Editor's note: In light of EA closing Visceral Games, we thought it would be a good time to remember the game and series the studio is known best for: Dead Space. This article was first published in February this year.
My initial plan for this article was to write about the space bits of Dead Space, also known as everyone's favourite bits of Dead Space. I was going to write something cool and arch and critical like "the true horror of Dead Space lies not in the snarling, gibbering Necromorphs that attempt to rip and tear the flesh from Isaac Clarke's body, but in how the game imagines the inky void of space as a direct physical threat. Throughout its length, Dead Space constantly reminds us the USG Ishimura is a tiny lifeboat spinning in a vast, black vacuum. It sucks the air out of Isaac's lungs, and forces us to fight in environments where even simple things like the concept of 'Up' become entirely redundant."
Something like that anyway. But then I played Dead Space, which I haven't done in about five years. I arrived at the first jump-scare, the one where Isaac is separated from his crewmates in the docking bay as Necromorphs start falling from the ceiling like coconuts on the galaxy's worst tropical island. I wish I could tell you that I was stalwart in the face of danger, hardened by my years playing horror games in the name of games journalism. Instead I completely bricked it. Again. I'd prepared myself mentally for it as well, playing the scene over in my head as the game downloaded. It made no difference. The moment Dead Space dropped the NecroMic I panicked, racing blindly through the corridors, fingers stabbing at the wrong keys, swearing with increasing volume as I tried to get the goddamn elevator doors to shut.
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Dead Space 2's single player campaign is an anxious creep through a string of dark corridors to a soundtrack of groaning steelwork and laboured breath. There are, of course, interruptions to the taut atmosphere: the burst of a gangly Necromorph through a dilapidated wall, or a screaming phantom that breaks through the fragile sanity of your mind. But the journey through Dead Space II is characterized primarily by its bars of rest, not by its bars of fury.
It's fair to say our attention has been fixed upon the Far East for the last 48 hours. An elongated home console generation means that we've lost the regular rush of excitement, speculation and punditry that accretes in the run up to a platform launch, and even if the Next Generation Portable turns out to be an overhyped dog when it arrives later this year, which seems unlikely at first glance, we owe Sony thanks for reminding us that gaming is about more than creativity – sometimes it's about geeking out over tech as well.
Isaac Clarke is no stranger to getting out of scrapes – if you can call being yanked apart by a shuddering tower of blood, gristle, and talons a scrape. However, even he would have trouble solving the problem that faced Visceral Games when the developer started work on Dead Space 2.
Like one of its horrible beastly necromorphs, Dead Space 2 is creeping up on us with unnerving silence. EA's action horror is out in three months, which means it's time to sit down with creator Visceral Games and find out what the hell is going on in here.
Every year at the Eurogamer Expo we invite you to tell us what you thought of the games you played, and without fail every year (so far anyway) you exhibit amazing taste in huge numbers. This year's Expo line-up was our strongest and most diverse yet, so we were excited to see what would follow in the footsteps of last year's winner, God of War III, or 2008's Mirror's Edge...
In space, no one can hear you realigning solar arrays. To be fair, no one can hear anything in space, but that's not how it's generally portrayed by videogames or Hollywood. We've always found this strange because, as Dead Space 2 demonstrates, it's always nice and atmospheric when things die down to virtual silence and the only thing to listen to is the sound of your own breathing (and Stanley Kubrick spinning quietly in his grave).
Few things could ever hope to top the gurning onomatopoeic satisfaction of pruning malicious spindly limbs from Dead Space's necromorphs. The whump of the stasis blast to stop them in their tracks, the surgically precise thunk and schlick of the plasma cutter carving through bone with merciless efficiency.