- "More of what?! What the hell are those things? Is that the crew?!"
- —Kendra Daniels
Necromorphs are mutated and reanimated corpses, 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 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 a Convergence Event, with the intent to create another Brethren Moon.
A singular Nnecromorph is created by an Infector. Which type of Necromorph, however, depends on the circumstances.
- Pukers: Being killed by another Puker and becoming a Fodder. This happens because the infection rapidly reproduces what's left of the original Puker's vomit and turns it into a puker. (The original Puker is unknown.)
- Spitters: The same as pukers except with an Infector rather than swarm.
- The Pack: Infector infects a child's corpse rather than adult.
- Lurkers (Human): When an Infector infects premature infants/unborn infants that were old enough to become lurkers. Any younger rots and becomes Swarmers.
- Lurkers (Dog): Created when a dog corpse is infected by a swarm/Infector. Also occurs if they eat infected flesh or tissue.
- Crawlers (Human): These are created when a born human infant/toddler is infected by an Infector. The Necromorph fluid from the Infector fills the baby to the brim and causes them to become suicide bombers if they get to close to a non-infected. (The reason this happens with crawlers and not lurkers is because when it happens to crawlers it is directly filling them up but with lurkers it is not.
- Crawlers (Alien): These beasts have the same functionality as their previous brethrens except they are created from unborn aliens that get infected.
- Feeders: These are created from cannibalistic humans that become mutated by infector.
- Pregnants: Created when a mother is infected that has 1-2 unborn babies inside of them. If the baby is too young it will rot, fall apart, and become Swarmers.
Pregnants (Alternate): Created when a corpse is filled with corruption. Can be male or female.
- Pregnants (Swarm): If multiple Swarms manage to fit into a host at once, they reproduce and turn the host into a Slasher, except if the enemy cuts open the stomach, they're in for a nasty surprise.
- Dividers: If a human dies from age/natural causes rather than murder or Necromorphs, and an Infector stumbles across the body, than a Divider is made.
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 it is believed that there are many of them in the galaxy, lying dormant. The moon of Tau Volantis is one such creature, albeit an incomplete one.
- "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
Necromorphs have specific vulnerabilities depending on their archetype. Wounds that may "kill" certain Necromorphs may not necessarily kill human beings and vice versa. Despite their apparent similarities, one should not assume that the vital organs of either forms are similar. For example, most human beings can survive having all their arms and legs amputated cleanly, whilst most Necromorphs can survive having (all) their heads amputated cleanly, with the reverse being fatal in both cases. However, both organisms, as with all known organic systems, seem to assume a state of lifelessness after a sufficient volume of blood loss is induced. When dealing with a Necromorph, it is advisable to induce as much blood loss as possible by any means necessary; while shooting at the torso or head are inefficient ways to deprive a Necromorphic host body of blood, enough shots to the head or body will eventually drain the body to the point where it assumes lifelessness i.e. the physical inability to mobilize themselves despite the presence of any functional limbs still connected to the host. The typical Necromorphic limb has for all practical significance, similar characteristics to a shaped mass of spongy muscular tissue made hard via engorgement with the host's blood; it is commonly observed that removal of such limbs will cause the host to lose a substantial amount of blood while the limb itself turns flaccid.
Countless combatants have died due to not knowing a specific Necromorphs' specific vulnerability via dismemberment. One systematic approach to "killing" these creatures is to chop them to pieces by removing their head(s) arms, legs, and other extremities until the body assumes lifelessness. Some Necromorphs such as The Hunter, The Ubermorph and The Regenerators are ineffectively neutralized by dismemberment alone as they are able to regenerate their limbs quickly; one 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 their own strategies when it comes to dismemberment, and to know them is indispensable in a game where the supply of ammo is low by definition: 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 even on the hardest of difficulties. The Feeders are also the only Necromorphs whose 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 their arms wildly and keep walking towards their prey.
As of Dead Space 3, the various types of transformations certain Necromorphs take on after specific limbs have been cut off makes it hard to safely know which limb to dismember and which one not. The most surefire way of subduing these creatures is to remove an arm and a leg, as this will prevent almost any kind of further transformation of the torso and legs. This method is highly advisable on Wasters, Slashers and Pukers, as they die instantly when this is done, Wasters will also not be able to mutate.
- Necromorphs bear similarities to a number of other creatures featured in science fiction films, literature and video games:
- Necromorphs are similar to the "Xenomorphs" in the Alien movies in that they will travel by vent or other areas that they climb from for the element of surprise. Both species also parasitize human bodies in order to reproduce.
- Necromorphs are similar to the Flood from the Halo series and The Many from System Shock 2. All three infect other lifeforms, twisting them into undead creatures designed to infect more hosts, and are controlled by gargantuan creatures composed of countless corpses.
- Necromorphs also bear a resemblance to the monsters from the 1989 movie Leviathan. In the film, a deep-ocean mining team encounters a mutagen that can merge together, re-shape and reanimate the corpses of the dead. The plot of the film bears some parallels with that of Dead Space: Martyr.
- Necromorphs also share similarities to the alien species referred to as 'The Race' featured in the 2002 game Run Like Hell in which they are both creatures that require human corpses to create new creatures or to modify existing beings. As well as both species being able to communicate to the human protagonist through crude methods (Brethren Moons using the Markers and telepathic means, whilst the race turns humans into creatures that share their characteristics as well as personality and intelligence). Interestingly both species also use corpses to create flesh-like walls that slowly consume the environment around them.
- Necromorphs also have traits resembling the parasitic alien life forms from the series of films based on the film The Thing, specifically the John Carpenter film and it's prequel. The Thing is an alien life-form that takes on the traits of they victims, but is also able to mold their body into new forms that allow it to fight, such as a set of teeth in the rib cage and large tentacles.
- This parallel is taken further in Dead Space 3, where the primary setting is on a frozen planet, and the setting of both Thing films was in the antarctic.
- The early ideas for the Necromorphs was that they were some sort of bloated, translucent corpses that had floated ashore of a beach. However, this concept was put aside and later changed to as how they look now. Apparently the creative team of Dead Space created hundreds of concept for the looks of the Necromorphs.
- As seen below in the gallery, the developers seemed to first go for an insect-like look of the Necromorphs after scrapping the bloated corpse-look, that later changed into more human-like. However, they kept some insect characteristics for the Necromorphs for the final productions.
- Not once in the series does any character, playable or otherwise, say the name of any Necromorph, save for the Leviathan, the Hive Mind and the Nexus. The Tau Volantis Moon is not referred to by its full name and is only mentioned as a moon. A plausible explanation to this is that the characters in the series has never come up with names for these creatures, as naming them seemed almost pointless except for the purpose of identifying each individual strain, which is not particularly helpful during a large-scale outbreak.
- As a humorous side note, Necromorphs of any kind seemed to completely lack their former human genitals, despite most Necromorph forms being naked. These extremities have likely atrophied or somehow "converted" into more useful biomass during the human's transformation. Another plausible explanation is that the developers have censored them on purpose, or that it's just pointless for Necromorphs to have them.
- Despite the term "Necromorph" being coined by Dr. Terrence Kyne in 2508, Earl Serrano somehow knew of and used it many times in his logs in 2314, almost 200 years before Kyne first invented it. This is more than likely an oversight by the creators.
- The term "Necromorph" is a neologism comprised of the root words "necro" (from the Greek word νεκρός, nekrós) meaning "dead" and "morph" (from the Greek μορφή, morphế) meaning "form" or "shape"; thus "Necromorph" can be translated into the synonymical morphologically parsed term "Dead-Form", an apt name for the creatures given their nature.
- According to the design team, the key idea of the Necromorphs is that they are made up entirely of human body parts: scythe arms were once the bones of the human host, tentacles are made up of a host's intestines, etc. The result is that the entirety of the Necromorph is comprised of re-purposed organic parts from a previous host or hosts. The team studied medical, autopsy, and accident photos in order to recreate the effect of a ravaged human body, to give a sense of realism as to how the human bodies in the games have been twisted into monsters.
- The Necromorphs seem to be less inclined to attack those under the influence of the Markers, as shown in the comics. Natalia Deshyanov was not attacked by the Necromorphs as she was making her way to the rover bay, only observed. This could also be said for Dr. Mercer and Nolan Stross, and how they were able to avoid infection. They more than likely don't attack do to the fact that although they are not Infected, they are still being controlled/influenced by a Marker.
- As seen in Dead Space 2’s multiplayer, Necromorphs can see neuron strands in the human body. It is possible to speculate that Necromorphs can sense electric impulses (neurokinetic impulses). This would explain why the Pukers, having had their sensory organs melted off, are able to accurately determine the location of the player and aim their acidic spit at them.
- If a Necromorph places Isaac Clarke, Gabe Weller, or John Carver in a quick-time event with other Necromorphs around, the other Necromorphs will just wait patiently to attack while Isaac, John, or Gabe fight off the holding Necromorph. This does not include player controlled Necromorphs or AI Slashers in the Multiplayer section of Dead Space 2.
- In Dead Space 3, the first Necromorphs encountered on the Roanoke 200 years after the outbreak that wiped out the flotilla and the expedition, are lying dormant on the ceiling attached to small corruption pods. This suggests that when a planet, colony or ship is totally overrun but without triggering a Convergence event, Necromorphs roam freely without any non-infected target to attack and simply do nothing to do until they "fell asleep" and make a pod out of corruption (or the pod comes from their own flesh when placed on a surface for a long time) and begin to hibernate indefinitely. In such state and with the extraordinary condition they posses, they can last for centuries, maybe millennia in a perfect condition; although the skin of the host (at least the first layers) seems to fossilize and became dry and skeletal. Despite this, they hold the same strength and power as their freshly-made-cousins on the Ishimura and the Sprawl.
- When lying dormant, Necromorphs are still aware as they can awake when a non-infected life-form is close to them, as it happens to Isaac when he finds the first ones on the Roanoke. This implies that when a single Necromorph is awakened, he can telepathically awaken the rest of his brethren to keep doing what they left before. That's why the rest of Necromorphs on the other ships or even on the surface are already active when you make it there.
- Similarly to the previous statement, Necromorphs on the same flotilla will bleed when a limb is shot off which is odd because these Necromorphs are skeletal and have dry muscle. In reality, bodies in this state no longer contain any bodily fluids. This is more than likely an overlook by the developers.
- Although it could be that in such condition, the Necromorph is well preserved within the mummified body of his former host. Hence why they bleed when shot and dismembered.
- There has been a glitch in Dead Space and Dead Space 2, more visible in the second game, when after the animated Necromorph scene has finished, the Necromorph that killed the player will freeze and other nearby Necromorphs can attack and desecrate Isaac Clarke's corpse further than the death scene already has. This happens because the screen takes too long to run red with blood. This glitch has been fixed in Dead Space 3.
- Despite being seen using new models in Dead Space 3, the Enhanced versions of most Necromorphs encountered in game still use the Dead Space 2 models (i.e. Slasher, Leaper, Puker, etc.).
- Most Necromorph variants have static facial expressions, especially all Slasher variants. This is because it would take time to animate them, and it also creates the uncanny valley effect to make them more horrific.
- The Brethren Moons never even mention Necromorphs. It is highly likely that they see them as mere tools to create new brothers.
- There is a single Infector that wanders throughout the school and gym which means every Crawler, Pack, and Slasher is made from that single Infector.