Being a horror genre, the Dead Space franchise isn’t exactly for the faint of heart. Viewers are confronted with dark areas, creepy sounds and violence that can compete with even the bloodiest media. Although the franchise has previously moved from survival horror to action horror, the upcoming remake of Dead Space seems to bring players back to slow and constant fears.
One of the scenes in Dead Space 2 almost perfectly draws the line between tension and horror. This is the infamous eye machine scene involving Isaac, a hallucination of his dead girlfriend Nicole, and a very sharp needle. Those who played Dead Space 2 will remember this scene, probably because of how close and personal the experience was.
Memory is a terrible thing
If we look at the situation in perspective, then the action takes place during the final act of the game. Accepting that Nicole’s hallucination is part of himself, Isaac willingly follows her instructions and enters the NoonTech diagnostic machine. The machine was used by the scientific department of Titan Station to extract Marker information from subjects affected by strange artifacts, with the intention of creating their own Marker. After being subjected to numerous tests and medications by the same scientists, Isaac forgot most of what the Marker showed him. Fortunately, the NoonTech diagnostic machine allows him to access all the information about the markers, including how to destroy them.
As soon as Isaac positions himself, the NoonTech diagnostic machine buzzes to life and forcefully ties him with straps. As soon as Isaac is in place, he begins to lower a very long and thin needle to Isaac’s eye. The tip of the needle (no pun intended) should pierce Isaac’s lateral cranial body – the part of the brain where the Marker information is stored. Isaac begins to panic, and the real-time cut scene ends.
Stick a needle in your eye
This is where the needle controls are transferred to the players. They need to carefully lower the needle into the center of Isaac’s pupil — not an easy task, given how much he moves. As the needle approaches, Isaac’s movements, grunting and heart rate become more erratic; complicates the successful operation. If you don’t align the needle laser or let Isaac get too tall, it will cause a terrible death animation when the eye machine crashes and pierces Isaac through the eye.
The tension that the player feels is compounded by many factors. Apart from Isaac’s irregular movements, there is clearly not enough music. This highlights the sound signals of the heartbeat monitor, which become more frequent the closer the needle of the NoonTech diagnostic machine is to Isaac’s eye. The fact of lowering the needle is also an important factor, since its approximation reduces the margin of error and brings the camera inwards. Since all their attention is focused on this single task, both failure and success are met with a sharp reaction. Death can cause players to scream or swear, while the successful completion of the operation leads to them breathing a sigh of relief.
For a sequence in which there is no combat or dialogue, the scene with the NoonTech diagnostic machine is one of the most intense parts of any Dead Space game. This is a moment that can only work in a video game environment; since putting control of such a delicate machine in the hands of the players exacerbates the tension. By putting players in Isaac’s shoes for most of the game, Dead Space 2 changes perspectives, allowing players to control the machine that decides his fate. It’s not a pretty sight, but it effectively keeps the players on their toes.
Dead Space will be released on January 27, 2023 on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.