Nine months ago, publisher Electronic Arts made the surprising announcement that it would be closing down Visceral Games. The developer was best-known for creating the Dead Space series, a trio of survival horror games that sent players to space and put them against zombie-like enemies called Necromorphs. The games were well-loved by fans and the closure of the studio dashed hopes for a Dead Space 4.
Dead Space 4 will never be released (with Visceral Games at the helm, at least), but the developer had plenty of ideas about what the game would look like. In an interview, Ben Wanat, the creative director of Dead Space and the current creative director at Crystal Dynamics, revealed that Dead Space 4 would have been a combination of non-linear exploration and chapter-based gameplay. The concept was based on the famous flotilla section of Dead Space 3, as Dead Space 4 would have seen players “survive day to day against infested ships, searching for a glimmer of life, scavenging supplies to keep your own little ship going, trying to find survivors.”
In Wanat’s examples of how this may play out, the developer says that players could perhaps follow a trail of ship carcasses to an orbital station which may have the fuel and resources allowing them to travel via ShockPoint Drive. Players would try to figure out what happened in a particular region, battling scores of Necromorphs from ship to ship” before learning a “critical bit of plot info” and gaining the ability to travel via ShockPoint Drive to new areas.
Other gameplay features Wanat would like to have seen in Dead Space 4 included new types of Necromorphs specially designed for zero-g, due to the greater focus on exploration. There would also be lots of different types of ships (featuring different themed decks and gameplay opportunities), significant tweaks to the crafting system and the game may have featured a new protagonist, switching out Isaac for Ellie Langford. Fans’ Dead Space 4 wishlists included a return to horror as well as more close quarters so it doesn’t quite fit what some were asking for, but it does sound intriguing at least.
For many Dead Space fans, this new information about what Dead Space 4 would have been will only be upsetting especially given EA’s supposed reasons for closing Visceral. EA shut down Visceral’s Star Wars game because it was too linear, choosing to pivot the game and give it a broader focus. If games with more to do make better sense from a business perspective, many will be asking why Visceral wasn’t given the chance to develop its decidedly non-linear concept for Dead Space 4.