Review: ‘The Art of Dead Space’

artofdeadspace1“Art of…” books are unique in that, even if you aren’t a huge fan of the book’s subject matter, you can find yourself spending a lot of time perusing its pages. Such was the case with me and The Art of Dead SpaceI’ve never played the games (the third of which was just released earlier this month), so my only exposure to the series comes from reading and reviewing the graphic novels and, now, this book.

The Art of Dead Space is an exploration of what must be a cavernous archive of material dating back to the earliest days of the first game’s production back in 2006. This book, as jam packed as it is, likely represents only a fraction of the work done by teams of artists under the Visceral Studios banner. Effort was made to make it as comprehensive as possible, as we see early concepts and designs ranging from the human heroes of the series to its otherworldly creatures, and as many of the ships, weapons, tools, vehicles and even logos as could be crammed in along with them.

It’s not just pretty pictures, either, as written commentary accompanies many of the pieces to explain the evolution of the design work and the choices that were being made. Clearly, the game’s designers had more on their minds than making cool visuals – they were striving to create an entire aesthetic that worked together and made sense as a cohesive whole. You have to admire that dedication to detail, especially when much of what is created is going to fly across the screen in a flurry of action.

About halfway through the book we hit my favorite part – the creature designs. From what I’ve gathered in my reading, the Necromorphs of Dead Space were heavily influenced by John Carpenter’s classic take on The Thing, and that is confirmed in both words and pictures here. Still, it’s great to see the pains the artists took to create their own distinct, twisted look, and what they came up with is simultaneously beautiful and grotesque.

I also enjoyed seeing how recurring design elements were utilized, from the “rib” imagery to the influence of DNA on the religious relics that are central to the Dead Space story. Again, its the careful use of such details that help tie such massive visual creations together, and the team behind these games should be commended for their careful, deliberate choices.

Production-wise, Titan Books has done its usual stellar job on this volume, from the embossed, glossy black covers to the Rorschach-like endpapers to the stunning amount of work between them.

Take it from a guy totally unfamiliar with Dead Space – liking the videogame is not a prerequisite for enjoying this book.

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