REVIEW – One of the most influential horror games ever returns to show the “new boys” how to make it perfect. Dead Space still holds its place at the top 15 years later.
As you jump aboard the USG Ishimura and into the suit of Dead Space protagonist Isaac Clarke, you’ll experience horror like never before in the form of Necromorphs. These mutants transformed from humans and alien creatures, along with story threads of religious fanaticism, making the USG Ishimura one of the scariest locations in the survival horror genre.
In space, no one can hear you scream – again…
Ever since Alien, we know there’s something claustrophobic about being trapped in space… In Dead Space, there’s the added bonus of hardcore body horror, the immediate threat of a horrific mutant alien-turned-human, religious fanatics urging them to feed, and the countless destroyed, blood-stained scenes of this massive spaceship… Dead Space is a cruel test of Isaac’s instinct for life, his ability to fight, and his patience, and this remake is no different.
There are no safe places on USG Ishimura, ravaged by strange mutants, and no escape from the monsters. Even in the rooms with rescue stations and lockers, you can’t be sure that a Lurker or Slasher won’t appear. This sense of uncertainty is coupled with a great combat system, without which Dead Space wouldn’t have the same feel. Your headshots don’t matter aboard the USG Ishimura, and it’s all about slicing up mutants here. With abilities like Stasis and Kinesis that let you slow enemies down and impale them with common objects, combat is initially overwhelming. But once you get the hang of things, you can get incredibly creative in defeating the Necromorph hordes.
Tactical gameplay, but you also have to go backward
The gameplay of Dead Space Remake is not just about mechanics, resource management, skills, weapon development, exploration or combat. In fact, it’s an immersive enough experience that you don’t just manipulate the game through a controller, you feel it. The apocalyptic horror setting becomes very real from the opening scenes. Isaac’s first steps lead us forward, but there are many times when we have to go back. In a survival horror, it may sound strange not to move forward. But Dead Space Remake is realistic in this respect too: not everything goes smoothly, and sometimes you have to go backwards to get to your destination.
At the same time, the game doesn’t get monotonous for long, because thanks to Dead Space’s “Intensity Director”, enemy monsters can appear anywhere at any time, while the way the lighting or sound works can be completely unique and personalized so battles won’t play out the same way. You really never know what to expect here.
In addition, Dead Space’s top-notch music and effects reach eerie peaks that recall the work of John Carpenter (we want a Carpenter Dead Space movie!), but not only when you’re in danger; even in safe moments, it can be a terrifying experience. Dead Space doesn’t slow down for a single moment; it constantly nails you in front of the screen, scaring the hell out of you with its various crescendos and breakneck pacing. What was that apparition? Why does Nicole talk about Isaac “making everyone whole again”? What’s really going on?
Always look behind you!
The plot of Dead Space is genuinely interesting, and when it comes to ratcheting up the tension, it doesn’t rely on cheap scares. The game is a master at creating tension effectively – even now, some 15 years after the original release. Take, for example, the entrance to the lift. You think you’re safe now, and that the Necromorph chasing you certainly can’t get in. Suddenly, he bursts through the door and you spit out your coffee, just when you thought you were finally safe to sip it. Or you’re walking down a long corridor when suddenly the turbine breaks at the end. You immediately aim your gun and brace yourself for a bloody confrontation, but in this case, it was a false alarm; the game only increased your tension.
And these are just two of the many scares that keep your attention focused on Isaac and USG Ishimura. I could go on for pages about all the inherent thrills of Dead Space, but if you’re familiar with the previous game, you’ll know what I’m talking about anyway. And if you don’t, you’re better off experiencing it for yourself.
When the music isn’t freaking you out, or you’re not fighting acid-spitting babies that can climb walls, you’re circling the environment, thanks to professional lighting, fog and film grain effects. On top of all this, there’s no user interface: the makers of Dead Space knew how to immerse you completely in the game back in 2008.
Until the second half of the game. As the seventh chapter unfolded and I continued the mission, the gameplay started to feel confusing and repetitive. What initially started out as a perfect gameplay rhythm soon blurred; at one point, it felt like every other room I entered was another quarantine zone where I had to fight a horde.
Although the repetitive tasks in the second half of the game detracted somewhat from the experience, I couldn’t help but think that this was somewhat to Dead Space’s benefit. After all, can you imagine how Isaac must be feeling by the time the final chapter of the game comes around? His mental state slowly deteriorates over time, and by the final chapters, both the player and Isaac himself are completely exhausted by the story.
Improve to stay alive!
It is also important to mention the development of our weapons and space armor I must admit that the latter was not a priority for me, as it is by improving the effectiveness of combat and improving our weapons that we can defeat the Necromorphs. Later, when it came to dealing with oxygen and air resistance, I regretted not developing the suit properly. It is possible to increase the typical lifespan and resistance and strength if you want more oxygen. I’ll highlight the aerial combat in particular here, which is absolutely stunning. You could definitely feel the difference between shooting on the ground or in the air.
We were better prepared for battle with properly maximized weapons and a tight suit. The combat in Dead Space Remake is extremely challenging, aggressive and tough. While there aren’t many types of Necromorphs early on in the game, I certainly never got tired of fighting them. EA Motive have done an excellent job with the combat rhythm of the game, and while the creatures are somewhat similar to each other, there is the interesting factor that you can link them to the people they once were – which makes them much creepier than if they were just ‘plain’ monsters.
Huge differences compared to the 2008 version
I played the game on PS5, so I got the best possible performance from the game. The difference from the original is huge, even considering the technological advances since its debut. The level of detail is second to none, it brings out the environment and because of that, it breathes new life into the game.
There’s also a huge improvement in loading times, as you don’t have to wait long to get to different areas of the map. Regardless of which mode you choose, quality (4K, 30fps and ray tracing) or performance (2K QHD, 60fps without ray tracing), Dead Space Remake is equally impressive.
Dead Space Remake is also much more than a love letter to fans of the original game. EA has shown an enviable consistency, and has kept the same goal in mind: to create a video game benchmark. It did this in 2008 with Dead Space and has shown everyone how to remake it.
The remake is faithful to the original in every way, but especially in terms of narrative, setting, characters, Necromorphs and all the other elements. It’s a great experience to relive it all.
That’s how you make a Remake!
Dead Space Remake is coming to give all developers a life lesson in how to make a successful remake. Motive Studio has shown that the right approach respects the original content and adds only the elements that are absolutely necessary to adapt the experience to current technology. What it offers fans of sci-fi horror is, for the second time, its greatest offering to be reckoned with. The gaming experience is absolutely immersive and overwhelming. The love and respect put into this remake is evident, and Dead Space Remake could even be a Game of the Year candidate.
+ A huge update in terms of graphics, and the music hits everything with two shovels
+ The gameplay still seems revolutionary
+ Great story and Isaac is finally talking!
– Self-repeating from chapter seven
– Steam Deck runs like crap
– The fight against the main boss is tiring and unimaginative
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Motive Studio
Style: Survival horror, action-adventure
Release: January 27, 2023.