The USG Ishimura is a haunted house. The halls of the planet cracker mining ship echo with the sounds of the dead, monsters crawling through vents, and the heavy-set footsteps of an engineer having the worst day of his life. Whispers penetrate his helmet and melodic machinery whirrs in the distance until it all comes rushing in and the sound becomes too unbearable to take. That's when the enemy strikes.
One of videogames' most iconic locations has been transformed with the release of Motive's Dead Space Remake. The Ishimura is instantly recognisable not only for its visuals, but how it uses sounds — be they instrument or organic — to create a tone unlike no other. The remake owes much of its maintenance and modifications to composer Trevor Gureckis.
"What [original composer Jason Graves] created was a fantastic musical universe for Dead Space," Gureckis says of PCGamesN. "We were first really focused on major elements like narrative points and specific cutscenes things that we could expand upon, and the further I got along, the more I began to compose more and more music for the bigger scenes."
Throughout my interaction with Gureckis, it became increasingly apparent that his work was always meant to resemble that of EA Motive, as the studio had made it clear from the beginning that it wanted to keep the original Dead Space while adding additional content and mechanics for future installments.
Gureckis played the original Dead Space trilogy as it was released, and so he considers it a dream come true. Motive has stated that he would be willing to contribute if Dead Space 4 is made.
Dead Space was created by Gureckis as a musical journey that changes over time, similar to the deterioration of Isaac Clarke's psyche. “I was able to come up with new ideas that could be repeated many times throughout the game, so that if even subconsciously 'this feels like I'm in a different room in some sort of dialogue,' it's a musical dialogue.
When you're playing the Dead Space Remake, it's sometimes difficult to pin down precisely how this subconscious musical effort actually works. You just know from the music and audio design when you're safe, when the atmosphere is trying to rile you up, and how Isaac is also supposed to be feeling this exact same way, which maps out this unwritten dialogue between you and the character.
Gureckis claims that recording with big orchestras and in his own Brooklyn studio allowed him to get closer to Isaac and his knowledge. Which is also the player's experience, being over Isaac's shoulder and in the room. You hear this shrieking violin going up and down and all that sort of stuff and it's supposed to sound like different pieces of metal.
Gureckis isn't directly responsible for putting his music to the test in Dead Space; instead he gave it to the audio team who could then use the whole tracks or isolated elements from each piece as they wished.
“We wanted to give the audio team just resources and tools to experiment with how they want to utilize it in the game,” Gureckis explains.
In this instance, the Shepard tone is particularly interesting because it demonstrates how music and sounds are so central to horror, and to the Dead Space remake particularly. This type of technique is powerful in a game like Dead Space because it can end up confusing and alienating you at crucial moments.
Check out our guides on all the Dead Space weapon upgrade locations and all the Dead Space node locations, as we've got answers to all of your questions about exploring the Ishimura.