Dead Space was an unexpected treat when it was originally released. It gave new life to the Survival Horror genre which was starting to stagnate and was shockingly out of character for EA who’d started drifting more and more into multiplayer titles. Now years later, this title once again is getting a chance to reshape the landscape in 2023, with the Dead Space Remake. And perhaps it will prove just why people continue to support Electronic Arts after all this time.
Dead Space is the story of Issac Clark, an engineer whose girlfriend Nicole had taken up a post on the spaceship USG Ishimura. Nicole sends Issac a worrying message and he gets enlisted with a team to check in on the ship.
Not long after landing, Issac and his team soon realize something has gone wrong. The USG Ishimura lies in ruin, covered in blood and organic material that can’t be explained. Twisted monsters called Necromorphs roam the halls and Nicole is nowhere to be found. Dead Space thrusts you into a story that goes a little further than just surviving and takes notes from the classic franchise Alien with corruption and even a cult at the helm. It’s a story that makes you question who the real monsters are.
Dead Space Remake doesn’t change the overall narrative of the original game. What it does do is tweaks the way it’s presented and adds a little more depth to further what was already a fantastic story.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Issac Clark speaks this time around. Gamers familiar with Dead Space will know that the Necromorph had his tongue in the original. While it may seem like a rather small addition, it adds a lot to the narrative in that Issac will often give his input and suggest some of the insane suicide missions he puts himself through with reasoning rather than just blindly following an objective marker.
There are also subtle changes to his disposition as the game progresses. While it previously took until Dead Space 2 to see what effect the events of Dead Space 1 and The Marker had on him, now you can see the weight just pouring out of him as he slowly questions his sanity.
Another major addition is the inclusion of side quests. While they do provide some rewards, they offer a lot more lore and depth to the events set in place and felt substantial enough that I felt compelled to see them through despite being somewhat familiar with the original story. They made me want to see what had been added.
Something Borrowed, Something New.
The gameplay in Dead Space Remake remains relatively unchanged from the original which is a good thing. As the series went on, there was an emphasis on action over horror and one of my initial worries about the remake was it was going to copy the missteps of the latter titles rather than the purer survival horror roots of the original. Thankfully, this isn’t the case here.
If you’ve played any Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or even recent titles like Tormented Souls, you’ll know the general flow of the game. You’ll go from point to point, finding an item to further your quest while having to manage your health and ammo supplies as they are constantly being depleted by the game’s cosmic horrors. Choosing when to fight and when to flee is important here; Issac isn’t a Space Marine, he’s an engineer. This means he isn’t quite adept in Xenomorph combat, but he can cut things quite accurately, which funnily enough gives him the edge in this situation. What luck, eh?
The controls for this title feel weighty enough that you feel like you are wandering around a spaceship in a metal suit, but not cumbersome to the point it feels like you have to put some real effort into moving around. I’m looking at you, Callisto Protocol! The camera is constantly over the shoulder as is the aiming. It’s a style made famous by Resident Evil 4 and everything just feels intuitive. You’ll naturally be switching weapons on the fly, healing, and using your static and kinesis powers like they are an extension of your own body. Never did I feel like one of my deaths were down to poor controls, just pure panic.
The only time the control feels a little taken away from you is when you hit the zero gravity sections. Here you’ll be using the boosters in your suit to fly around sections of the ship. It’s not just used for puzzles and navigation, but also for some rather tense combat situations. There is certainly an adjustment period for these bits but I found that I had become quite adept at Zero G combat by the end of the game.
Sometimes Less, Sometimes More
Puzzles have been downsized somewhat in the remake but I found it helped with the pacing of the title. There are still a few environmental puzzles, but in terms of actual head-scratchers, there was only one towards the late-game section. This involved zero-g connect-the-pipe puzzle solving. Is it even a horror game without a mini-game spinning some pipes around in some fashion?
You have access to a map at all times. Should you find yourself getting lost or wanting to explore off the beaten path, you can just press a button and this provides a light conveniently leading you to your nearest objective. I found it very handy when I wanted to explore a little more rather than triggering the next sequence. It was also a godsend when I’d explored too much and needed to find the correct path again.
I mentioned that Dead Space Remake introduced side quests to deepen the narrative by adding to the lore. There isn’t a whole load of them, but they take you to areas you might not venture to if you just follow the game from objective to objective. I didn’t mind them and the developers even added a helpful icon next to them to let you know if you could complete them at your current state or needed to progress further into the story. This did wonders for my constant worrying about missing them and I think more games could benefit from a seemingly small addition such as that.
While you shuffle along the corridors of the ship you can find Schematics, Credits, and Nodes which can be used at the game store and maintenance tables. This gives the player even more freedom in how to tackle the game. Do you choose to upgrade your weapons or suit? Should you spend those credits on healing items to help you get through the next area? Will you choose to throw it all into ammo and hope you can blaze a path and pick up what you need on the way to your next objective?
Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?
What set Dead Space aside from its ilk was the enemies you came across and how you approach them. Grotesque, misshapen horrors including demonic babies, heads with tentacles, and hulking behemoths. You can try to shoot and punch these until the cows come home and it’ll do nothing. The main difference in Dead Space is that it requires you to dismember these threats. Not an issue for the Engineer with precise aim and a tool that really should have been considered a weapon! Each enemy you come across has a different weak point and some even require bait to expose their weakness. Throughout the story, you’ll slowly learn the best way to take these down. Nothing quite matches the horror when you come across a new foe and experience those moments of pure “How am I going to take this on?” while juggling more familiar foes at the same time.
The weapons to do this range from the iconic Plasma Cutter which can lop off body parts with alarming accuracy to a Plasma Rifle which is your automatic weapon, a Flamethrower to set enemies ablaze, and even a weapon that can suspend a circular saw in the air waiting for someone or something to walk into it. While the selection of weapons was fine and as I remember them from the series, I felt that some weapons were a little redundant. Especially by the time I had stumbled across them all, I had fallen into the safe arms of the Plasma Cutter, Rifle, Flamethrower, and Line Gun. These saw me through the whole game leaving other weapons gathering moon dust in my storage.
Alongside your weapons, you also have access to a Statis blast which slows everything it hits down to a crawl, and a Kinesis grab which will suspend items in the air and send them flying across the room with all the gusto of a barge from Wario. While these are used a lot in the puzzles and navigation across the ship, they come into their own with the combat. You’ll be locking the Necromorphs into stasis while looking around the room for a stray pipe, fan blade, or explosive barrel you can introduce into their face. Heck, you can even use the claws from your previous kill to stick your current hunt to the wall. You might only be an engineer, but Dead Space offers you so many options when it comes to combat that you’ll feel like the true threat of the game by the end game.
I enjoyed the pacing of the combat. While you have plenty of options and weapons, ammo is scarce and the enemies hit like trucks. Despite being a weapon of mass destruction, this creates the need to cautiously approach each combat scenario rather than running in with reckless abandon and a Leroy Jenkins mentality.
Like A Baws
The only issue with the combat lies in the boss fights or the distinct lack of them — there are only a few. On top of that, the worst one is the final boss which felt phoned in compared to the rest of them. The battles with a giant mass called The Leviathan are quite tense and it’s just a shame they didn’t make more of a deal out of the Behemoth enemies who become sub-bosses after the first boss encounter with one.
A new addition to the remake is The Hunter, this constantly regenerating Necromorph will chase you through several areas of the ship much like Mr. X or Lady Dimitresque from the Resident Evil series, sadly not in as many areas as I would have liked, and while I enjoyed the change and sheer panic it brought, I feel a little more could have been done with it, especially in the resulting boss fights it brings.
No Better Sphere than Atmosphere
A natural comparison was bound to happen when The Callisto Protocol was released around the same time, with it being handled by some of the original developers of Dead Space. People were naturally going to compare it to this title and by all accounts, The Callisto Protocol stumbled quite a bit. Now that I’ve had the chance to play both, I can honestly say the Dead Space Remake blows that other title out of the water and halfway across the globe.
Unlike the above title, Dead Space Remake manages to completely nail the atmosphere integral to any horror game. It’s not a linear trek down some gloomy halls forcing you from encounter to encounter, instead offering freedom to the player which instills a fear of “Should I be here?”. You’ll creep around the ship for over 90% of the game because the combat is tough but relies fully on your planning and skill rather than just going in swinging. It has tension so thick you could build houses with it and it just ticks every box you need for a horror game.
What does it add to the original in terms of atmosphere? It furthers the story, changes the pacing for the better, and you feel the tension ramp up as the ship starts to fail. It adds extra areas and cuts some out, and even has an extra ending that is viewable after completing the New Game+ mode. Not unlikely the original Resident Evil Remake, it follows the original close enough to be instantly familiar, and then plays on that subtly and not so subtly. It changes these aspects to create something not unique, not quite better, but just a little different from the original blueprint.
Dead Space Remake has been fully remade from the ground up using EA’s impressive Frostbite engine to the point it is easily one of the best-looking games I’ve played in this console generation. The faces on the character models aren’t the best, but the scenery and the Necromorphs have never looked better. It does a great job of replicating how impressive the original game looked in your memory, but with modern tweaks and enhanced lighting to create quite the horror show.
The sheer level of detail as you explore the various biomes of the Ishimura helps draw you into the title. Coupled with the ambient sound, far-away screams, and closer whispering, this will make you question if you just heard an incoming threat or if you’re just going mad. It ramps the immersion factor up to 10.
The game doesn’t feature a HUD. Instead, your vitals are represented by bars that are attached to your suit, and other things you need to know like inventory space or any files you need to read are projected from your suit in a hologram. They don’t pause the game and just help create this cohesive experience. You won’t find any loading screens here either, making exploring the ship a painless and seamless time… y’know, aside from the many monsters looking to wear your face as a mask.
The voice acting is brilliant and it’s fantastic to hear that Issac has found his voice in this title. It really helps to make it more of a cinematic tale, whereas in the original you felt like an outside avatar just looking in and blindly accepting any objectives. Here, Issac will fight back, explain his rationale, and slowly slip into the madness along with the ship’s crew and the team he came with.
Dead Space Remake is the gold standard for a remake. As good as many other remakes were, this trumps them all simply by being faithful enough to feel familiar, but then changing things to improve the flow of the game and mess with the player who’s walked in overconfident. It looks amazing, plays so smoothly, and manages to recreate that feeling of awe and enjoyment paired with the horror and tension that fans of the original have craved since that very first title.
Clocking in at around ten hours on a first playthrough, the game has New Game+ and several difficulty modes to keep you coming back. It respects your time and doesn’t bog you down with pointless QTE sections and large periods of empty space. Instead, it uses its downtime well with that brilliantly crafted tension and a phenomenal combat loop that’ll keep you engaged.
Dead Space Remake is a title I couldn’t enjoy more if I tried. I love Sci-Fi, I love horror, and this game just reminded me of why the original title turned as many heads as it did. It’s a labor of love and I couldn’t be happier to award an extremely rare perfect score to Dead Space Remake. It’s put every other game of 2023 on notice and will take something really special to dethrone as King of the Horror Mountain.
DEAD SPACE REMAKE (2023) IS A MUST BUY
Many thanks go to Electronic Arts for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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