It’s been 15 years since the original Dead Space scared the ever-living daylights out of us back in 2008, and this fully remade edition by EA’s Motive Studio—for lack of a better term—has absolutely curb-stomped the hype train into fifth gear. Not only is this one of the finest horror games I’ve ever played, but the new additions straight-up make the original version obsolete. Yes, it is that good.
Back With a Vengeance
One of the first things you’ll notice is the menacing atmosphere and lighting. The USG Ishimura looks so spooky, yet so sci-fi spectacular that I’d often stop to admire the fascinating next-gen tech and visual effects on display. Engineer, Isaac Clark’s bloodied suit after a tense, up close and personal encounter is a perfect example of this. Pure chef’s kiss. But in terms of horror, the dimly-lit, tight corridors of the spaceship uphold a persistent level of danger, forcing the player to always be on their toes, flashlight ready for those pesky necromorphs to show up and stab Isaac for the fifteenth time that day.
In this remake, our once-silent protagonist has been revamped in more ways than one. With an even cooler-looking suit than before and a face that resembles his voice actor, Gunner Wright, Isaac now physically speaking with other people makes this story of an outbreak gone wrong instantly more engaging. Rather than taking engineering orders like a robot who can’t say no, Isaac’s well-acted back and forths between the other two leads, Kendra and Zach help to flesh out his engineering background and add more depth to his character that simply couldn’t have been portrayed when he was mute.
Even though Isaac’s new face might ruffle a few feathers, his dialogue feels right at home for those who’ve played Dead Space 2 and 3. Some parts, in particular, had me cracking up about how he comments on things, while others—like the expanded story sequences—bring an emotional resonance to the forefront that simply was not present in the 2008 release. Regardless of whether you’ve played the original, these fresh interactions and changes to the script are definitely worth the discovery.
Cut Off Their Limbs
One smart way they’ve enhanced the narrative is by introducing side missions into the mix. At certain parts of the game, Isaac will receive notifications for optional tasks like submitting a tissue sample or investigating his partner, Nicole’s activities onboard the Ishimura. While these are all essentially fetch quests, they still involve trekking through dangerous areas and encounters to complete. In turn, they reward players with additional lore and invaluable resources that are particularly useful for the higher difficulties. Since a handful of equipment rooms and lockers require authorisation levels to open this time around, a certain side mission (hint-hint) might just help out with that.
In terms of gameplay, Dead Space is classic survival horror at heart. Conserving resources, scavenging for items, making every shot count—it’s all balanced exceptionally well. But for those who’ve never touched this series before, these games primarily focus on aiming for and severing the limbs of monsters called necromorphs, so that they practically run out of options to stab Isaac with. You can even use their own detached limbs against them to save resources and have a good laugh as well. Albeit, with most combat scenarios, if players aim for the head like other zombie-themed games out there, this usually won’t achieve much. In fact, it’ll just force some necromorphs to flail their arms around wildly because they can’t see what’s happening, making for a much tougher shot and a waste of vital ammunition.
One of the iconic Dead Space setups involves a solo necromorph approaching Isaac from the front while another creeps up from behind, making those already sweaty palms start to tremble. This is why the limited stasis ability is extremely beneficial though, as it allows Isaac to slow down an object or enemy’s movement to a crawl and carefully dismantle the threat, quick-smart… or just angrily stomp on their weak points until they can’t get back up. It’s very satisfying, either way. So not only is strategic dismemberment involved, but the expanding roster of enemies requires different makeshift weapons from Isaac’s engineering toolkit.
That’s another thing that makes this series stand out, how naturally implemented everything is. For example, Isaac’s health and stasis meter are always visible on his back, while his RIG system can display a HUD screen revealing his inventory, map, collectables and side missions as Isaac physically moves his head in line with the cursor. It’s genius. The waypoint system also means that players will never get lost. All it takes is a click of the right stick to orient Isaac and literally show a line where he needs to travel next.
Speaking of travel, Isaac will unlock a number of train stations under quarantine throughout the story, allowing him to backtrack to specific locations for side quests and authorisation-locked rooms. There’s no time limit to complete these optional elements either. Only at the very last chapter will the game say ‘this is the point of no return, press A to confirm’ before you speed off into the sunset.
Even if you’ve cleared out large sections of the USG Ishimura and then gone back to finish the side missions, Motive Studio’s newly built Intensity Director (yes, I thought it was complete nonsense as well) insists that the necromorph threat is ever-present. Sometimes a fan will just TURN ON SUDDENLY… and that’s it. The next room will go almost completely silent… nothing happens again. Then, as players are poking around, looking for some goodies in a relatively safe-looking toilet—BAM! That’s when Dead Space slaps you with it’s culmination of horror. The sound effects always make you question whether an enemy is nearby, and the spine-tingling screams and string stabs from composer, Jason Graves mean this game never lets up.
In order to combat these dangers, players can buy items with credits and upgrade Isaac’s suit and his weapons for added damage, capacity, reload speed and more with hidden nodes found throughout the ship. There are no gaps between power-ups like in the original here, plus the remake has implemented new schematics to find which affix various special effects to Isaac’s weapons. The secondary or alt-fire modes have also been changed for specific tools as well, so I’m very curious to see how OG players respond to these updates.
On a related note, for those wondering if the turret sections were removed… they weren’t, but they’re presented in a completely different format. Rather than a stationary Isaac sitting in place, he now has to activate turret strikes and actively avoid attacks in space, keeping these segments in line with the rest of the game. The space sections have also been updated to match Dead Space 2 and 3’s awesome free movement system, letting players boost around without any limitations… well, besides not running out of oxygen, of course.
The zero gravity parts are where most of the major puzzles are contained, highlighting Isaac’s skills as an engineer. Moving tethers, re-activating communication tools—that type of thing. The revamped brainteasers never overstay their welcome either, and flying through space is just pure entertainment. Also, did I mention that there’s a zero-G basketball minigame where you can receive prizes? So much win.
Embracing Isaac’s Inevitable Doom
Same goes for the iconic death scenes. Seeing those dramatic, gory close-ups of Isaac are a sight to behold. I once mistimed an item pickup by walking into a flickering bundle of live wires and got absolutely chopped into bits. I don’t actually know if electricity can splice people into pieces, but who cares? It looks glorious. For some of the scenes that are thought to be especially disturbing, the devs have included a content warning toggle. Although personally, I consider most of the game to be quite alarming. As I’m sure most players are well aware of what they’re getting themselves into.
On the performance side of things, the Steam version I played ran silky smooth most of the time and didn’t take away from the action or kill sequences, as I was easily hitting 60FPS with NVIDIA DLSS on Balanced. There were a few little stutters here and there, but nothing came close to the stop-start shenanigans of The Callisto Protocol back in December. Yeesh…
Unlike it’s spiritual successor, the Dead Space remake contains a New Game+ option, where players can transfer all of their items and equipment upgrades over to a fresh playthrough. Perfect for tackling the higher difficulties after a first run, because even the medium setting will give you a genuine chase for your money. If you have the patience of a saint and love dying over and over though, Impossible mode is ruthless and will force Isaac right back to the start screen after a single death. However, it does reward brave souls with a special suit and weapon for completion. Bon voyage!
This remake stays extremely faithful to the original whilst bringing in a multitude of visual, story and gameplay enhancements that are so natural, it feels like they’ve been there all along. The varied horror scenarios will constantly keep players on the edge of their seats and the optional side missions make for some excellent Metroidvania-style action. It’s also great to see the return of Gunner Wright from Dead Space 2 and 3, as his voice fits perfectly with the once-silent Isaac Clarke. Making him feel less like an emotionless robot and more of a fully developed character, thanks to the expanded narrative. But whether this is your first or 45th time onboard the USG Ishimura, there’s something for each and every horror fan to enjoy here. Not a micro-transaction in sight.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
Dead Space has eclipsed the original release with an array of fantastic additions, but doesn’t lose sight of what made the 2008 version so revered. Most importantly, survival horror is first and foremost, as the dynamic encounter system called the Intensity Director imbues players with a constant sense of dread. Gunner Wright also returns as Isaac Clarke to elevate the script and expand his character in more depth, making this one of many, many reasons as to why this remake is a must have.
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