The first time I played through Dead Space, I accepted everything at face value: Isaac Clarke was a valiant man of science trapped on a hostile ship. Hell was breaking loose and he was the only man with the tools, wits, will and balls to stop it. I would like to say that I sauntered through the game like a cowboy. I would like to say that retribution rained from my plasma cutter like a shoeless Bruce Willis celebrating Christmas Unfortunately, Dead Space is scarier than walking down an empty country road in the middle on the night. As my neighbors will tell you, I was much closer to Chris Tucker from The Fifth Element than Bruce Willis. Thankfully, by my second play through the frequency of girly shrieks had decreased to a much more tolerable level.
That hallway looks pretty fucking dark.
As I conquered my fears, I became a living weapon, one that would push back the Necromorph horde and show the Unitologists that their religion was evil and responsible for a dangerous conspiracy. I would show these people the purifying light of enlightenment. I was Prometheus, I was Mātariśvan; I bore the gifts of enlightenment to a mass of people that were incapable of overcoming their own failures and weaknesses! I would be the unsung hero of mankind. I was Enki, filling the dried riverbeds with the knowledge-ejaculate of my Wisdom-Gun!
I triumphantly shouted those words into the ether, and immediately realized that I had reached a very odd mental state. I could blame it on the pot of potent coffee that I had consumed, I could have blamed it on my apparent lack of real sleep. But I did not; I put a second pot of coffee on and started the old noggin gears a turning. I sat in a ponderous pose for many hours, I stroked my beard and made many a thoughtful grunt. I knew that part of the second game’s plot involves Isaac Clarke’s psychosis, but I was beginning to suspect that in both of the games we observe a man’s sharp downward spiral. The end of the game reveals that a number of moments were hallucinated, and if that much is true then perhaps a much larger portion of the game was a hallucination. Perhaps I was dealing with the tale of a digital Don Quixote riding a steed named delusion in a tilt with reality. At the end of the night’s academic musings I was left with a single haunting explanation: Dead Space is the chilling tale of a paranoid schizophrenic murderous rampage through a ship full of innocent humans.
Enlightening the masses.
The game opens with a stoically disconnected Isaac Clarke watching a communique from his teary eyed girlfriend. She laments her inability to communicate with him and expresses remorse for “everything that has happened.” This is a clear snapshot of a desperate woman who wants little more than to be able to communicate with the man that she loves. She is clearly distraught of his introversion and inability to communicate. The comic tells us that she took a post upon the Ishimaru after Isaac insists that it would be good for her career, however I believe that his budding psychosis and detachment from reality pushed her away. Hell the video that we witness might be the digital breakup note that she left on his dresser.
Despite being a highly talented and brilliant engineer, Isaac makes no observances during either the initial observation of the ship that he is there to repair, because he is not there to repair anything... in reality, his only goal is... vengeance. The love of his life has abandoned him in favor of a position aboard a ship full of religious nutjobs. How dare she abandon Isaac and science in favor of the cold void of deep space and the false comfort that Unitology provides? The Dead Space comic book goes to great length to talk about how Isaac hates the Unitology religion, as he could not afford college after his mother (a very devout Unitologist) donated the majority of her savings to the church. Because of this maternal betrayal, Isaac came to believe that every person had to choose between science and religion, that there simply was not enough room for both in the mind of the individual. Furthermore, he knew that any man that chose religion is a weak minded fool that registered as a subhuman, for they had seen the possibility of enlightenment and rejected it in favor of empty ceremony and morality.
"I was Enki, filling the dried riverbeds with the knowledge-ejaculate of my Wisdom-Gun!"
His ship is forced to make an emergency landing after the failure of the landing guidance system, and as the player we are led to believe that allstar engineer Isaac Clarke is incapable of keeping one of the most important systems of his ship operational. I posit that the crash landing is not some malfunction or accident, but Isaac’s announcement of his intention to the crew of the Ishimaru. After the crash landing Isaac hacks two separate computer systems rather than wait for someone to open the door for him. The Ishimaru’s security team detects these data intrusions and initiates a lock down. Rapid response units are dispatched, and our protagonist loses all touch with reality as his mind struggles to justify the atrocities he is preparing to commit. He arms himself with a “Plasma Cutter” and proceeds to slowly stalk through a massive vessel, dismembering everyone that stands between him and the woman that abandoned him.
I am going to pause and talk about the choice of iconic weapon. The plasma cutter is referred to as a mining tool designed for cutting through very strong and dense minerals. It is a fucking mining laser! We are supposed to marvel at the way that Isaac cobbles weapons together out of tools and random bits of space detritus. Oh look at how he turns a rock saw into the deadly implement of pain that he calls “The Ripper”. In truth there are only two types of people who repurpose industrial implements into deadly weapons, psychopathic construction workers and Christian Bale.
The early stages of this game consist of silently walking through a massive vessel, calmly removing the limbs of terrified civilians with a piece of weaponized mining equipment. Worse yet, every time he misses an innocent he deals varying degrees of damage to the hull of what is likely a multi-trillion dollar spaceship, who knows how many small children die just off screen as errant shots punch through bulkheads! Just off screen families huddled together out of terror, slowly going purple as the ship’s atmosphere seeps out through a thousand tiny punctures in the ship’s skin.
But our protagonist does not hear their final screams, for he is completely shielded from reality. His encounter suit protects his body while delusions block out the true horror of his crimes. Armed with a number of truly gruesome implements he dismembers men, women and children. He refuses to even give them a clean and painless death, instead he convinces himself that the most effective way to deal with these imagined horrors is to sever their limbs. What sick internal logic is this? One could even posit that this is some twisted inversion of one of their religious tenets.Perhaps he wants them to bleed out, so that they could recognize their fate and cry out to their god. I can only imagine that he wants them to feel completely helpless, abandoned even. A simple death is not enough for Isaac Clarke, he needs a certain level of absolute brutality. This is why he chooses to use large circular saws, plasma cutters and other mining equipment that he has viciously repurposed.
This amoral monster represents a different type of religious intolerance, he is a man who views anyone with a shred of religious inclination as unfit to live in his enlightened society. These beasts do not deserve a reasonable death, but rather a culling. No wonder the second game begins with him in shackled and sedated in a mental institution.