How Dead Space Speedrunners cut their runs in half
Ahead of Dead Space's debut at SGDQ, let's take a look at the tech that allowed speedrunners to reduce their run times by half.
The Dead Space series strikes fear and adrenaline into the hearts of its players, and with rumors of a reboot to the series as well as Dead Space premiering at Summer Games Done Quick — now is a very special time for Dead Space speedrunners.
Dead Space is a little over an hour of brutally challenging tricks and skips, coming together to form an incredibly difficult (and satisfying) run. With the help of Looney, let’s dive into the tech that broke Dead Space wide open: Pulse Boosting.
What is Pulse Boosting?
Pulse Boosting is a trick that abuses the Pulse Rifles alternate fire mode which allows the main character, Isaac, to go flying, skipping large portions of the game. Pulse Boosting was found September 2020 by r3sus, the contributor to many different strats for Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2.
How does it work?
In Dead Space, weapons collide with the game world. You can see this yourself by simply walking up to a wall and aiming, the game will push you away slightly. This was likely implemented during development to prevent you from shooting at or interacting with things on the other side of the wall — which funnily enough you can still do with some ingenuity.
So that’s step one of the trick, for step two we’ll need the trick's namesake, the Pulse Rifle. The Pulse Rifle has an alternate firing mode where Isaac crouches down and fires the rifle 360 degrees around him. If you aim into a wall and on the same frame perform the alternate fire of the Pulse Rifle, the game will shoot you away with a massive amount of speed. Runners make the setup for this trick much easier by unbinding “stomp,” which otherwise would interfere with the boost. Then all they need to do is hold the spacebar and aim into the wall, buffering the alternate fire so it triggers the first frame you aim every time with ease.
Of course, even with the inputs being made a lot easier, that doesn’t make the trick easy at all. Making Isaac actually do the boost is the easy thing, but getting him where he needs to be is a whole other thing. The boost can be affected by Isaac’s starting animation, as well as the frame in that animation, framerate, angle, among other things, it’s certainly no easy trick.
This physics-defying trick is done by transitioning out of a zero g zone while meleeing, which makes the game think you’re still in zero g. Because of that, the game still sticks you to surfaces and tilts the game world around you as if you were still in zero g, tilting Isaac. This can be used in strategic places to skip fights or elevators.
Using nothing but a table and an elevator, runners can skip a huge chunk of chapter 10 - the biggest single skip in the run.
A tiny little hole in the zero gravity area of Chapter 9 allows runners to take the effect from zero gravity for the rest of the level, even in areas out of bounds. This trick has some… interesting effects, as you can see.
Games Done Quick
After everything was said and done, Pulse Boosting managed to chop off a little over an hour — essentially slicing the run right in half.
If you’re eager for more Dead Space, Looney will be running Any% with commentary from Waifu and Sharkhat. The event started Sunday, July 4th, and Looney’s run takes place on July 6th. If you’re interested in watching, keep an eye on the schedule as it tends to shift around.
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