Space. Cold, dark, and endless, the Earth’s final frontier has long served as the backdrop for all manner of horrifying fiction, from the heart-pounding terror of Alien, to the cerebral drama of System Shock. Where other classic horror settings require the addition of fantastical stalkers to put the lives of their characters at risk, space alone tears apart anything that dares confront it unprepared; uncaringly, unflinchingly, and in total silence.
When EA Redwood Shores debuted the survival horror game Dead Space in 2008, they succeeded in both capturing the inherent wickedness of its setting, and delivering an experience that played more sublimely than any other horror game before it. Rather than attempt to generate tension with sluggish tank controls and other arcane mechanics, Dead Space made Isaac Clarke’s hellish march through a zombie-infested flagship as intuitive to control as it was scary.
Players lapped it up, Redwood Shores became Visceral Games, and a small barrage of cross-media content followed, including an unexpectedly solid spin-off on the Wii, and an even greater sequel. Eventually, however, the demands that the franchise caters to a wider audience caught up with it, and Visceral Games released Dead Space 3 – a solid action title that exemplified its creators’ competency, but failed to fully capture the sense of horror that had made its predecessors so beloved. The series faded away, and its developers, despite their pedigree, would follow shortly after.
This is the rise and fall of Dead Space.