The term “Mutant Space Zombie Cult” is hilarious. It seems to be a combination of everything one would use to parody cheesy seventies horror movies. And yet…
In the universe of Dead Space, there is popular religion called Unitology. We will not be exploring the doctrine here as it’s quite extensive. But the holy symbol of Unitology are massive monolithic statues known as Markers, alien artifacts of unknown origin, believed to be left by divinity.
But the Markers are not the mark of a loving god. Being anywhere in their vicinity can cause insomnia, increased aggression, paranoid delusions, and even full-on hallucinations. But none of these effects compare to the final end of the Markers as well as Unitology. Ascension to a new form of life.
These are the Necromorphs. They are the remnants of human beings after having their tissue modified. Everything that they once were is gone now. In Dead Space, it is you against all of them. Functionally, Necromorphs are zombies, but three factors set them apart from the run-of-the-mill walking dead. First is their appearance and how they become what they are, second is their numbers against your numbers, and third is their behavior.
A creature known as an Infector attaches to the body and alters it. The corpse’s very DNA is changed. In the case of the slasher, the most common type, long praying mantis-like arms burst violently into existence at about the shoulders and the normal arms are fused into the torso, making them vestigial. They elongate, tearing skin and muscle as they morph to accommodate their new form. Once the transformation is complete, the new Necromorph begins its hunt to find more life to kill for infection. The split skin and tissue, the contorted human form, and the still recognizable human face all mock what life is, defying its natural end and turning the deceased into an unthinking, mutated killing machine. In this, the image of the Necromorph is cemented.
And it is an image you will be seeing a lot. Keeping to the first game, you are essentially alone against more than a thousand of these creatures. You enter a massive derelict spaceship with a crew of four other people. Within ten minutes of being on the ship, the two security guards with you are killed and you are separated from the two other survivors. From that point on you are talking to them from a video screen from time to time, but mostly you are alone. The crew of the ship you are on numbered 1,332 . Nearly all of them are now Necromorphs. In your fight through the ship, you will kill hundreds of the monsters, and they will be working their hardest to tear you apart. More than once you will find situations where multiple bodies have fused together to make eldritch amalgams of flesh.
The final way that Necormorphs differ from most zombie mythos is their behavior. Multiple times they show the ability to strategize. In their take over of the massive ship, they moved through the ventilation to avoid detection, and still use it during the game to quickly move around the ship and ambush their prey from vents. They play dead on the ground, waiting for an unlucky target to get close, then spring up and kill them. After a confrontation has already started, they move with inhuman determination. Shooting them in the body is mostly ineffective, the best way to stop them is dismembering their limbs. But even after their legs are gone, they crawl at you with screeches and screams, relentless and angry.
The Necromorphs become more of a force than an enemy. They are countless, merciless monsters that pursue their prey until they’re killed. Their visage is a mockery of everything natural, they quickly and vastly outnumber every adversary they have, and they are skilled and efficient killers who know how to use the environment to their advantage. Add in the take over of larger areas as the games go on and the new forms they take on, and you have something that’ll Mark nightmares for ages.