When Dead Space was released in 2008, I was a wee eight year-old kid who was afraid of even the slightest shape in the dark. Needless to say, the game was off-limits to me. I’ve been scared of horror for the better part of my life in fact, but only just in recent years have I begun dabbling into things like Resident Evil and Amnesia and adoring most of it (some things have aged rather poorly, but that’s a topic for another time). While I wanted to see why so many people were freaking out over Dead Space to this day, trying to run the original on PC is a chore. Even with some fixes, it still isn’t great. That makes me one of the few people to go into Dead Space Remake blind (minus research, obviously), and boy was I ever in for a treat.
“Make Us Whole”
You don’t need me to tell you this, but Dead Space Remake follows very closely to the original story. You’re engineer Isaac Clarke, and you’re tasked on a repair mission to the USG Ishimura which recently sent out a distress call. What was supposed to be a routine repair quickly turns nasty, as hostile creatures inhabit the ship, ready to tear Isaac and his crew to absolute shreds. Every key point is there.
Rather, what’s changed significantly is the journey getting to that point. Most notably, Isaac seems to have remembered there was a voice under that helmet before the second outing. While Visceral’s intentions were clear for the original’s silent protagonist, it’s hard to not see a voice addition as fitting. Not only was it the only game in the main series to not include voice acting, but with a new outbreak showing up seemingly out of nowhere, writing off his silence as “trauma” seemed out of place. To my shock, his voice rarely ends up cringeworthy or unnecessary. It shows far more of his engineering chops than previously and allows him to have a deeper connection to a story that has a deep meaning to him.
While the key story beats have been left mostly unchanged, many of their scenes have been refreshed to make a lot more sense in context. Along with side missions, certain plotlines are far more fleshed out and give more background lore which I, for one, love to chip away at. Not every refreshed scene has stood above the original (one particular scene during Chapter 11 stood out), but where it works does wonders for scenes that weren’t quite as fitting prior.
A particular story I loved seeing fleshed out more was the pilot and co-pilot of the Kellion. Rather than being instantly written off, Dead Space Remake lets them have a little more screen time, ultimately making certain events far more meaningful. It’s a theme that’s shared across all narrative beats, from grotesque to tragic.
Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
Dead Space Remake does a great job of keeping that intense, perfectly-crafted gameplay loop of the original intact. The same great arsenal is there, and each gun makes one hell of an impact in damage and responsiveness. Visceral Games spent countless hours perfecting the original game’s combat flow, and EA Motive clearly understood that when developing the remake. The only real change to combat came in that responsiveness, and even that’s executed to perfection.
Rather, what’s been revamped about gameplay lies in the Ishimura’s layout. While a ton of praise can be given to the Ishimura in the first game, the extreme linearity hasn’t exactly aged like fine wine. EA Motive chose to tweak that by allowing you to freely explore the Ishimura, with more than enough reasons to re-explore previously seen areas.
One such reason is the new side missions, which bring plenty of reasons to head to the previous decks and scour every inch for extra resources. This is tweaked a bit from standard in-game side missions to extend across the entire game, though offers major rewards in exchange for your dedication. Combining this with the Intensity Director, which consistently controls the pacing and adds new threats around every corner, each trip back to previous decks becomes a fight for survival.
While the gameplay hasn’t been modified severely to fit any sort of new vision, EA Motive’s understanding of what made the original’s gameplay so great while adding on top of that makes for a refreshing experience that never feels dull, and always keeps you on your toes.
Fleshy Infestations Have Never Been So Beautiful
While the visuals of the original Dead Space have aged fairly well due to strong lighting, the textures haven’t aged too well. Areas that are brightly lit look particularly ugly and put a damper on the experience as a whole. As such, the visual overhaul Dead Space Remake brought does a lot to revitalize an aging ship to look and feel real. Each deck holds its own identity and feels anything from mechanical and shoddy to pristine and immaculate. It builds a clear divide between class and work as if the Ishimura is a miniature city in itself.
Related: Dead Space Remake Metacritic Score Revealed – How Does it Compare to the Original?
Though it’s when it’s at its darkest that these environments come alive. Thanks to some superior lighting design, your flashlight is often your only guiding light in a pitch-black room. It quickly goes from a quick supply run to a tense nightmare. Even in the biggest of rooms, when you hear that vent cover break off in the distance, the frantic search for two long-bladed arms is exhilarating and frightening. Thanks to that Intensity Director, the variety in this lighting helps keep things insanely fresh from one traversal of a deck to the next.
It’s very clear the team at EA Motive wanted more out of environmental impact, and they killed it. I’ve never been so consistently scared in a horror game before, not that I’ve played many without the comfort of the lights on.
A Lesson in Remake Design
Dead Space Remake is a clear labor of love from EA Motive toward the influential original. Not only does it understand exactly what didn’t need fixing, but added to the experience through a series of risks that seriously paid off. It feels less like a remake from a different studio, and more like what Visceral Games had imagined the original to be. It isn’t always a perfect game and can glitch out from time to time, but what it does right is astounding. If this is a sign of what the team has in store for future games, perhaps even a Dead Space 2 Remake, then we’re in for some real treats.
- The same great plot
- Changes to key story beats feel far more impactful
- Side missions are refreshingly designed and full of lore tidbits
- Combat feels just as satisfying as it did back then
- The new Ishimura is a joy to explore
- Intensity Director consistently keeps pacing tense
- The Ishimura’s never been so beautiful
- Lighting is impeccable
- Select narrative moments are a downgrade from the original
- Minor polish issues
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.