I’m walking around the dark, creepy corridors of the large spaceship Ishimura in Dead Space. Suddenly, I turn a corner and see two large boxes filled with possible goodies. I could shoot them open or use my telekinesis module to grab and slam them into a nearby wall. But that’s not nearly as fun as what I end up doing: I walk over and smash the living shit out of those boxes using Isaac’s incredibly powerful stomp. And like every other time I’ve done this, I smile a bit as his foot crushes into the cardboard. Boy, more games need a button dedicated to stomping shit.
Dead Space—not to be confused with the original Dead Space or the great mobile game that is also just called…Dead Space—is EA’s big, new fancy remake of the original 2008 survival horror game that started it all. And like the original, Dead Space follows space engineer Isaac Clarke as he and a small team arrive to check on a large mining ship and quickly discover almost all of the crew are dead and have turned into horrifying zombie-like monsters known as Necromorphs. Throughout the game, Isaac can use a variety of weapons and gadgets to kill and maim all the various baddies he comes across. But nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to the satisfaction you get from Isaac’s best move: Stomping on stuff until it dies or breaks.
So often in life, it’s the simple things that are the best. A nice, cold glass of lemonade. A good nap. A campfire and some friends. And of course, a large armored boot slamming down with more force than God upon some gross zombie or reward-hiding box. Yet there is, in fact, something better. “Wait,” I hear you ask, “What’s better than one good slam of a giant space foot?” Well, and I think this is pretty obvious, two or three or even seven sturdy stomps. And in Dead Space, that’s possible thanks to the smart choice to not tie the stomp into some stamina meter or cooldown bar. No, instead you can just pound away at whatever nasty creature scared you until your finger is sore and the offending monster is floor mush.
Even better, Isaac will start to insult and yell at whatever you are smashing the more you stomp on it. This is very funny when I’m just smashing a few boxes open. Yeah, fuck those boxes, Isaac! I’m with you!
Perhaps the smartest design choice involving Dead Space’s stomp is that you can pull this move off whenever you want by simply pumping the right trigger of your controller. This might seem like a small, inconsequential choice by the devs of both the remake and the original, but it’s brilliant. Hitting a face button or clicking a stick to stomp would have worked, sure, but it would not be as fun as having a dedicated trigger that I can pull, like a foot gun, to stomp on anything I see fit to flatten. Truly, marvelous game design.
Now, after finishing Dead Space, all I can think about is how so many other games need a stomp button. Sure, Fortnite is fun. But perhaps I’d love it more if I could run up to downed opponents and stomp them. I’m confident the next Alan Wake will be great, Remedy has a fantastic track record, but may I suggest adding a big ol’ stomp to Wake’s toolbox in the upcoming sequel? Ubisoft’s forever-in-development-hell game, Skull And Bones, seems to be a trainwreck. Maybe it, too, needs a stomp? You get what I’m saying. Dead Space proves that a good, powerful, and reliable stomp can make anything better.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I bought some lunch from Taco Bell, and I’m about to open this the Isaac Clarke way: Smashing the bag with my foot and eating whatever flies out.