Dead Space is a third-person shooter video game, the first in a series. It is brutal, horrific, and, in its own way, very Lovecraftian. The story is essentially an expanded, protracted version of Alien: A rescue ship answers the distress call from a gigantic mining ship, a planet-cracker named Ishimura, that is orbiting a newly discovered world. When the rescue crew get on board, they find signs that something horrible has happened. Isaac Clarke, an engineer, gets separated from the rest of the crew during an attack by monsters that bear a faint resemblance to former Ishimura crew members. Using various mining tools as weapons, Isaac must move through the ship, restoring power and correcting errors in the hope that he and his friends will be able to escape the ship. Along the way, he is continually attacked by swarms of these monsters, and the only way to stop any of them is to cut of their limbs.
There are at least a dozen kinds of different creatures on the prowl, and as the story advances, we find that an ancient alien artifact was brought up to the ship by the mining crew. Rumors of its existence have existed for hundreds of years, and a religion, Unitology, has grown up around those rumors. The fundamental belief is that the marker will confer immortality. Well, that’s kind of true. It spreads an intelligent infection that reanimates corpses into Necromorphs. Some become bat-like infectors, others sprout scorpion tails and enormous tusks, still others become huge, fat, wobbly creatures with scythe like arms. Be careful how you kill them, because they are really pregnant; blow open that fat stomach and you’ll be devoured by spawn. My personal favorite for shivers are the guardians, bodies that have attached themselves to the walls with large fleshy masses; they expel missle-shooting flesh-lumps from an opening in their midsections as well as attacking with a long tentacle that snakes out from the same opening. The whole time, the remnants of the human is screaming as if in great agony.
Like movies, video games are the product of a huge number of creative people. Ian Milham the art director, was the guy in charge of wrangling this large crew and keeping the look consistent, and he did a helluva job. All of the design work is first rate, but I want to focus in particularly on the work of Ben Wanat, who, at least according to the book, The Art of Dead Space, did the bulk of the work designing the Necromorphs. I’d love to see more of the actual development of the creatures, as he said in an interview on games radar that some of the creatures went through as many as 20 iterations.(The final designs would, I think, have scared even HPL. All of his trademark concepts are embodied in these monstrosities, whether acknowledged or not.)
Want has worked on a lot of games, including Dead Space 2, the Lord of the Rings games, From Russia with Love and others I’ve never heard of, but from what I’ve seen, he is one of the finest creator of Lovecraftian beasties I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see him art direct del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness or a full-length version of The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
At any rate, the gallery includes a number of Wanat’s concept paintings and a few pics from the actual game.There are three excellent featurettes here that feature footage from the game as well as interviews with principals from the production team. Unfortunately, Ben Wanat isn’t included.