After Dead Space 3 ended up under-performing on the market, Electronic Arts decided to put the property on ice, shelving any future outings for home console or PC. That doesn't mean that there weren't plans for a Dead Space 4. In fact, there was already an outline about what the now defunct game studio was thinking about doing with the third-person survival-horror game if ever an opportunity was presented to take the next step and bridge the events of Dead Space 3 into a potential Dead Space 4.
Eurogamer published an article after speaking with former Dead Space creative director Ben Wanat, who is now working at Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind Rise of the Tomb Raider and the upcoming Avengers project. Wanat explained that the fourth game would have picked up after where the third game had left off, and humanity would have been reeling from the growing infestation of the necromophs.
There would have been vital design elements carried over from the third game, particularly in regard to surviving by the skin of your teeth.
One thing the team wanted to focus on was a slightly more emergent approach to survival -- something based on what was introduced in Dead Space 3 with the flotilla section, where players had to gather supplies and stay alive in an open space. This concept would have been expanded into a far more prominent role in Dead Space 4, where gamers would have been required to not only defend themselves from the mutated hordes but also attempt to scrape together whatever they could to stay alive.
The idea was that the game would definitely draw more from its roots as a desperate horror game rather than the more action-oriented co-op affair of Dead Space 3. This was sort of like the equivalent of Resident Evil 6 for the Dead Space series, only unlike Resident Evil 6 there weren't enough sales to justify another outing in the venerable action-horror series.
The idea was that the start of Dead Space 4 would focus on exploring a trail of ship carcasses, gathering supplies, avoiding the necromorphs and eventually repairing your ship to get to the next sector. The scale of the game would begin to swell the further in players got, with the play-areas expanding into near open-world sections with more ships to explore and more dangers to encounter.
The game would have been rather ambitious for the latter half, as Wanat explains that each ship carcass players would have been able to explore would have been intricate, unique, and highly detailed. The plot would have unfolded as players explored these ships and discovered more about the ShockPoint travel and how it ties into the necromorph scourge.
Wanat explained that the weapon crafting would have been overhauled so players wouldn't be overpowered, and there were also plans to introduce new enemy types who could "snake" through zero gravity and eat your face off.
A main character was never really decided upon; it could have been Isaac Clarke, but Visceral was also thinking about making Ellie the main character for the fourth game. The ideas for Dead Space 4 sounded big, but after EA tried to market the third-game to the audience that titles like Gears of War attracted, the franchise fell in after underselling, and EA put the brand on ice. Maybe somewhere down the line, we'll finally get to see Visceral Games' vision of Dead Space 4 come to life?