launched earlier by Hammond - is overrun and crashes into the ship. Hammond then deduces, from the military equipment he finds on board, that the Valor was actually assigned to destroy the Ishimura. The group then decides that they must find a shuttle and escape while they can. Clarke and Hammond retrieve the Valor's power core in order to repair an available shuttle, but Hammond is killed by a Necromorph in the process. Dr. Kyne, one of the few survivors, later contacts Clarke and urges him to return the Marker to Aegis VII, believing that it is a means of restraining the Hive Mind that controls the Necromorphs. After assisting Clarke in loading the Marker onto the shuttle, Kyne is murdered by Kendra, who reveals her position as a government operative ordered to retrieve the Marker for her superiors. She reveals that the Marker is a reverse-engineered copy of an artifact found on Earth, and was placed on Aegis VII by the government to monitor its effects. She then leaves on the shuttle without Clarke, but Nicole arrives and is able to help him recall the shuttle via remote pilot, prompting Kendra to flee in an escape pod.

Clarke takes the shuttle with the Marker back to the colony. This pacifies the Hive Mind, but also disrupts the gravity tethers holding a large portion of the planet several miles off the surface, threatening to destroy the colony. As Clarke attempts to escape, Kendra appears and starts to take the Marker back to the shuttle. She shows Clarke, through a recovered distress transmission, that Nicole committed suicide via lethal injection before they arrived on the Ishimura, and Clarke's visions of her were the Marker's way of attempting to bring itself back to the planet. Clarke makes his way back to the shuttle where Kendra is loading the Marker. Before she can leave, the gigantic Hive Mind kills her, but Clarke is able to defeat it. Leaving the Marker behind, Clarke flies off in the shuttle before the colony is destroyed. As he sets course away from Aegis VII, Clarke removes his helmet and watches Nicole's first transmission again. He is suddenly attacked by a necromorph vision of Nicole. The screen cuts to black and the game ends.


Isaac battles a Necromorph.
  • Isaac Clarke – The main character and silent protagonist of the game. Isaac is a ship system specialist and an engineer traveling aboard the shuttle Kellion to investigate and repair the USG Ishimura. Clarke is also trying to find his girlfriend, Nicole, a medical specialist assigned to the ship, whose fate is unknown at the start of the game. Throughout the game, Isaac stumbles across a conspiracy involving the Church of Unitology and the Earth government.
  • Kendra Daniels – Kendra is a technologist and part of the team sent aboard the Ishimura to repair communication systems. She is one of the game's main protagonists and later the main human antagonist. She helps the player through the Ishimura in many ways, giving directions and assisting through areas of the ship that would otherwise be inaccessible. Tonantzin Carmelo provides her likeness and voice.
  • Zach Hammond – The senior security officer on board the Kellion who travels with Isaac and Kendra to the Ishimura. Hammond's initial desire to complete the original mission and not immediately abort puts him at odds with Kendra, who finds this suspicious. Throughout the game, he works to fulfill the original mission, but as time goes on, he becomes more disillusioned and focuses instead on getting himself and the rest of the team off the ship. Peter Mensah provides his likeness and voice.
  • Dr. Challus Mercer - A doctor aboard the USG Ishimura, a devout Unitologist and one of the main antagonists of Dead Space. In the wake of the calamity that has gripped the Ishimura, Mercer has become a religious fanatic, attempting to convince the crew to commit mass suicide. Navid Negahban provides his likeness and voice.
  • Doctor Terrence Kyne – The Chief Science Officer of the Ishimura who appears later in the game and asks for help from the surviving members of the Kellion team. He is suffering from dementia but offers to aid Isaac in stopping the nightmare that has gripped the Aegis system and the Ishimura. Kyne attempted to relieve Captain Matthius of duty during the crisis on the ship, but instead seems to have been complicit in the captain's death. He regularly interacts with his dead wife, an apparition caused by the Red Marker that cannot be seen by the player. Keith Szarabajka provides his likeness and voice in the video game and the animated film Dead Space: Downfall.
  • Nicole Brennan – A medical officer assigned to the Ishimura who has a deep relationship with Isaac. The game starts with a video from Nicole, asking for help after the ship's infestation, establishing one of Clarke's reasons for coming to the Ishimura. He meets and receives messages from Nicole several times as he moves through the ship. Iyari Limon provides her likeness and voice.


Electronic Arts first announced Dead Space in September 2007. The game was developed at their studio in Redwood Shores, California, whose other titles include The Godfather and The Simpsons Game. 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."[13] The design team reportedly spent time analyzing a wide variety of horror films in order to find inspiration for in-game scares.[14]

Previews universally 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"[8]). 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.[15] In order to make the corpses look more realistic, the development team studied photos of car crash victims.[16] . The game was initially in development for the original Xbox console.[17]


Dead Space's credits refer to 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."[18] On November 11, 2008, and iTunes released the soundtrack to 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.[19] By the voting of GANG members, Dead Space was awarded Audio of the Year and Sound Design of the Year.[20] In the Italian version of the game, Dario Argento, a world-famous Italian horror film director, dubbed the Dr. Kyne character.


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. 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 installs.[21] The Steam and Impulse versions do not have this DRM.


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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[23] People who also bought the game within the first two weeks of the release could also download exclusive suits: the Obsidian Suit for the PlayStation 3 version and the Elite Suit for the Xbox 360 version.[24]

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.[25][26]

Italian horror director Dario Argento lent his voice to Doctor Terrence Kyne character for the Italian release of the game.[27]

No Known Survivors

On August 22, 2008, No Known Survivors was launched, a website similar to an alternate reality game that provides an opportunity for visitors to explore the narrative world of Dead Space.[28] The site depicts two stories, each divided into four chapters and using 3D animations, voice acting, original video, Papervision 3D technology, and various other interactive components.[29] 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 represent 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, ninety three prize winners were awarded a copy of the game on a platform of their choosing, while ninety two 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
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (PS3) 89.07%[30]
(X360) 88.96%[31]
(PC) 85.84%[32]
Metacritic (X360) 89/100[33]
(PS3) 88/100[34]
(PC) 86/100[35]
Review scores
Publication Score B+[36]
Computer and Video Games 9.1/10[37]
Edge 8/10[38]
Eurogamer 7/10[39]
Game Informer 9.25/10[40]
GamePro 5/5[41]
GameSpot 9.0/10[42]
GameTrailers 8.8/10[43]
IGN 8.7/10[44]
Official Xbox Magazine 6.5/10[45]
PC Gamer UK 86% [46]
PC Gamer US 81%[47]
X-Play 4/5[48]

Dead Space has received positive critical and commercial reception. 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."[49] 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."[50] IGN rated the game 8.7/10, saying it was "visually striking, everything from the holograms to the Necromorph [sic] 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 "None of these criticisms will detract from your enjoyment, 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."[51] 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.[52]

Dead Space was a commercial success as well, with EA CFO Eric Brown confirming 1 million sales in 2008 across three platforms.[53] On August 3, 2010, EA announced the game has sold 2 million copies.[54]


IGN Best of 2008

GameSpot "Best of 2008" awards:[56]

  • GameSpot "Best of 2008" Editor's choice awards:[56]
    • Best Atmosphere
    • Best Sound Design
  • GameSpot "Best of 2008" Reader's choice awards:[56]
    • Most surprisingly good game
    • Best Sound design
    • Best original IP
    • Most violent game to make it past Aussie censors:[57]

Game Informer

  • Game of The Month
  • Included in "The Top 50 Games of 2008"

British Academy Video Games Awards

  • Best Use Of Audio
  • Best Original Score

12th DICE Awards

  • Won - Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design, Action Game of the Year
  • Nominated – Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction, Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition[58]

Game Developers Choice Awards:

  • Prize for the best Audio[59]


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.[60][61] Dead Space 2 was released on January 25, 2011,[62] for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows,[63][64] with Isaac reprising his role as the protagonist.[65] Dead Space for iOS was released on iTunes on Jan 14, 2011 and takes place 3 years after the first Dead Space game.

Dead Space: Downfall is an animated film, and a prequel to Dead Space. An animated sequel, Dead Space: Aftermath, which takes place between the two video games, 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.[66][67]

A Dead Space comic was released as a prequel to Dead Space: Extraction. A novel was also released based on the video game series, Dead Space: Martyr was written by B. K. Evenson and released on July 20, 2010 by Tor Books and Visceral Games.[68] 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.[69]


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