Do you remember that scene from Aliens where the young girl Newt says to Ripley: “ My mommy always said there were no monsters-no real ones anyway-but there are, aren’t there?”. There’s something that I have always loved about that scene, which probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve always been fascinated by monsters in films and books. The more grotesque or horrifying the creature is, the better I like it. So it will come as no really big surprise then that in my gaming days I always enjoyed games that had an abundance of monstrosities that were unleashed upon a helpless player. Well, helpless of course being a relative term, seeing as usually in games like that your player character had an overload of weaponry to fight them with. With games becoming more and more realistic, and even at times are close to being like interactive movies, there was a particular game series that came out in 2008 that one could almost describe as being the lovechild of Aliens and The Thing. That series was called Dead Space, and it truly captured the horror and claustrophobia that both science fiction classics were so famous for.
Dead Space takes place in the far future, in the year 2508 to be exact where things haven’t exactly been going well for our home planet. The human race faces near extinction because most of the resources of Earth have been depleted. Huge ships that have been named “Planet Crackers” are sent out to harvest resources from barren planets. One of those ships the ISG Ishimura is the oldest one of the fleet, and is currently out on an illegal mining operation at a remote planet called Aegis VII. When contact is lost with the huge vessel, a rescue operation is sent out to investigate what’s caused the ship to go silent. The maintenance vessel Kellion is the one that’s been chosen to rendezvous with the Ishimura, and amongst the rescue party is engineer Isaac Clarke, whose girlfriend Nicole was part of the crew of the Ishimura. Upon arrival things go wrong right from the start. A docking malfunction crashes the Kellion inside the landing bay of the planetcracker. Miraculously no one is killed, but the relief of the rescuers is short lived. Something very sinister has taken hold of the crew of the ISG Ishimura, turning most into hideous monsters, that are barely recognisable as humans. Isaac Clarke is in for the fight of his life….
When this game first came out it received numerous awards, and some very positive reviews. And rightfully so. It’s a fantastic and incredibly frightening science fiction horror experience, that truly feels like you are totally immersed in an interactive movie. The horrible monsters that the player has to face as Isaac are all the more scary because they used to be human beings. There’s nothing human about them anymore though, as they almost look like their former anatomy was reshaped by a madman. It was an incredibly succesful game, and it spawned two sequels that were equally popular, and sold even more copies than the first one. I have had the pleasure of playing all three games, and it’s one of the gameseries that I have very fond memories of. Especially because it’s a game that’s almost like an homage to some of science fiction’s best horror movies. So why all this talk about a computergame, when this is supposed to be a review for a book? Well, I had the sheer luck to come across a book that delved into the history of this great franchise while I was browsing through the Amazon webshop. Which of course is always a bad idea, especially for my wallet.
That said, I’m incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to buy this book, because it’s absolutely amazing. I have always loved art, and am able to gaze for hours on end at paintings and drawings, especially if they contain a lot of intricate details. And in that aspect this book serves of plenty of those kind of works of art. In this 192 page book, you get a look at a gallery of over 300 images, that depict concept art and sketches that were made for all three of the games. Showcasing the many environments, player characters, ships and monsters that were made for this game, it’s a visual feast for the eyes. If you have ever played the games it brings back quite a few memories, and also a few shocks. I don’t think you have to wonder by the way, which chapter I enjoyed the most. It’s astounding how many hours of work went into the creation of this richly detailed gameworld. Next to the images it also contains some interviews with the creators of the games, and what went through their (twisted) minds in coming up with the many designs that these games are known for. The book is printed on sturdy and high quality glossy paper that only enriches your viewing pleasure.
So with this being a book that of course is based on a computer game, can it be enjoyed by someone who isn’t a gamer, or who hasn’t a clue about what Dead Space is? I think the answer to that question pretty much depends on whether or not you love science fiction and horror. If you are a fan of the movies that I mentioned in this post, there is a very high chance that you will still get a huge kick out of this book, even if you have never even heard of this gameseries. As you can see from some of the pictures that I have included in this post, your eyes will be put into overdrive as the images presented to you are astounding. While there is text in this book that talks about the history of the game, and some of the decisions that went into the creation of certain aspects of it, the art takes centre stage. And that’s a good thing, trust me on that. Having finished the book, I know I will be returning to it many more times, to just gaze at the gorgeous imagery created by the incredibly talented artists that this book showcases. Just remember one thing: In space no one can hear you scream.
I give the Art of Dead Space a 10 out of 10 score.