Dead Space 3’s Fear System is the most horrifying audio you’ll ever not see

The first time I played Dead Space, I couldn’t sleep. I saw Necromorphs crawling on the ceiling above my bed and had to leave a night light on for safety and sanity. The rest of my play sessions were in the middle of the day, where those things couldn’t find me.

My terror stemmed from some ineffable quality of the game that I couldn’t explain. It wasn’t the slow pacing or the hideous creatures. It was something else, some sense of forboding of something somewhere just out there. Well, I recently figured out why.

As part of our ongoing series with Creators Project, I travelled to Redwood Shores to talk to the audio team behind Dead Space 3. As it turns out, the heart of fear doesn’t lie merely in what you see. It’s in what you don’t see. That’s where the audio team and their Fear System comes in.

Every object in the world has a value from 0 to 1. Zero means nothing’s happening. You’re safe. One means the world has become a dark and scary place. Dead Space 3 expresses fear by adjusting the compositions that play, Isaac’s breathing, the discordant notes. Everything that would make an encounter scarier suddenly becomes that much more frightening.

Check out our video above. It’s one of the most fascinating looks at how audio is done.

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