Where the mid 2010’s were filled with video game remasters, a trend that’s becoming more and more popular in the early 2020’s has been full video game remakes. And while some may need the full remake treatment less than others, if it allows a classic game to be brought to a new generation of people, remains faithful to what made the original worthy of a remake in the first place, and allows the developers to realise the true vision of the game that may have been limited by hardware available at the time, I’m all for it. And that’s exactly what this new release of Dead Space is. Whether you’re new to the franchise, or have adventured through the depths of the Ishimura in the past, you’re in for a thrilling and grotesque survival horror experience that expands upon, but is certainly faithful in all the right ways to the original.
In Dead Space you play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer who works upon a repair ship called the Kellion. When the ship receives a distress call from a mining ship known as the USG Ishimura from Nicole Brennan, who also happens to be Isaac’s girlfriend, Clarke and the crew from the Kellion are assigned to investigate. Although after an incident docking the ships, the crew of the Kellion quickly discover that there’s something really wrong. The ship appears largely abandoned, Nicole is nowhere to be found, the people that are found have been brutally mutilated and the ship is now overrun with mutated alien creatures called Necromorphs. It’s up to Isaac to uncover the mystery of what’s happened aboard the Ishimura, locate his missing girlfriend and ultimately find a way off the ship he and the Kellion crew have found themselves trapped on.
The Dead Space Remake is built utilising EA’s proprietary Frostbite engine. And while it’s been documented as causing numerous development problems in the past, they’re not present here in Dead Space. Upon booting up the game you’ll notice almost instantly how gorgeous everything looks, even though most environments pretty quickly end up getting smeared with a layer of gore. The game’s visual assets have been completely rebuilt, implementing a higher resolution with far higher polygon counts than what could be rendered on consoles back in 2008. But it’s the lighting especially that really helps sell the horror and feeling of dread while traversing through the floors of the Ishimura. The way light bounces off objects, highlighting the different materials, metals and even components of Issac’s suit in ways that just weren’t available to do in the original game almost justifies the remake existing on it’s own. Everything in the game is highly detailed and the engine is also great at rendering things with a realistic wetness. Which is great, especially when it comes to the horrors you’ll witness onboard the Ishimura. Not just on the creatures and on Isaac, it’s used to realistically show leaking pipes, grime on the walls and of course blood streaks and trails.
Dead Space does a great job at taking the character of Isaac, an everyday space engineer and putting him in a situation that is far outside of his norm and having him use his skills to survive the horrors of the Ishimura. And there are certainly plenty of horrors. The Necromorphs are creepy, clever and unforgivingly violent. And there are a diverse range of types among the Ishimura too, which is one of the greatest aspects of the game. The game is roughly 12-15 hours long and pretty consistently throughout you’ll be introduced to new breeds of Necromorph you’ve yet to face and each have their own strategies needed to best take them down and each have their own ways of trying to dismember you. I had forgotten just how many unique types there were in the first game, so it was a nice surprise to get to see them all again and have the introduction of each so well paced out throughout the story’s progression. The game also keeps you constantly on your toes, especially later in the story where there are zones that have encounters utilising a range of the different breeds, requiring you to stay focussed on each creature approaching or utilise methods that can cause widespread damage to a whole area. So to come out unscathed, you better work out fast the best way to take down each of your foes.
Dispatching the enemy Necromorphs really does require you to understand their abilities and weaknesses to get through the encounters successfully. Going in all guns blazing, firing round after round into the body of the enemy or trying to get that perfect headshot will often see you either depleted of ammunition or cut into pieces when you get overwhelmed with foes. The game tries to inform you pretty quickly that one of the best ways of preventing enemies getting the chance to attack you is to slow down their movement by cutting off their limbs. A well placed shot with the plasma cutter against an enemy limb is far more effective here than unloading shot after shot into the chest. The Remake also implements some vastly improved dismemberment and skin mechanics where you can actually see the damage you’re dealing to the enemies layer by layer, with your shots peeling back skin, flesh and eventually reaching and breaking the bones of the enemy appendages.
Isaac is also capable of unleashing telekinetic abilities thanks to his Stasis Module that can be used to slow down enemies or pick up and throw projectiles at them. This certainly comes in handy for dealing with a crowd, whether that be providing a better shot at taking them all out, or granting the opportunity to turn heel and try and escape to a safer portion of the ship.
As you progress through the game, Isaac becomes more and more capable of dealing with these threats thanks to the game’s upgrade system. It allows you to unlock new perks for your weapons as you play and you can tweak these to suit your preferred weapons and playstyles by spending your collected nodes as you see fit in the upgrade menu. This allows you to prioritise the weapons you find most useful and grants the ability to enhance a weapon’s perks along with physical stats such as improving damage dealt, rate of fire, ammo capacity among others.
One feature of the original Dead Space that continues to be iconic was it’s decision to have no HUD. It’s something I’m shocked more games haven’t tried harder to implement as it was such a clever way to get the player immersed in the world and have visual representations display core information to the player. The Remake continues to be HUD free, and when combined with it’s no cut camera provides an even more cinematic experience than the original. Ammo is holographically displayed on the weapon, health is shown as a depleting and color changing meter located running down Isaac’s spine and a colour changing dial near the shoulder shows how charged the Stasis meter is, which is depleted the more you make use of the Stasis abilities. It was a great feature in 2008 and it continues to be awesome in 2023.
While the core narrative of the game is largely unchanged, the 2023 Remake does implement a number of new features that further enhance the original Dead Space experience. Isaac can now talk, allowing him to have conversations and express his thoughts which is a great improvement over the silent protagonist approach used in the original. There are newly introduced missions and sub plots as well as collectible logs that further flesh out characters and lore surrounding the Ishimura and the world of Dead Space. But one of the biggest changes comes in the form of the no cut camera. The game has no loading screens, you’ll follow Isaac’s adventure from beginning to end. Allowing the game to be a more immersive, continuous experience rather than the forced linearity of the original and granting the ability to backtrack, unlock new areas and find new sections in cleared zones with new security permissions unlocked later in the story.
Most of the changes most people will notice implemented in this remake are largely visual or in gameplay design. But one of the coolest new additions I loved came from the game’s sound. Sound design is really important, especially in horror, and Dead Space nails the feeling of dread, largely because of how the audio now works. The game implements 3D audio, making the whole experience more immersive and atmospheric, but the developers have also created a new audio occlusion system that allows sounds to be realistically muffled of even blocked depending on the objects that exist between the sound source and Isaac. Meaning you can often hear things before you see things and the sounds get realistically louder or clearer the closer you are to them, if you’re realistically meant to be hearing them.
The Dead Space Remake is a superb recreation of a survival horror classic. It enhances the original game, while also being faithful to it’s story and setting, implementing a slew of new features and visual upgrades to make the game feel incredibly modern. It’s undoubtedly the best way to experience Dead Space, whether you’re jumping in for the first time or wanting to relive the story. The original still holds up pretty well to this day, and some say it didn’t require a remake, but the series certainly deserved some new love, and this is just the way to get the ball rolling again for the Dead Space franchise. I’m excited to see EA placing more faith in their single player offerings and I hope this spawns a new entry in the franchise or remakes of sequel Dead Space titles.
A Dead Space review code was provided by EA for the purpose fo this review.
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