Best known for the series Dead Space, Visceral Games has sadly shut down. Electronic Arts made the announcement earlier this week, shocking many including myself. When I first heard the news I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial. As more reports of the story came out, it finally sunk in. The developers of my favorite game series are gone. With this said, Visceral left behind a legacy of great games. Their passion and determination bled through, leaving a mark on the player. Whether you know the studio or not, chances are you have played one of their games.
When Visceral opened up in 1998, it was known as EA Redwood Shores. It would not become known for what it is today until 2009, where it would be re-branded after the success of the first Dead Space game. In the same year the studio opened, it released its first game.
Future Cop: LAPD featured a pilot who took control of a hovering police vehicle that could transform into a slow moving mech. These two modes were seamless and only added to the non-stop action for this third-person shooter. The game released on the original PlayStation and did not sell the greatest. Without looking back, the developers looked forward to the next game.
Redwood Shores would go on to develop games within the Tiger Woods golf series the next year and a NASCAR title in 2000. Later games also include James Bond titles that spread across a few years. Finally, in 2003, the studio would release their best game yet. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would bring me joy every time I played it. The parallels with the movies and the inclusion of movie clips only made me more excited to play this game.
At the time of my obsession for this game, I did not know they would go on to make my favorite game of all time. Return of the King was something I played all the time on my PS2 because it was also my favorite movie at the time. I also owned the The Two Towers which I loved, but could never beat. Redwood Shores provided a game that I would cherish for the rest of my childhood.
The Golden Age
Dead Space is the game everyone knows Visceral for. It released in 2008, taking inspiration from Resident Evil 4. Some believe Dead Space stole many elements from the series including the third-person and horror aspect. What many don’t know is that Visceral Games was one of the first studios to have no heads-up-display for a horror game. This new model revolutionized horror games to come.
In the game, all the player needs to look at is on the body of the main protagonist, Isaac Clarke. His health would be displayed on his back while his ammo count would show up on when he aimed his weapon. This new design would set a benchmark for later horror games such as Outlast.
Once Dead Space became a critical success, Redwood Shores rebranded into Visceral Games in 2009. With the rebranding came the creating of two sister studios in Montreal and Quebec. Sadly, these two studios would not have the same success as Visceral.
As time went on so did the craving for more Dead Space. Many were thriving to get their hands on it and the sequel finally released in 2011.
Dead Space 2 contained many of the same elements the first game did. What drove the game to be loved the most was its story. Isaac Clarke was now haunted by the visions of his dead girlfriend from the first game. His dementia is slowly killing him inside while grotesque creatures try to rip him apart on the outside. It was truly an masterpiece from Visceral Games.
Even though the game received better reviews than the first, it did not sell enough copies by EA’s standards. It is estimated that Dead Space 2 cost $60 million and sold 4 million copies, but EA said it “underperformed”. This cannot be confirmed because it did not come from EA themselves but a team member from Visceral. Regardless if it “underperformed,” it would still gain one more sequel.
In 2013, we got our third and final installment of Dead Space. Dead Space 3 took us to the icy Marker homeworld of Tau Volantis. Isaac’s main goal is to find Ellie, who has other plans. This third installment incorporated a brand new feature known as weapon crafting. Visceral believed Isaac could craft his own weapons for taking on necromorphs instead of buying them from a store. He is an engineer after all.
Many things did not work well for this installment of the franchise. EA pushed for a cooperative experience and required the game to target a wider audience. Visceral had other ideas in mind, but EA would not have it. The reception of the final game was not as good as the first two. Major concerns over microtransactions and the story falling flat at the end turned many people off. This lack of good reception and low sales caused EA to bench the game for some time.
Later on, Visceral would go on to develop DLC for Battlefield 3 which ultimately led them to create Battlefield Hardline. It would be the first different direction the series would take in some time. Unfortunately the game received mixed reviews. The cops and robber concept didn’t seem to go over well with long time fans of the series. Hardline would be the last game Visceral would release.
Electronic Arts received exclusive rights to the making of Star Wars games. This lead to many studios receiving new projects, Visceral being one of them. Their project was described as a linear action adventure game similar to the Uncharted series. We will never see this vision of the game. It will be turned into a game that players can continue to return to. Until we see what EA has in store for this new vision, we can only speculate as to what it might be.
Farewell Visceral Games
Visceral Games provided a multitude of titles that touched players hearts and stuck with them. Dead Space will always have a place in my heart along with their other titles I enjoyed. Their innovation for games was one of their best talents which I pride them for. Visceral Games, you will be missed. Farewell!