In Dead Space, No One Can Hear You Stomp
Video games are usually pretty violent. I don't mean that as a negative, just a statement of fact. I like violence. I like it a lot.
In games, we routinely shoot pistols, shotguns, lasers, SMGs, sniper rifles, and even, in my beloved Hitman series, cannons. We see our characters get blown up, mauled by dogs, gored by spikes, severely burned via fiery plants, and hacked to pieces by sharp objects. Games also let us dish it out as bad as we take it, as we punch, slap, karate chop, and kick our way through level after level. I can't begin to tell you how many NPCs I've run over, or in how many makes and models.I've also intentionally let myself get hit by a car in pursuit of a fraudulent insurance payout. If gaming is a palette, carnage is often the paint.
So, it's strange that the classical joys of the stomp remain so underexplored. I've been thinking about this because I'm currently playing through the Dead Space remake and, at the end of last year, I also played its spiritual successor, The Callisto Protocol. Calling Callisto a spiritual successor to Dead Space is actually a bit generous, given how badly it seemed to understand the appeal of the game it was aping. But, like its much better predecessor, The Callisto Protocol tasked the player with frequently stomping on enemies until they splattered into gooey chunks.
Even in a game as mediocre as The Callisto Protocol, ramming your space boot down on baddies is a deeply satisfying act of ultraviolence. Both Callisto and Dead Space map this action to the right trigger, the button we tend to associate with shooting. And, fittingly, stomping is just as important in these games as firing off a few rounds.
In both games, combat focuses on dismemberment. You use your guns to shoot off the arms and legs of your enemies so they can't run toward you or grab you. When those limbs have been removed, the games understand that you don't need to waste a bullet. You can just stomp on them.
Stomping is necessary in both games because enemies are pinatas of credits and health packs and you can only access the goodies within by deploying a good old-fashioned stomp. Like the Doomslayer delivering a gorey punch to a cacodemon, the stomp is satisfying in its own right. It's kind of messed up, but in the world of Dead Space and Doom, the equivalent of taking a trip to the general store is breaking a hip for plentiful gore.
So, it makes sense that Dead Space is the game to pioneer this specific kind of violence in games. Though a solid 90 percent (at least) of games are violent, few are violent in the same way that Dead Space is. It’s one of the few games to approach dismemberment with the same splattered glee as a Sam Raimi movie. Dead Space has a different tone, but its commitment to tearing limbs off feels very Evil Dead.
Given that we're in the middle of a survival horror revival, I think the stomp deserves its moment in the sun. The Callisto Protocol and Dead Space have included it, but I want to get my boots dirty in Resident Evil 4 Remake, Dead Island 2, The Day Before (if it even exists), and more. I don't care if your game doesn't have combat. Let me stomp!
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