During the course of the first “Dead Space,” you”d be forgiven for thinking Isaac Clarke was a complete bad ass underneath the suit. I always pictured him as a whimpering little bitch, but mainly because he screams at nearly everything that jumps towards him.
Visceral Games did the great luxury of fleshing out Isaac for 2 and the game feels a lot more human for it. Not only is Isaac really not a super-macho badass (the man’s in his mid 40’s, which is uncharacteristic of every muscle bound idiot), but he emotes about lost love.
SPOILER WARNING FROM HERE ON OUT. DON’T COMPLAIN!
The very first chapter of “Dead Space 2” has Isaac running through an insane asylum while strapped into a straight-jacket. This leaves Isaac with literally nothing to defend himself, stripping him of any kind of power that a gun or fists would give him. It’s incredibly tense and it helps build the fact that Isaac is far more powerful on the inside than most of his contemporaries.
Eventually the game gets into Isaac’s psychosis and reveals that he is feeling extremely guilty over the death of his girlfriend. In “Dead Space: Extraction,” players are shown Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole, killing herself over the outbreak of the necromorph.
The entire first “Dead Space” game has Isaac trying to look for her (though getting sidetracked by some bitch’s personal agenda). At the end of that, Isaac sits at the cockpit of an escape pod and watches the last few moments of Nicole’s life on repeat. His facial expression clearly shows the man is in pain.
While 2 doesn’t delve enough into Isaac’s mind as I’d like, there are a few key points worth mentioning. One comes fairly early in the game (around Chapter 4) and showcases the dementia Isaac has. Right after crawling through a shaft, Isaac is confronted by an apparition of Nicole with a needle in her hand, attempting to stab him in the eye. Once you successfully pass the QTE, Nicole disappears and you see Isaac holding the needle up to his face.
It’s very shocking and makes you wonder exactly how deep this man’s heartache goes. His look of fear is also something you wouldn’t expect of a man who has dealt with some of the worst monsters in the known universe.
Later on in the story, Isaac meets up with another woman. Her name is Ellie and she’s trying to get off the Sprawl as much as Isaac. While Isaac simply wants to help her, she wants nothing to do with him and nearly shoots him dead. When she is seen leaving through an elevator, Isaac’s expression is something of worry.
Isaac begins to have transference with Ellie. She is envisioned to be a Nicole that Isaac can save. Towards the end of her role in the game, Isaac even says that to her. He potentially sacrifices his life so that Ellie can live; something he wishes was possible to do for Nicole.
After giving Ellie this speech, Isaac falls to the ground and looks down in a blind gaze. Lost in thought, Isaac isn’t sure of his actions anymore. He looks over to another apparition of Nicole and they share a conversation about why Isaac cannot let go.
This overwhelming sense of guilt is something not normally seen of male characters in video games, especially not ones in action games. It also one-ups “Lords of Shadow” by simply showing the angst in Isaac’s eyes instead of describing it to us.
The final scene that really nailed this out of the park for me happens around the middle of chapter 14. Isaac opens a door and the apparition of Nicole grabs him by the neck and thrusts him into the air. After yelling at him and asking him questions, Isaac utters an extremely heartfelt line.
“If I let you go, I’ve got nothing left.”
As the game closes, Isaac feels betrayed by the visions of Nicole and eventually has to face them in a thrilling climax. Nicole leads Isaac to the marker (the source of all power in the Dead Space universe) and Isaac doesn’t understand. He curses her and then destroys his visions of her.
After that, Isaac is finished. He’s ready to wait for death as nothing is left for him. Even though Ellie comes back and rescues him, the player is left unsure of whether Isaac will truly be able to let go of his guilt.
I know I’ve had similar feelings, though I’ve never actually witnessed the death of a past love interest. The first girl I really fell for in high school I wanted more than you could imagine. She was very friendly to me, we had lots of common interests in music and our attitudes about school were pretty much mirror matches of each other.
The only problem was that she was fairly promiscuous and she had some kind of guilt about it when it came to me. She never dared touch me and wouldn’t give me the luxury of seeing her outside of school. I tried my best to change that and I went overboard and practically began to stalk her.
When she finally ceased contact with me, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I began to feel extreme guilt over the things I had said to her and how I pushed her away. I lamented how I was borderline psychotic in my approach to finding her.
When I finally did let go of the idea of ever seeing her again, I realized that life isn’t so miserable. While losing someone is never easy, letting go of a person you love isn’t saying you’re no good. I definitely made mistakes (and I got my chance to apologize to her a few weeks ago), but I can’t keep thinking about them as current events. I’m no longer that man.
I’m happy that Visceral didn’t gimp out on the narrative for “Dead Space 2.” It could have been exceptionally easy to never give Isaac a voice and portray him as a rock hard man with no emotion whatsoever. I’m pleased they didn’t go that route.
Whatever happens with 3 and Isaac’s further emotional health, we’ll always have the dementia and pain from 2 to teach us to better ourselves. As long as we can wear our feelings on our sleeves and talk to each other, no pain to too great to conquer.