The Torment of Isaac Clarke
WARNING – contains spoilers for Dead Space 1 & 2
If someone were to ask you what the scariest game of all time is, I imagine you would have a quick answer. Most people tend to remember the game they experienced the most fear from, be it through their own hands or whilst watching another play. For me it would have to be Silent Hill; the original that came out on PlayStation, and the sequel that came out on PlayStation 2. However if someone were to ask me the ‘scariest’ game of this generation then, thanks to the decline in the quality of the Silent Hill franchise over the past couple of entries, it has left me with only one choice – a game that featured a systems engineer known as Isaac Clarke for it’s main protagonist.
The premise for Dead Space was simple – investigate a ship known as the USG Ishimura and find out exactly why it sent a distress signal before losing contact. What follows is a nightmarish sequence of events where you fend off mutated human/aliens known as necromorphs who have overrun the Ishimura and killed the majority of the crew. This game is certainly not for the faint of heart, as we follow poor Isaac through every dark and creepy corridor of the ship, fighting against whatever creature gets in your way by dismembering their limbs. You will be put in situations where you must stamp on corpses to retrieve ammo and health, witness survivors who have lost there minds to fear and commit suicide, or simply jump out of your skin as a necromorph bursts out of a vent nearby, ready to rip you a new one. It is all rather disturbing.
The only time you can really get the tiniest moment’s peace is when you use your stasis to freeze enemies in their tracks and even then you don’t have long to plan your attack before they come running at you again in full force. What makes matters worse is playing the game knowing that Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole, was part of Ishumura’s crew before it went under attack. Surviving the entire game under the belief that she is still alive, to then find out that it was only Isaac’s madness that made him imagine so makes you really feel for Isaac, even if he is a mute throughout the whole experience. Then, as if the entire game wasn’t enough to send you into madness along with Isaac, the final moments of the game will certainly leave you chilled to your core, just when you think you’re finally at peace.
Of course, with the success of this first entry it was only a matter of time before a sequel was made, and rightly so. Dead Space 2 took what was great about the original and continued on the harrowing story. Isaac is now held in an asylum on the Sprawl – a space station on one of the moons of Saturn. Diagnosed with dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder and amnesia, whilst also being experimented on for answers as to what happened on the Ishimura – the intro of running away from a few necromorphs unarmed in the first Dead Space was bettered by the frantic panic of the second’s. Running from loads of them whilst in a straight jacket; all the while the people who had been torturing you for months, coupled with other patients, being ripped apart or transforming into the creatures themselves.
There are of course many moments that rival scenes from the first; walking through a school as you get attacked by transformed babies and infants, being a strong one that springs to mind. The best moment however, or at least my personal favourite, is returning to the Ishimura after discovering it docked on the space station. It is truly eerie as you re-enter places that you experienced from the first game. I must also take my hat off to the ending of Dead Space 2; even if it wasn’t as disturbing as the first it still played on the same element with a rather humorous twist. Expecting Isaac to still see visions of his dead girlfriend, only to have his partner Ellie turn around and say “what?” – this is a sign that Isaac’s torment may finally be over, and despite the fact that there is soon to be a 3rd entry, all necromorph fighting aside Isaac seems like less of a victim this time around.
So, are you a fan of the Dead Space series? If so, should you be looking forward to the new 3rd entry? I can only assume that if you are reading this then your answer to the first question is yes, and my answer to you for the second question is the same. You should definitely be looking forward to Dead Space 3! From the get go we are introduced to great surroundings. First, a blizzard and great movement through the snow. Secondly, frozen giant necromorph beasts towering above you in various openings in the landscape.
The real beauty of Dead Space 3 is not in its animation and surroundings though; it is in that you can play the entire game solo still, without even an AI partner by your side if you so choose. This was my one fear that would destroy the horror of Dead Space – the introduction of co-operative gameplay. Of course the co-op option is still there, and this is something that the Resident Evil franchise could learn from if it insists on adding a partner. In fact, it would probably benefit you to play co-op if you want to get more story out of the game; cut-scenes that don’t happen in single player where Isaac and newcomer John Carver have conversations between one another. You can tell that there is definitely tension between the two characters.
There are also two new elements to the gameplay in Dead Space 3; the first (and best) being a weapon crafting system that allows you to collect various parts and use a bench to make some awesome new tool to mow down your opponents. This is something that really lets you choose how you want to dismember necromorphs – a great way to give the player freedom in the game, especially if paired with a friend and showing off your kills. The second new feature is a cover system; simply pressing the aim button near a low object will allow you to duck behind cover to take on human enemies who favour long-range guns over ripping you to pieces up close and personal. Of course now that there are enemies with guns it means that if they do happen to go all necromorph on your ass you’ve got the threat of both parties in one. Oh, and if you were thinking about helping out your fellow man when he’s being attacked by some necromorphs – don’t bother. Once the beasties are gone the humans will turn on you just as soon as the threat is over. My first initial thought was how great it would have been if they decided to help you out because you did them a favour, but I guess they must have a pretty good reason for wanting Isaac Clarke dead…
On that note, there is no denying that sick pleasure we gain from watching Isaac getting killed in so many different ways, no matter how horrifying it can be. It certainly rivals the many deaths of Leon S. Kennedy. At the end of the day this is a series that is very much like Resident Evil 4, if not the whole new generation of Resi in terms of gameplay. In fact, one would argue that now we are buddying up with co-op partner John Carver, Dead Space 3 would be more like Resi 5 and 6.
No matter how impressive the demo is I can’t help but shake the feeling that Dead Space 3 is leaning more towards action than the sheer horror that was brought with the first two, especially when you’re ducking for cover and stuck in a firefight between several other enemies with guns. From what I’ve seen there appears to be more of a reliance on scares than psychological horror, but of course this is only a demo, meant to appeal to the masses rather than just for the sake of the fans. The full game could potentially revel in what made the first two so special. And it isn’t long before we find out for sure. After all, I’m sure there is still much distress left for Isaac before this is all over.