Review: The tools of The Art of Dead Space

The trilogy is complete. It’s time to look behind the curtain.

Dead Space is a creepy, visceral first-person shooter franchise, set in a universe beset by a supernatural evil which twists men to its dark purpose, creating a legion of misshapen aberrants to tear at the fabric of society and sanity. By many accounts Dead Space is what a modern take on Doom should have been.

The player takes on the role of Isaac Clark, an engineer who gets drawn into conflict with the tormented creatures created by the dark forces behind the Church of Unitology. To fight back, he has an arsenal of machine tools, and the know how to make them lethal. The major combat mechanic of the games is a limb-severing system, which allows Isaac to tactically take out enemies that have no real weak-spots. He travels from the Ishimura, a deep space ship that served as the setting for the first two games to the Sprawl, a huge space station colony which serves as the backdrop for the final game, all the while fighting for his life and his sanity against The Markers, the mysterious icons that have appeared around his society.

The Art of Dead Space, like any art book, explores the visual design elements of the story-world with a goal of illuminating the process. The inside of the book is filled with images as creepy and unnerving as the game itself, perhaps more so, as they are brought into the light, and made clear just how disturbing they can be. I would avoid the Necromorphs chapter while eating, if possible.

Of course, the stuff I really get into is the world-building. Character details are neat, and props are cool, but the real treat are the interior locations, maps, ships, cities. The amount of detail that goes into the world-building for a game like this is sometimes difficult to appreciate from the inside, especially when you’re really only worried about being ambushed by Necromorphs again, but here it’s all laid out, and most of it even comes accompanied with explanations from the game’s artists, designers, and directors.

Dead space may not have the heft of Assassin’s Creed or Elder Scrolls, but it’s no lightweight, and it’s clear that the creators are a passionate lot, who really put heart and soul into freaking us all out. The art book makes that abundantly clear, and would make a great addition to any collection of art books. Even if you’re not a fan of the series, try to get a chance to flip through it, at least, as it’s a great collection of sci-fi/horror art, which doesn’t just grow on trees. Ideally, you’ll want to look through it while listening to the Dead Space 3 soundtrack for ambience.

The Art of Dead Space, which includes art from Dead SpaceDead Space: ExtractionDead Space: Ignition, Dead Space 2, and Dead Space 3, is available now from Titan books.