Dead Space was one of the most successful trilogies of the last console generation. The terrifying story of Isaac Clarke’s battle against an alien virus and the vicious necromorphs, the series topped sales charts and earned itself an army of fans. The final game, Dead Space 3, was released in 2013, before developer Visceral Games moved on to other projects.
However, Visceral’s general manager Steve Papoutsis recently spoke about the franchise that made the studio’s name. Papoutsis said that the developer would love to revisit Dead Space and the Marker universe at some point in the future. Publisher EA has also refused to rule out a return to the franchise, with Patrick Soderlund stating that Dead Space is certainly not dead.
A chance to play another Dead Space game is certainly enticing, but given the lackluster response to Dead Space 3, a few tweaks may be required to make Dead Space 4 a triumphant return for the series. Here is our list of the 5 things we want to see in Dead Space 4.
A Return to Horror
One of the chief complaints about Dead Space 3 was that it felt like too much of a departure from the original game. Many survival horror elements had disappeared, with Isaac Clarke spending large amounts of time fighting against enemies using cover-based shooter mechanics. Gone were the scares of Dead Space, and the underlying dread that followed every moment spent on the Ishigura.
It’s often said that horror games have become less popular, but at the moment the genre seems to be bucking gaming trends. PC gaming has seen a boom in survival horror titles, particularly from indie horror developers, while the success of Alien: Isolation shows that there is certainly still a place at the top table for horror games.
If anything, EA’s diminishing returns with Dead Space should show the publisher that moving the franchise towards an action focus caused a loss in sales. The publisher was disappointed in the sales figures for Dead Space 3, after setting high commercial expectations. A return to what made the franchise great could rekindle financial success rather than continue the series’ slump.
Close Quarters Environments
So far, Dead Space players have visited a monster-filled mining ship, a space station on the brink of collapse and an ice world abandoned by all but the necromorphs. Most Dead Space fans can agree that the most effective locations in the series so far have had one thing in common: a claustrophobic environment.
Part of the threat of the original Dead Space was the lack of safe, open areas, as players were forced through low-ceilinged corridors and maze-like tunnels. There was no sense of escape: even if the player made it to a ‘safe area’ there was still a chance that a necromorph could come crawling out of a vent.
Better yet, even if the player was able to reach an open environment, they were still stuck within a spacecraft. The only respite felt from the Ishimura was when the player went outside of the ship and into an entirely new set of zero gravity dangers. The tension was nearly relentless, and a huge part of what made Dead Space such a terrifying horror experience. Regardless of where Dead Space 4 may be set, Visceral would do well to return to close quarters spaces.
Bring Back the Psychological Horror
One of the best things about Dead Space 2 was the unnerving idea that Isaac’s mind was slowly deteriorating. Isaac was subjected to nightmarish hallucinations, giving players the impression that reality was now beyond the game’s hero. The idea seemed less of a factor in Dead Space 3, aside from the story DLC pack Dead Space 3: Awakened, but it is something that created a lot of tension during Isaac’s fight for survival on the Sprawl.
This could be brought back with real creativity in Dead Space 4, alongside the returning scares of pop-up hallucinations and twisted apparitions. Isaac’s disintegrating mind could lead to interesting new enemies, taking on forms more disturbing than the corporeal necromorphs. There could, for instance, be a boss character that only appears during Isaac’s hallucinatory periods.
Losing to this boss could have no immediate consequence, but using a system similar to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system, the hallucinatory boss could stalk Isaac throughout the game. The boss could form strategies and even adapt its physical form to copy the enemies that cause the player the most trouble – and deaths – during the playthrough. This could eventually culminate in a final showdown with a boss made up of all of Isaac’s biggest challenges.
Page 2: What About Those Markers?
Isaac the Engineer
The original Dead Space very much focused on Isaac’s role as an engineer rather than a soldier. Ammunition for traditional weapons was scarce and sometimes ineffective against the hordes of necromorphs. Players had to quickly learn to aim for limbs rather than heads and torsos, and tools such as the plasma cutter and ripper are seen by some as being more effective than most of the game’s military-grade weaponry.
For Dead Space 3, however, the emphasis on tools was lost, and players could find ammo regularly. Meanwhile, the increased number of human enemies necessitated the use of rifles and standard weapons. A return to Isaac’s role as an engineer, rather than a trained killer, could help the franchise get back to what made it great.
We would like to see weapons harder to find, and the use of engineering tools more essential for Isaac’s survival. Visceral could even up the ante with the weapon crafting dynamic shown in Dead Space 3, making players rely on forging their own weapons from unusable detritus. More emphasis could also be placed on Isaac’s kinesis module, making the player as adept at Isaac’s skillset as the engineer himself.
Tie Up The Story
Although there was some closure to the overall story arc, the ending of Dead Space 3 was bittersweet. The fates of Isaac, Ellie and Carver are still left open-ended and the situation was hardly made better with the Dead Space 3 DLC pack Awakened. Be warned: there are spoilers ahead.
Awakened ended with Clarke and Carver making their way back to Earth on the Terra Nova after finding a way to escape from Tau Volantis. After hearing distressing sounds over the radio when nearing Earth, they find that the Brethren Moons have reached Earth and are attacking. One of the Moons crashes into the Terra Nova, leaving the fate of Clarke and Carver unknown.
There are some theories that point to Awakened’s content being made up entirely of hallucinations, but if the events of Awakened are real it's likely that any further Dead Space games would choose to explore Earth during this attack. A fitting end to Isaac’s story could be his role in the survival – or the extinction – of the human race. It could also be a chance for players to find out the fate of characters such as Ellie, last seen escaping from Tau Volantis, and Lexine.
Is there anything you would like to see in a future Dead Space title? Do you think Dead Space 3's co-op deserves a place in the next Dead Space game? Or do you think Dead Space 3 was a fitting final game for the franchise? Let us know in the comments.