In honor of the release of my second most anticipated game of 2011 (after Mass Effect 3), Dead Space 2, which hits stores tomorrow, or tonight at midnight if you’re a freak like me, I decided to revisit one of my favorite boss battles of all time, and one of my favorite moments from the original Dead Space, released in 2008. Dead Space absolutely blew me away when it first came out and is still one of my favorite games ever. It nailed the third person over-the-shoulder perspective for the survival horror genre, creating an action-packed experience that was still terrifying and gave Resident Evil 4 a run for its money. Its style was reminiscent of great sci-fi horror films such as Alien and Event Horizon, and it had the best sound design I’d ever heard in a game. Thanks to the constant echoes of screams and clatters rattling throughout the USG Ishimura, often not seeing any monsters was scarier than the actual white-knuckle encounters.
Dead Space had a lot of great moments- the first time you stepped into a vacuum, shooting a tentacle as it dragged Isaac to his doom- but none are quite as memorable as Isaac’s final spar with a Necromorph. Except in this case, the Necromorph in question is the Hive Mind, the supreme ruler if you will, of the game’s space zombie menace. After being betrayed by your companion Kendra on the surface of a mining colony, you (Isaac) attempt to reach the shuttle that brought you down to the planet before Kendra leaves without you. You see, the colony was “planet cracked,” i.e. the Ishimura used a gigantic laser to blast a chunk of it into space so they could collect the various asteroids and harvest them for their precious, precious minerals. By now the “gravity tethers” have started to malfunction and a massive chunk of the planet is on an imminent trajectory with its place of origin. So though it’s not timed, this final boss battle is given an extra sense of urgency with the plot point that at any moment a giant piece of rock is going to hit the planet and annihilate the player.
Kendra is about to make it to the safety of the shuttle, with Isaac in hot pursuit, when a massive tentacle rises out of a crater and smashes her to death in a gratuitous display of gore (a penchant for the series). Isaac watches in horror as a tentacle loops around him before its owner emerges from the crater- a massive beast plucked from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft that’s about the size of a small skyscraper. This may not seem that impressive today what with God of War III, but in 2008 this was the biggest boss I’d ever seen in a game. And its massiveness was TERRIFYING.
Dead Space has been criticized for using the somewhat archaic system of putting big yellow orbs on their creepy crawlies to designate weak spots. While I’ll agree that this sort of practice is what removes a player from the immersive nature of a game, in the case of the Hive Mind I was incredibly grateful for it. Though the battle is staged in broad daylight and upon the surface of a planet as opposed to the cramped corridors of a spaceship, the daunting task of taking down a beast that’s about a hundred times your size was so petrifying that any kind of handicap the game could provide was welcome.
The boss battle itself is also quite hard, and took me a while to beat. Not “kicking Satan in the balls for two hours” hard like Visceral’s Dante’s Inferno, but hard nonetheless. Isaac has to dodge crushing blows from the Hive Mind’s tentacles and fight Necromorphs it will occasionally toss onto the ground, all the while blasting those annoying yellow bulbs until they burst. After taking out of couple of them things get really harrowing, as the Hive Mind will snatch you up and ever so slowly bring you closer and closer to its hideous maw. Shooting the remaining bulbs is the only way to get it to drop you, otherwise you’re monster food.
After repeating the above steps a couple times Isaac finally conquers the nastiest of all Necromorphs, but the game doesn’t let up. You dash for the shuttle, strap yourself in and escape the planet mere seconds before it explodes in something akin to a nuclear detonation. And when you finally think you’ve reached a moment of tranquility: Isaac takes his helmet off and heaves a sigh of relief, a Necromorph appears out of nowhere and lunges at the camera. THE END, bitch.
Describing it with words doesn’t really do the battle justice. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and play the original Dead Space if you truly want to understand what I’m talking about. God of War III’s epic setpieces may make the Hive Mind look like child’s play by today’s standards, but in 2008 I was so blown away I forced Alison to watch me fight it so she could see just how far games had come. Not to mention, taking down something that big, virtual or not, sure makes one feel like a badass.
Dead Space 2 comes out tomorrow.
And thanks to Visualwalkthroughs.com for their awesome screen captures.