Necromorphs are the reanimated corpses of the dead, reshaped into horrific new forms by a recombinant extraterrestrial infection. The resulting creatures are extremely aggressive, and will attack any uninfected organism on sight. Necromorphs are the main antagonists of the entire Dead Space franchise.
The sole purpose of almost all Necromorphs is to acquire more bodies to convert and spread the infection. They are believed by some to be the heralds of humanity's ascension, but on a more practical level are the extremely dangerous result of exposure to the enigmatic devices known as Markers.
The Necromorphs are controlled via the Markers by a group of entities known as "Brethren Moons", massive Necromorphs created by killing and infecting every living thing on a planet. The Necromorphs' motivations are to create a mass of necrotic flesh to be collected by the Markers during Convergence, with the intent to create another Brethren Moon.
Infection, Recombination, and Reanimation
The generation of Necromorphs begins with Markers. These structures re-broadcast a highly concentrated electromagnetic signal that alters any dead tissue in range on a cellular level, converting it into Necromorph tissue and re-animating the corpse of the host organism. This signal also affects the minds of intelligent life forms, usually manifesting as dementia and resulting in homicidal and suicidal actions – laying out a rich field of fodder for the Necromorph infection. The infection is also spread directly through the Necromorph pathogen - that is, the reanimated cells created by the Markers and which compose the Necromorphs. Typically, the infection is passed to new host bodies via specialized Necromorphs such as Infectors or Swarms. In order for the Necromorph pathogen to infect a host body, the host must first be killed; for reasons unknown, living victims who come into contact with the microbes do not undergo transformation, although symptoms of paralysis, catatonia, and impaired breathing can occur. While these symptoms do not necessarily ensure the death of the host, they can make it easier for nearby Necromorphs to catch and kill the victims. Living victims that ingest Necromorph tissue in quantity undergo a slow transformation, eventually dying and becoming Feeders.
Once the host is dead, the recombinant properties of the infection take hold. The process is extraordinarily rapid, and predictably violent. Cellular functions go into a self-destructive overdrive, creating new biologically active compounds which are then metabolized by reanimated flesh to fuel further mutation of once-dead flesh. Bones are broken, put together in new configurations, or reshaped into entirely new forms. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds, and generates tremendous amounts of heat. More often than not, the violently spasming corpse becomes so hot that stagnant blood boils in the veins and arteries, rupturing the skin. Vital and digestive organs that are no longer needed are turned into additional musculature, giving all Necromorphs increased physical strength.
Pure Necromorph tissue is light pink and translucent; it is capable of independent movement and sticks to surfaces. The pink tissue is capable of consuming and reconstructing necrotic flesh, and can transform living flesh when injected directly into a living person's blood stream.
The type of Necromorph created during infection largely depends on the location and circumstance. For example, Lurkers are usually created from the infant-like organ banks used for medical transplants or in other cases, dogs. Guardians are created from hosts who have been affixed to the Corruption, and Stalkers are believed to be created from human twins. However, some Necromorphs are clearly composed of more than one human (see Brute, Tripod or Graverobber), which is an indication that some form of intelligence is at work allocating biomass for specific use.
In certain cases, Necromorphs have been created via the insertion of Necromorph tissue into the brain of a living host. This results in exceptionally powerful Necromorphs capable of regenerating severed appendages in a matter of seconds. The most well-known Necromorph of this type was the Hunter, an experiment of the crazed Unitologist Dr. Challus Mercer. Other similar Necromorphs include the Ubermorph encountered on Titan Station and the infected members of the S.C.A.F. Deep Dig Team on Tau Volantis.
All Necromorphs are extremely hardy and capable of surviving in lethal environments such, as the vacuum of space. This implies a total lack of ventilation or reliance upon vascular activity, which explains the Necromorphs' resistance to wounds that would cause massive blood loss or hemorrhaging in uninfected humans.
Many Necromorphs feature yellow, luminescent tumor-like growths or pustules; these sacs often burst or explode violently when ruptured. It is possible that these organs serve as sources of energy for the Necromorph.
The Necromorph infection is not only limited to humans. Dead Space: Martyr describes a Necromorph fish which behaves like all other Necromorphs, as it attacks another fish in order to kill and infect it. Lurkers, although typically created from cloned organ banks, can also be created from dogs. On the planet Tau Volantis, numerous Necromorphs created from native extraterrestrial species were encountered.
Not all dead flesh appears to be used for mobile Necromorph forms; a massive, mat-like growth known as The Corruption is formed from dead matter. The Cyst, Nest, Guardian, and Drag Tentacles are other forms of stationary Necromorph.
When a Convergence Event occurs, a Marker triggers a reaction that draws in and recombines all organic bodies planetwide into a massive Necromorph lifeform similar in size to a moon. These ultimate forms are called "Brethren" moons and there are believed to be many of them in the galaxy, lying dormant. The moon of Tau Volantis is one such creature, albeit an incomplete one.
Behavior and Ecology
Necromorphs are highly aggressive; they will attack any non-Necromorph being on sight, regardless of species or age. The sole purpose of this behavior is to kill new hosts and spread the infection as quickly as possible. Despite being viewed as mindless killing machines, the creatures sometimes display tactical planning and cooperative behavior. They commonly hunt in small packs (see the Pack) of mixed individuals with semi-specific roles, and use stealth, ambush, or group tactics to outsmart their victims. This requires a degree of strategic thinking, and points to a certain amount of individual intelligence and communication. Examples of this include using ventilation shafts to sneak up on prey, playing dead, not attacking until the victim is well within striking range or their back is turned, or using a lure to draw known threats into an ambush. Necromorphs share a form of collective intelligence, allowing them to act in a coordinated manner during an outbreak. This shared consciousness was formerly believed to originate from powerful Necromorphs such as the Hive Mind or Nexus; it is now known that all Necromorphs are controlled by the "Brethren" Moons. It was previously hypothesized that this was exclusive the Tau Volantis Moon, however after its destruction and subsequent awakening of the other Bretheren Moons, it is shown that active moons are capable of creating and manipulating Necromorphs from incredible distances.
Necromorphs not currently engaging a non-Necromorph target have been observed as performing several different behaviors. Many will wander aimlessly, almost passively, with no real destination, until they are aware of a new victim to kill that they will immediately engage. Some will drag bodies to a different location, possibly to make it easier for an Infector to find. Some will hide themselves inside ventilation shafts, setting up new or resetting previous ambush sites. Some will simply stand in place, waiting for a new victim to come to them. When a target is present but out of range, they will often watch the victim and attempt to intimidate them with loud growls and threatening poses. Feeders are observed to do what appears to be eating when no living beings are nearby.
Beyond pack tactics the creatures have never really been observed to directly interact with one another (other than the Stalkers, and The Pack see below). They do not audibly talk to one another, they do not touch each other in a social sense (though one might get in the way of another during an attack), and they have not been recorded exchanging more subtle chemical signals between each other, i.e. pheromones are never mentioned.
The scope of their behaviors is expanded upon in Dead Space 2 with the introduction of Stalkers. Outside of the Hive Mind, Stalkers seem to have the strongest sense of pack cohesion and individual intelligence shown from Necromorphs, as they will often peek around corners to lure Isaac while another will charge from a different direction. They are also the only known Necromorphs to directly communicate with one another. The noises they make seem to hold some significance, e.g. the Stalkers will make a noise while or just after Isaac has moved his location, alerting the other Stalkers. It is also possible that they communicate with each other, such as the Pack.
In Dead Space 3, it can be seen that when Necromorphs are left idle for years at a time, they curl up in a hanging patch of the Corruption to conserve their energy and wait for unsuspecting prey. This results in the Necromorphs becoming mummified in the process if left in this state. An example of this is seen when Isaac and Carver enter the dilapidated CMS Roanoke , a 200-year old ship in orbit over Tau Volantis. A form of Necromorphs called Wasters are seen carrying melee weapons, something that is odd for Necromorph behavior as they never wielded man-made tools before. This could mean that some Necromorphs are evolving and may have gained a slight form of intelligence or quite simply, their behavior might be actualized contextually by the common consciousness. Another example of Necromorphs using contextual adaptation as a form of intelligence is the Creeper and Shambler. When the Creepers take over the body of a S.C.A.F. or Circle soldier's corpse, they immediately know how their gun functions and will wield the weapon, albeit in a rudimentary manner with poor accuracy (indicating a low level of fine motor control). One other theory as to why Necromorphs can carry weapons suggests that when the hosts died, their hands froze due to rigor mortis, still holding onto their weapons.
"Take their legs out, and they'll drag themselves toward you. Shoot off an arm, and they'll use their other arm to rip into you. Nope, the only real way to take these creatures out is to completely rip them apart." —Glen Schofield, Dead Space Executive Producer
As said in the previous section, Necromorphs do not suffer from the vulnerabilities associated with a body that needs interconnected vital organs, centralized nervous system, respiration, or vascular support. Injuries that would kill an ordinary human, such as a shot to the cranial cavity containing the brain, have little effect on them. Countless have died due to not knowing the Necromorphs' only vulnerability: dismemberment. The only quick and effective way to kill the creatures is to literally chop them to pieces by removing the head, arms, legs, and other appendages until the creature is killed. Some Necromorphs like The Hunter, The Ubermorph and the Regenerators cannot be killed by dismemberment as they are able to regenerate all of their body parts after dismemberment; the only way to permanently kill these Necromorphs is by destroying the entire creature at once, as seen when Isaac killed the Hunter by burning it with a shuttle's engines.
The act of strategically removing the limbs from the creatures is dubbed "Strategic Dismemberment" by the Dead Space game team. Each creature has its own strategies when it comes to dismemberment: some creatures will simply die after enough limbs have been removed, some creatures will die instantly if a specific limb is cut off, while some creatures will become even more of a threat if shot in the wrong place. Learning how to dismember creatures is mostly done through trial-and-error. However, dismemberment is the only effective way to truly stop the reanimated horrors in their tracks and is the best way to survive. In Dead Space 3, dismemberment doesn't play as big of a role in killing Necromorphs. If a weapon does a large enough amount of damage per hit, a damage upgraded seeker rifle for example, it can kill them with a single hit in the chest or one of the limbs on the hardest of difficulties. The Feeders are also the only Necromorphs who's weak point is the head. With every other variant, shooting the head will only drive it into a berserker-like rage causing it to swing its arms wildly and keep walking towards its prey.
Types of Necromorphs
- Alien Necromorph
- The Pack
- Hive Mind
- Creeper and Shambler
- Split Face