I wasn’t too sure how the remake of Dead Space would fare in 2023 given the industry has changed by more than a margin. However, the 2008 classic not only feels refreshing but also necessary in a time when there are so few games like it available today. Boarding a refurbished USG Ishimura and immediately feeling a sense of dread is what I needed to kickstart the year off right and I mean that. The original Dead Space and its sequel are still unmatched to this day in what they achieved and with EA Motive at the helm, the series seems like it is in the right hands.
Since 2013, the series has been at a standstill, but as if caught in the vacuum of space, Dead Space has embarked on a mission to be made whole again.
Dead Space Remake is the standard for a remake
Returning to the flagship of the Concordance Extraction Corporation, the largest planetary mining company in existence, the USG Ishimura is a massive vessel and a hunter of precious minerals. After intercepting a distress call, engineer Isaac Clarke and his team then reach the massive ‘Planet Cracker’ convinced they have a routine operation on their hands, but once inside the vessel, they find only chaos and death.
In this whirlwind of events that throws you into an abyss of horror with the deviant aims of a religiously motivated organization, intrigue, and the discovery of a mysterious artifact are ready to be introduced. Just like in the original Dead Space, the story intelligently exploits the clichés of the genre, which become the building blocks of an effective and articulate experience, enriched by a wide assortment of text and log files.
EA Motive expanded the role of certain characters in a manner consistent with the original plot, as in the case of the researcher Elizabeth Cross, whose scenes were written to flesh them out and added a voice to Isaac Clarke. Gunner Wright, Isaac’s voice actor from Dead Space 2, has returned to play the unlucky engineer, no longer a mute and witness to the events that unfold in front of him. A lot of the major story beats from the original are faithfully retold while side stories are expanded upon and fleshed out. Segments of the original script are also rewritten, allowing Issac to respond to situations he encounters instead of being silent.
Where Motive also does a masterful job handling the audio, adding real value to the grotesque encounters. Aside from the incredibly well-transcribed spatialization, the sickening cackles of the monsters, and the sound design in general, the music does an incredible job of keeping you in suspense. As in any good game or horror film, the silence is omnipresent, even heavy, and instills constant tension. As for the music, it generally goes into overdrive when you encounter and/or fight enemies. However, if one of them sneaks up on you, nothing will warn you except the discreet clatter of bones hitting the ground as the Necromorphs. Worse still, it sometimes happens that when you turn around, not only does the music take you by surprise, but the Necromorphs too.
Makes Us Whole
In addition to the scripted encounters, Necromorphs can now attack and harass you anywhere, anytime. The pressure is constant. EA Motive has in fact developed a system that allows Dead Space to manage what the studio calls intensity. That’s right with the introduction of the Intensity Director, every time you walk through a door, random events can (and will) occur. Whether it’s terrifying noises or auditory hallucinations, lights that flicker, or jump suddenly, an air vent that makes you fear question everything, or simple attacks from enemies you weren’t expecting. Even more so than in the original, Dead Space doesn’t offer a respite and will leave you in a lurch when you’re hoping for quieter moments to recoup your thoughts.
Even if you go through paths that have already been taken, there is no guarantee that you will be safe there. And even after several hours of play, it remains effective. While this may not sound exciting, it is because of the Intensity Director that most of Dead Space’s systems work well. All of this pales when you look at the, with its “A.L.I.V.E.” system, which allows Isaac to really suffer. This means that his physical and mental state of health will change when the situation is frightening, stressful or requires a significant physical effort (in combat for example). You’ll see Isaac become breathless, his voice and expressions change, and you can even hear his heartbeat pounding in his chest.
But from a general point of view, the atmosphere of Dead Space is incredible from start to finish. The environmental narration lets you imagine all the possible horrors, the settings are littered with corpses, and it’s total chaos. Note that the remake is much gorier than the original. Not only are there more bloody sequences, but the studio has also revised its dismemberment system. All the monsters, and the human corpses that you’ll come across, now have several body layers to them. You’ll only need a few fights to realize how impressive the rendering can be, as well as enhance the horror. The Necromorphs are stripped down piece by piece, dying and crawling on the ground even though they look like a disgusting mess. It’s disgusting and frightening, and I couldn’t get enough of it during my playthrough.
Set Us Free
The action and the horror are perfectly dosed, and the rise in power of y character enters in perfect symbiosis with the events and the game sequences which become, little by little, more and more intense. The only complaint is that the last act still feels rushed like the original, despite a few tricks to try and inflate the story a bit, and a final confrontation that still isn’t up to scratch, despite its redesign.
I was impressed by what EA Motive was able to produce and largely, Dead Space is detailed, stunning, and terrifyingly stunning. In Quality Mode, the Ray Tracing is amazing in every way, especially the light management, which pierces the volumetric elements with superb effects. As for the Performance Mode, it’s still really beautiful, but a slight aliasing on the finest details, and there are a lot of them, will make some elements flicker. I’d even wager to say that Dead Space is playable in both modes but the higher framerate doesn’t feel necessary given how slow enemies move at times.
Not looking to just remake an iconic game, Motive has refurbished progression. Most of the existing puzzles have been modified and new ones have been added. Motive even had an excellent idea of integrating choices during certain sequences. Quite often, Isaac is asked to redirect the electricity of an area to open doors or activate a machine. The problem is that sometimes you will also have to choose to blow up a sub-system in the process, such as light or oxygen for example. You’re left to make the decision and deal with the consequences.
For its remake, EA Motive revised the inventory management and equipment. The inventory is still displayed in front of Isaac, and you can still follow the objective with a highlighted path. Of course, vital data such as your life bar, oxygen, or QTEs will be displayed directly on your suit. Also, work has been done on the map, which is now a bit more readable, although it’s still not perfect, and the point system to unlock equipment upgrades has been revised, too. You no longer need to sacrifice Power Nodes to open doors. Instead, there are purple bricks required to proceed.
Dead Space is more than just a refurbishment, it’s a new game. Motive clearly did their homework and revitalized a series sorely in need of it. The stunning redesign of the USG Ishimura, the subtle changes, and the expanded systems make this an anxiety-inducing experience but one that is recommended. Most of us have likely already played the original at this point, the truth is the story holds up almost 15 years later and feels as cohesive as ever.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5